That women only make $0.77 for every $1 a man makes is in the news again. But one key solution is still not being talked about:
Giving men the same choices as women.
Yes, you read that right. Men are increasingly invested in being dads, but many wives expect their husbands to prioritize the traditional male breadwinner role.
American men and women express equal desire to be stay at home parents, but women are far less supportive of men who want to be househusbands. And the most progressive area of the US for househusbands? San Francisco? New York? Any liberal Mecca?
No. The South.
Guess them recknecks ain’t jokin’ when they say they’re about family values. Latte sipping San Franciscans, well, not so progressive as they think they are.
The UK isn’t any better. A recent survey found that zero percent of Britons support men staying home with the children while their wives work. And women are more likely to divorce househusbands.
It’s false to think that eliminating pay discrimination will close the pay gap. Discrimination is already illegal, though sometimes hard to enforce.
And contrary to popular myth, the 77 cents per dollar gap is not for the same job. It’s an average of disparate jobs.
Economist and former Congressional Budget Office director June E O’Neill finds that the pay gap closes to 96.7 cents when all factors are considered, such as career choice, hours worked, uninterrupted years of service, etc.
And here’s the thing: women in their 20s earn more than men, the pay gap emerging for people in their 30s – but not for never married, childless women – who actually earn more than their male counterparts.
In other words, the pay gap is between mothers and fathers.
But our dominant cultural narrative obscures the reasons behind this. ThinkProgress writes, “That means an average woman working full time will lose $1,200 in earnings for each of her children”. But after noting that “the data can’t test for whether fathers get better treatment just for being fathers”, they go ahead and conclude that “Fatherhood is a valued characteristic of employers”.
Really? We should believe employers are going to pay men more simply for being fathers, even while admitting there’s no evidence to back this up? Yes, fathers’ pay increases after having children, but this is probably because they’re working longer hours to support the kids.
Are we to believe that mothers taking a few years off, working part time, or seeking lower paying jobs with more flexible hours is not a bigger reason for the pay gap?
Even when this acknowledgement is made, the explanation typically is that traditional gender roles demand this of women. That is, men are to blame.
But the men are actors, women are acted upon narrative is sexist against both women and men. And it doesn’t reflect reality.
Writing for the Telegraph, Neil Lyndon discusses how hard it was to find a woman who supports equal parenting. He quotes one woman as saying, “Women will never give up control of their own children”. He was in his late 50s before he found a woman without such control issues, though he notes that other moms called him “weird” and said that he “really wanted to be a mother”. Which was supposed to be an insult to his manhood – man-shaming to force him back into the traditional male role. Lyndon concludes that, “For a man to be a father on his own terms was not permissible”.
The pay gap – compared honestly to the same job rather than an aggregate – can be closed.
But women need to take their share of the responsibility for the way in which they support and promote traditional gender roles, which limit women’s pay.