Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Gender Gaps

I've been reading a very interesting book by Susan Pinker called The Sexual Paradox in which she examines the continuing "wage gap" between men and women, where women tend to earn about 80% of what men do with the same educational background.

Initially I was put off by her claims of inherent biological differences but she made a compelling argument.  We don't like to believe there are inherent biological differences between the sexes because we like to believe we are all created equal and biological differences have been historically used to justify appalling conditions and circumstances.  Pinker argues that if we ignore actual biological differences, then we are being inherently unfair to both men and women by pretending their preferences don't actually exist.

Whether by social indoctrination or biological urgings, the vast majority of women are not willing or even particularly interested in the 80-100 hour week required for the top levels of their careers.  Even with overt encouragement, corporate enticement and family support, women tend to choose jobs with more flexibility and stability, which also tend to be lower paid.  Even without children or other care obligations, women abandon the high-stakes, high-pay professions for jobs that are more meaningful or allow a more balanced life.

Pinker suggests that to truly close the wage gap, we would need to increase the pay of the sort of jobs women are attracted to.  Legal aid instead of corporate law, family practice instead of surgery, teaching instead of research.

She raises some valid points.  Insisting women play the game by men's standards and using the male model isn't really a move for equality.  With real power, shouldn't we be able to shift the goalposts of success to something we feel more comfortable with?  Maybe we are, simply by refusing to play the game as outlined.

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