Who would have thought that a bake sale would lead to such a controversial debate? The students of a local high school in Utah sold cookies for two different prices; $1.00 for men and 0.77 cents for women. Why? Simple, because in the United States for every dollar a man makes a woman only earns seventy-seven cents. This is the ever present gender-gap in wages, where the gap refers to difference between how much men and women are paid (Aulette and Wittner 189). Why is there a significant gap in wages especially in a first world country, where people pride themselves on equality? It is because of the combination of the discrimination against women and the organization of jobs (Aulette and Wittner 189).
The United States and most countries are run by a patriarchy, where men are seen as the top on the hierarchy of power (especially white men). Due to this belief there is an obvious bias in the workforce with women being treated differently and denied jobs and/or promotions because of their gender (Aulette and Wittner 189). Men tend to use backhanded tactics to subtlety uncut women and prevent them from contending in the workplace. The most commonly used tactics involve saying things in a kind, positive tone with an actual intent of harming or humiliating women. In the news report, when asked about the bake sale, a white, male student by the name of Jake Knaphus had this comment: “I believe in their standing for a cause [of equal wage for women], but I just don’t believe the statistics they’re using are correct” (good4utah.com). While at first he sounds like he supports the cause by being very polite about it, the second half of his sentence is contradictory. He doesn’t believe there is a wage gap or an equality problem, most likely because he is part of the dominant sex and race, and therefore is not subjected to the same treatments of inequality. Jack is not alone in his opinion as the comments section for the report showed many male guests agreeing with him. The most common male comments were along the lines of “women aren’t discriminated at my workplace” or “my job pays women fairly, there’s no gap here” (good4utah.com). As stated earlier, these are very biased opinions of the wage gap coming from the gender that is top of the hierarchy.
Unfortunately, not only do women have to fight sexism to get decent pay, they also have to contend with racism. The bad news is that for women of minority, the wage gap gets wider. Even if they have a university education, minority workers take home 20% less than their non-visible minority counterparts, meaning black women earn 64 cents and Latinas earn 55 cents compared to the earnings of white men (Forbes.com.). All women, no matter what race or ethnicities, are stuck looking up through the glass ceiling. The glass ceiling is a term used to describe the inability of women to catch up at the highest levels of management (Aulette and Wittner 186). Women of minority are stuck at the bottom with the lowest paying jobs unable to reach the mid-level positions where most white women are placed. They too are prevented from rising to top-level jobs because of discrimination. It is worthy to note that the other two students interviewed (a young women and a black male) were both very supportive of equal wages stating, “I think that we kind of need to have equality between men and women“ and “I really think that women should be paid equally. A lot of women out there are just as good as men out there” (good4utah.com). They specifically state the problem of the wage gap between men and women, unlike their fellow student, Jake, who is vague with his words and never acknowledges the cause for the bake sale. For the people in the dominant group if they don’t acknowledge or speak of the problem, then in their minds it doesn’t exist.
A society dominated by men has trouble accepting women in roles outside the house. The gender ideologies enforced by society led to the widespread belief that “men’s work” and “women’s work” is separate. In this concept women are either a stay at home mom or at lower paying jobs; most of the jobs are in sectors deemed “feminine” such as secretaries, nurses or teachers (Aulette and Wittner 193). This need for emphasized femininity and subsequently hegemonic masculinity creates a barrier for women as they try to obtain jobs that are deemed “masculine” like in construction, politics or jobs that hold a lot of power, such as a CEO of a company.
While one high school bake sale won’t close the wage gap, it will do the next best thing: get people talking. The more coverage and emphasis that is put on the gender gap, the more people will talk about it, which will hopefully lead to a moment of enlightenment and change. As stated by Patricia Arquette during her 2015 Oscar speech, “We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights, it’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America” (2015).
Don’t mind the gender gap. Fix the gap.
Arquette, Patricia. “Oscar speech.” Los Angeles. 22 February, 2015
Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Print.
Forbes.com. “The Other Pay Gap: Why Minorities Are Still Behind.” Kianta Key 2013. Web. April 2015.
Good4utah.com. “Gender Equality Bake Sale Causes Stir At Utah High School.” Randall Carlisle 2015. Web. April 2015.