The existence of a difference between the median earnings of men and women exists.
“In 2015 the median annual earnings in the United States for women and men working full time, year-round were $40,742 and $51, 212, respectively” according to the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
Fortunately, and contrary to popular belief, this does not mean that women are being paid less than men for the same amount of work.
In “An Analysis of Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women,” a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Labor in January 2009, it reads:
“Although additional research in this area is clearly needed, this study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”
The multitude of factors includes the career choice differences between men and women. Men are statistically more likely to choose careers that are more dangerous, work in higher-paying fields, take jobs that require work on weekends according to cbsnews.com. These differences all work towards increasing that median earnings gap between men and women.
Marketwatch.com reports that “fewer women choose to major in engineering, chemistry, and physics. More choose to take English literature, communications, and gender studies.” These fields more often than not pay less than the sciences. Which would mean men statistically are choosing higher paying careers than women thus a comparison of apples to apples becomes much more tangy on one end.
Opponents would then point to the incalculable societal pressures that push women towards certain degrees but every moment this becomes less and less of a legitimate argument. “One 2010 study found that while women represented 11 percent and 12 percent of university tenure-track applicants in electrical engineering and physics, they received 32 percent and 20 percent of job offers. They were more likely than male applicants to get hired when they applied,” again according to Marketwatch.com.
What it all boils down to is that more individuals who are female put more importance on their personal lives over their careers than male individuals. That isn’t a judgment. It is merely a fact. When some of the factors (like education, college major, length of time in workplace, occupation) are accounted for the gap “narrows to the point of vanishing” according to Christina Hoff Sommers in an article published on huffingtonpost.com.
It is important to note that it doesn’t vanish completely. The AAUW reported that it becomes about 6.6 cents from the overly reported 23 cent gap. This will amount to a significant sum over the years but economists don’t have a consensus on where this difference comes from. “The AAUW notes that part of the new 6.6-cent wage-gap may be owed to women’s supposedly inferior negotiating skills — not unscrupulous employers,” writes Sommers.
The point is that the well-publicized “wage gap” is a misinterpretation of the numbers. Life is far more complex than people tend to portray it and immediately pointing at something and shouting sexism is to do a disservice to oneself.