“Because in America, for every dollar a man makes, a woman only makes 77 cents” (Randall).
This is the claim made by the young girls selling cookies to raise awareness about the gender wage gap that exists throughout the world. However, there is more to this issue. The first important part of this issue is that the gender wage gap has been narrowing at various rates all over the world. This is due to the awareness of gender equality, the increase and equalization of each gender’s access to education, and the creation of policies that prohibit discrimination in wages.
However, there is still a noticeable gap between the earnings of men and women. There are many reasons, according to economists, such as:
- Women needing to take time off for pregnancy, which causes lost time, lost wages, lost seniority, and lost opportunities.
- The tendency for women to go into people-friendly jobs and childcare, which are generally lower paying jobs.
Many people tend to state these reasons as the woman’s own fault, and therefore try to prove that the gender wage gap is not truly a problem. But is it right to victim blame in this situation when women’s bodies are the ones that can create new life? Why is the culture pushing men and women to careers that fit socially constructed masculine and feminine traits respectively? Why are women still viewed as the primary caregiver, and suffer because they are forced to choose between raising their children and advancing in their career? These are trends which reappear over and over again.
It is evident that stereotypical (characteristics ascribed to groups of people [and] tend to be oversimplifications) (Nittle) ) traits of women and men still transcend career choices in our society. Men are pushed towards hypermasculine (meaning exaggeration of stereotypical male behavior) careers, such as business and engineering. Women are viewed as trusting individuals and caregivers and are encouraged to choose jobs that involve child care and socialization, such as teaching, nursing and administration. However, these careers typically receive less pay overall then other careers, begging the question: Why does our society undervalue these careers?
Furthermore, it is ignorant to attempt to explain away the entire pay gap between men and women. According to one source, “women are paid less than men in female-dominated, gender-balance and male-dominated occupations” (Worklifecanada.ca). Women’s career choices and maternal leaves only account for part of the pay gap. The Pay Equity Commission’s article on the Gender Wage Gap estimates that “as much as 10 to 15% of the gender wage gap is due to discrimination” (Payequity.gov.on.ca).
It is clear that there is a cultural issue in the way our society values men and women. Even though the wage gap is closing, why is 10-15% of the wage gap still due to pure discrimination? In order to really allow for equal pay for equal work—in order to really close the pay gap—our misogynistic (meaning deep-seated prejudice towards women) society must change in a drastic way, first. This cry for a change is a battle that has been fought by feminists since the First Wave of Feminism, and still continues today, even in the modern-day feminism.
Finally, it is important to notice that it is young, white, presumably cis-gendered and middle to upper class women speaking up about this gender issue. There is no mention of the effect of the wage gap on the black community, and therefore no criticism of how white supremacy, the idea that white people are of a supreme race and have power over other oppressed racial communities, transcends this issue of pay inequality. There is an even larger wage gap between white women and black women (Catherine Hill), however this aspect of the pay gap is ignored in this instance. This issue is also looked at from a binary point of view, not taking into account the discrimination to non-binary gendered individuals, which refers to all individuals who identify with a gender other than male or female. It is vital to look at this issue and how it affects all people’s intersections, meaning “the crosscuttting inequalities that complicated gendered differences” (Aulette, Wittner, 528), of class, race, age and sexuality, rather than just gender. These trends of who is speaking out about this issue and who is not is incredibly important when analysing the systemic oppression of groups and the way it transcends all aspects of our society.
However, the event of the bake sale does begin to scratch the surface of this historical and complex issue regarding wage gap between genders, races and classes. This event raised controversy which is often a good first step in creating a dialogue. In addition, creating this dialogue and controversy at a younger age begins the process of the analysis of white privilege (“an invisible package of unearned assets” available to white people (McIntosh) ) and marginalization, the separation and oppression of a group of people as ‘other’, sooner rather than later. This event did do an important job in the way that it began a discussion and started to break down barriers regarding this complex issue of the wage gap.
As the young girls who created this controversy with a simple bake sale said, as a response to their peers’ uproar about the bake sale, “yeah, it’s not fair. That’s why we’re doing [the bake sale]” (Randall).
Aulette, Judy Root, Judith G Wittner. Gendered Worlds. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.
Carlisle, Randall. ‘Gender Equality Bake Sale Causes Stir At Utah High School’. Good4Utah. N.p., 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.
Catherine Hill, Ph.D. ‘The Simple Truth About The Gender Pay Gap (Spring 2015)’. AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881. N.p., 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.
McIntosh, Peggy. ‘White Priviledge: Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack’. N.p., 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.
Nittle, Nadra Karem. ‘What is a Stereotype?’. racerelations.about.com. N.p., 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.
Payequity.gov.on.ca,. ‘The Gender Wage Gap | Pay Equity Commission’. N.p., 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.
Worklifecanada.ca,. ‘Centre For Families, Work And Well-Being | University Of Guelph’. N.p., 2013. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.