Jason’s back at blogging again, after a bit of a break to get all credentialed up. Easing back into the swing of things, he put up a post pointing to the “11 Signs You Might Be an MRA” t-shirt that was going around. As the first one of these “signs” is “You have no problem with the gender wage gap. But you hate having to pay for dates”, it of course brought out the standard reasons why the pay gap is totes not discriminatory. For example:
It’s not that we don’t have a problem with it, it’s that we’re aware that when you account for factors such as that men work for longer hours, it almost disappears. If women want a higher wage, they should make choices that will bring them a bigger paycheck.
Both the idea that the pay gap “almost disappears” and the question of choice have already been more than ably handled in the comments at Jason’s. I want, however, to pull apart this idea of working hours.
The U.S. Department of Labor puts out an annual survey report on how people in the U.S. spend their time. In 2011, the average employed U.S. civilians spent 5.66 hours per day (including weekends and holidays) at work or in work-related activities (e.g., commuting, business travel). That number is the average of values for full- and part-time workers. Men worked 6.29 hours on average. Women worked 4.98 on average.
That is a fair-sized gap, assuming that more hours worked equals more productivity. (It doesn’t.) However, it doesn’t come close to accounting for all work. That is only paid work. If you look at almost every other kind of work that makes our civilization run, women put in more hours per day than men do. Running a household? Working men put in 1.24 hours on an average day. Working women put in 1.75 hours. Taking care of people both in and outside the household? 1.33 hours for men and 2.21 hours for women. They come closest in time spent shopping, with men at 0.65 hours and women at 0.85 hours. Only in organizational and civic activities do men surpass women with 0.17 hours to women’s 0.14 hours.
Total all that up, and employed women worked–paid and unpaid labor–9.93 hours in 2011 to employed men’s 9.68. Women are doing equal work for, not merely unequal pay, but grotesquely less pay than men.
Go ahead, try to tell me that’s a “choice” in any meaningful sense of the word. Better yet, tell it to all the women you just called really bad at basic, obvious math. Then explain how you though bringing up the contribution of unpaid work to the problem of gendered pay disparity was anything but a full concession to the idea that women are not treated equally. Explain to me how, “No, it’s totes fair to pay women less when they do more work”, is any kind of reasonable argument.
As with salary negotiation, this is an argument for more standardization of pay and benefits across a work force so that more than just a company’s interests are represented in its policies. It is also, perhaps an argument that it’s time our society stood up and said that it’s critical that the people doing this important work not lose by it economically.
The last thing it is, however, is any indication that everything’s fine, that there’s nothing to see (or think about) here.