Ladies, We Might As Well Work For Free

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Yesterday, this article about the gender wage gap popped on my newsfeed, and it made me feel more than a little sick. I knew there was a wage gap between men and women, but I’d never thought of it in these terms before. Basically, on average, if women worked for free from October 26, 2017, until the end of this year, that would represent the average wage gap.

That’s disgusting for a couple of reasons. I won’t wax poetic on how it’s 2017 and we should be past this because I think if the last twelve months have proved anything, it’s that America at age 241 has not yet reached maturity. (Seriously, does anyone know the conversion rate to human years for a country?)

To me, one of the biggest problems isn’t just that women make less than men. It’s typical for privileged groups to make more–not that that makes it okay because it certainly does not–but what really bothers me, what’s really at the heart of this issue, is the division of labor based on gender.

I’m sorry, did World War II just end? Is it time to send Rosie the Riveter back to the kitchen because now the men are back and we certainly can’t expect them to take up cooking and cleaning and all the home economics jobs? Is it time to rip the Barbie out of your son’s hands and tell him he must play with G.I. Joe because he’s a boy and boys play with action figures, not dolls?

Are we going to force women to confine themselves to female roles for female pay because we certainly can’t expect men to deign to take those jobs for that salary and corporate America couldn’t possibly imagine paying equal wages? How about we go back to the times when women were forced by societal standards to wear so many layers (and cook all the meals) that 25% of American women died in kitchen fires? (Don’t believe me? I read it in this book. By the way, an excellent resource for writing about Colonial life.)

For the record, I’m being a tad hyperbolic for a reason–to point out how ridiculous it is that we even have a wage gap. It’s more likely these days that the misogynists who perpetuate this situation would rather women not be in the workplace at all. They’re the same men who say that if a woman can’t handle being sexually harassed or assaulted, then she doesn’t belong in the workplace.

To be fair, there are some companies that are striving to close the wage gap. In some roles, that gap is closing. But it’s not closing fast enough, and in certain positions, it’s even worse than $0.80 on the dollar. So how do we fix it? Where do we go from here?

I promise that the answer doesn’t lie in shipping all men out of the country. Men are valuable, as valuable as women, and their opinions are just as necessary to create a diverse and complete world. For that reason, starting a company run by and entirely staffed by women is also not the answer (and it’s pretty illegal).

Here’s what needs to happen to close this wage gap:

  • Hire for the needs of the position, and the matching skills of a candidate–not whether she can get the job done for less money than a man.
  • For persons of all genders, and those who don’t associate with a gender, stop trying to force them into roles defined by gender.
  • Persons of all genders should learn how to negotiate a salary. We should teach anyone and everyone applying for jobs (and before then) that associating with a non-privileged gender does not mean one’s professional skills are valued less.
  • Support companies that strive to close the gender gap by shopping with them. Shop less or not at all with those companies who refuse. Money talks.

Oh, and one more thing: We need to stop telling women not to answer the gender question on job applications. I’m not saying everyone or anyone should answer. But telling a woman not to answer is like telling a woman not to wear certain clothes because such a wardrobe might be too much of a temptation for men.

Finally, we need to take this problem out of the workplace. What I mean by this is that we need to stop thinking of men as the breadwinners and women as the caretakers. Men are capable of being caretakers and women are capable of being breadwinners.

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