So one of the more popular feminist talking points on the Internet is the gender pay gap, and with it comes the catchy slogan “Equal pay for equal work”. While I’m not here to argue for or against the pay gap, I do have a problem with concept of “equal work”. The oft mentioned 77-cent to a dollar statistic conveniently leaves out a bunch of contributing causes, and I just want briefly mention a few of the main ones.

Career choice is the number one reason. There are more males in high earning careers like engineers and programmers and yada, yada, yada. Everyone knows that. But aside from that, I want to mention the concept of hazard pay. Basically, hazard pay is when employers pay their employees a premium for engaging in dangerous work. Men overwhelmingly hold jobs that pay out hazard pay, and considering that over 90% of workplace deaths happen to males, it’s pretty reasonable that these men should have higher wages to compensate for this danger. So there’s one reason why men get paid more on average.

Another contributing factor is overtime. Workers that go over 40 hours a week get paid time and a half for each extra hour incurred on the job, and since men are more likely to work overtime and work more overtime hours in general than women do, it means that men bring home more money on average than women do. That’s a no brainer, right?

A third factor is the number of days taken off from work. On average, women take 15-35% more days off from work than men do, and in many cases paid leave isn’t offered to them. The reasons for calling in may be legitimate. I’m not really making a judgment here. It’s just the way things are. It’s hard to make money when you’re off the clock.

Another factor that hasn’t been discussed much is union membership. In general, union workers get paid more through collective bargaining than non-union workers, and it just so happens that the majority of union workers are male. You know where this leads.

Lastly, and this isn’t really something significant but I still want to mention it, there are some physical requirements for a job that a lot of women fail to meet. In my experience, whether it be lifting something heavy or reaching for something high up, the average women often has call upon male height and upper body strength to get something done. I never mind helping out when my services are called upon. I’m a pretty accommodating person. It’s just that at the end of the day, I’m not only doing my job, I’m also taking time out to do a small part of theirs. I know that the vast majority of these women would absolutely do these things if they could. They're not being lazy, they just can’t physically do something. They’re shorter and weaker in general than men are, and there’s really not a lot they can do about that. Making things lighter or making shelves shorter would be an inefficient use of space. It’s unfortunate that this is the way things are, but for certain jobs, “equal work” isn’t exactly equal.

So that’s about it. I’m not here to make a case against women getting paid more; I just wanted to make some points that don’t often get mentioned when discussing the gender pay gap. I think by keeping these caveats in mind, a more educated discussion regarding this issue can be had. Happy arguing.
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Aug 17, 2014