President Obama once stated as following when remarking on equal pay for equal work, “Today, the average full-time working woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns…in 2014, that’s an embarrassment. It is wrong” (qtd. in Kessler). Recently, a group of high school students held a bake sale on campus, using this statement as the support for their struggle with gender inequality. According to the interview done by Randall Carlisel, I found the voices in his interview about the opinions towards this event are incomplete. We are easy to find that most people in his interview praised these students’ action except for only one student suspecting the statistics they are using. Therefore, people should realize that the voices of adults who can think comprehensively and realistically (e.g. teachers and sociologists) are missing. Since there exist many causes for gender pay gap that cannot be attributed to gender inequality, however, have great influences on widening the wage gap, it would be biased discussing the inequality based merely on this statement. In the following article are some examples of these inevitable factors.
Firstly, the organization of jobs is one of the most important factors of wage gap, which should not be attributed to gender inequality. According to the descriptions of gender socialization, “ individuals are taught how to socially behave in accordance with their assigned gender, which is assigned at birth based on their biological sex”(Tolmie). For example, the toys and games parents select for children are often unconsciously intended to socialize them into the appropriate gender roles. Girls receive dolls in an attempt to socialize them into future roles as mothers. Since women are expected to be more nurturing than men, giving a girl a doll teaches her to care for it and fosters the value of caring for others. When boys receive dolls, they are likely to be action figures designed to bring out the alleged aggressive tendencies in boys. Consequently, as it is explained by the principles of hegemonic masculinity, women are more likely to be nurses, secretaries and teachers who are usually in subordinate social position while men, in the contrary, are usually in the dominant social position – being doctors, CEOs and principals. The different characteristics and talents between men and women will results in gender segregation of jobs, which becomes one main explanations for the gender wage gap because men-dominated occupations tend to pay better than women-dominated occupations (Aulette & Wittner, 193).Still people have to be aware that even when women are in female occupations they are still paid less then male counter-parts because anything tie to the feminine is undervalued.
Secondly, the statistics the promoters are using fail to take race and classes into consideration. As it is shown in Table 1, when compared with non-Hispanic white men (a benchmark used because they make up the largest demographic group in the labor force), the pay gap is much worse for many women of color when compared to non-Hispanic white women. Thus, it can be seen that the low
wages for women in color is an indispensable factor for the overall large gender pay gap in America. While the generally lower graduation rates being a factor for lower wage paying for women in color, the statistics show that many of them tend to be paid less than their white peers even when they have the same educational background (Wallace). A possible explanation is discrimination, which is attributed largely to the history of colonialism and capitalism. During the colonial era, “colonialism exists in the form of white supremacy, which posits that white skin is somehow superior/better to darker skin” (Tolmie). As it is more directly pointed out in one article of R.G. Price, “With very few exceptions, all slaves were African and brought to America for the sole purpose of free labor and thereby all people with dark or black skin were labeled something less than human in comparison to the white population” (Price). These ideas still exist today in the form of racial stereotypes and prejudices and racist violence, which can be clearly reflected in the wage gap between female peers in America. Thus, it can be seen that how important it is to to mention the races and class elements as well when analyzing the gender wage gap.
Despite the fact that there are lots of factors attributed to inevitable gender wage gap, we can never deny that there do exist pay inequality between genders and these students are popularizing the right thing. However, it can be seen that their efforts are actually helping only white, able-bodied people, people who are at the disadvantaged position or minor position in society, for example, LGBTQ people, disabled people and people of colour, are not benefiting from the statement of equal pay for equal work. It can be seen clearly, most people in the video being interviewed are all white, even including the promoters of this event. Therefore, there is lack of representations of diversified groups of people speaking of their voices. And it is probably these people, are experiencing the most unequal treat in wages. I am not saying that there is no wage gap between genders by this article.
I really appreciate those students’ awareness of the inequalities in society and make actions to prevent it at such a young age. Nevertheless, they need to explain the problems more clearly and analyze it in different standing points rather than just copy what a legitimate source said, because that’s the only way to convince the public. Also, the public should never merely rely on the words of people being interviewed in the news to make a judgment, even though it appears to be a justice event, however, should keep a critical mind to figure out whose voices is missing.
Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. “Gender and the Global Economy.” In Gendered Worlds. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Wallace, Rachel. “By the Numbers: A Look at the Gender Pay Gap.” AAUW
Empowering Women Since 1881 By the Numbers A Look at the Gender Pay Gap Comments. September 18, 2014. Accessed April 3, 2015. http://www.aauw.org/2014/09/18/gender-pay-gap/.
Price, R.G. “Understanding Capitalism Part III: Wages and Labor Markets.”
Understanding Capitalism Part III: Wages and Labor Markets. January 11, 2005. Accessed April 3, 2015. http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/capitalism_wages.htm.
Tolmie, Jane. “GNDS 125.” Classs Lecture, “Gender Socialization”, January 8, 2015.
Tolmie, Jane. “GNDS 125.” Class Lecture, Globalization, Colonialism, and Orientalism in Visual Culture, January 29, 2015.