We have all heard about the wage gap. What we may not have heard is that the idea of a wage gap as we know it is nonsense. The problem with the wage gap is that it’s predicated on the desire to fulfill a political narrative rather than to display an honest set of facts. A closer look at the facts indicates that the phenomenon of varied earnings between men and women is not due to injustice, but rather the dissimilar vocational choices of men and women and how these choices affect their earnings.
In my colleague Emily Houston’s 3/23 column on the supposed wage gap at Binghamton University, she first falls short in her portrayal of the wage gap nationally, which reliably fails to make the fundamental distinction between wages and earnings. A mere 80 cents on the dollar is what she states to be the amount that women are paid relative to men. This number is found through a simple calculation: one divides the median earnings of all women working full-time by the median earnings of all men working full-time. When calculated, it’s true: women’s average earnings are around 20 percent less than men’s annually. But this is not the same as a woman not receiving the same wage for performing the same exact job as a man. The oversimplified calculation that Ms. Houston uses fails to consider the various occupations, positions, educations and job tenures of men and women, or number of hours they work per week.
In other words, the wage gap narrative fails to include the monumental significance of choices. Unsurprisingly, men’s and women’s choices vary immensely when it comes to their careers. In medicine, for example, the substantial difference between male and female physicians’ earnings would lead some people to outrage and declare injustice. But when analyzed closely, the difference can largely be accounted for by choice of specialty. For instance, 75 percent of pediatricians are women. Pediatrics pays significantly less than a field like anesthesiology, which is practiced by 73 percent men. This pattern exists across other medical fields as well, such as family doctoring and radiology.
Women are also more likely to work part-time or take extended leaves of absence for various purposes, like to have children. Such decisions may lead to men earning more by the end of the year, but there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that men and women who have a similar education, the same exact specialty and work the same amount of hours per week, experience any difference between their wages. This makes sense because if companies really could get away with paying women less, wouldn’t they just hire all women and save 20 percent of their payroll expenses?
When it comes to BU, again, Ms. Houston fails to consider the complexity of choices made by our various associate and tenured professors. Their fiscal fates have nothing to do with their gender; it has to do with their qualifications and respective fields. Take two of the seven schools at BU, for example. The Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science has noticeably more male than female faculty. This is an indication not of sexism, but of the fact that statistically, more men study subjects like computer science and mechanical engineering than women do.
Then there is the Decker School of Nursing, which has far more women instructors than men. Is this because Decker is sexist against men? Of course not. Nursing simply tends to be a profession that generally appeals more to women. Moreover, those who major in engineering on average tend to get jobs that pay more money than positions in nursing. It’s no different when it comes to professorship, and this is just one of many realities from which the earnings gap at BU can be attributed.
Ms. Houston’s disfavor toward the ratio of men and women employed at BU speaks to a broader concern. Insinuating that the higher percentage of men employed here is due to the University’s preference of men over women is just ridiculous. Inequality does not denote inequity. Following such logic would lead the University to begin hiring people based more on their sexual anatomy rather than their academic merit, a notion that would be truly arbitrary and unfair.
Therefore, the 80 cents on the dollar statistic reveals little, other than the ignorance of those who purport it. Addressing the myth that is the wage gap is important because it instills the belief in women that no matter what they do, they will never make as much money as men. This is absolute nonsense. In fact, more women than men are graduating from college nowadays and live during a time that is the high-water mark for freedom and opportunity. Realizing these opportunities and exercising their freedom to pursue them is what will allow women to fulfill their destinies as they see fit, and make just as much money as men while doing it.
Brian Deinstadt is a junior double-majoring in political science and English.