The “Myth” of the Pay Gap

By: Dr. Christine Eady Mann

In April, Pew Research Center featured an article about how the pay gap has narrowed since the 1980’s but still persists. During the 2016 election, then candidate, Hillary Clinton had a plan to address this gap where it lives-motherhood-from the bottom up. Her opponent’s daughter also made a proposal that would help high earning women to pay for their child care by letting them write off the expense on their taxes. Dr. Christine Mann discusses how the problem is often denied and challenges readers to see value in the ability to bear children.

This morning, I woke up to a comment on my Campaign Facebook page stating that anyone who was “stupid” enough to believe in the pay gap “myth” deserved to be “laughed off the stage”. I considered just ignoring the comment (life is short!) but I answered that I’d like to have a discussion about it if he could refrain from insults.

I’ve heard the arguments against the existence of the pay gap many times, but the comment got me thinking about them again. There are many factors used by those who try to explain away disparities in lifetime earnings between men and women: fewer women enter science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) positions; women accept fewer positions in the workforce that are dangerous; and women are less aggressive in asking for raises and other compensation. Social scientists have studied the reasons for these decisions, and how to address them. Many appear to be rooted in differences in the ways we socialize girls and women in our society.

One of the most frequently cited reasons for why women have lower lifetime earnings compared to men is because of childbearing. The assertion is that women receive lower lifetime wages because they choose to leave the workforce to bear and raise children.

Let’s explore that for a minute.

Women are the only gender capable of bearing children, so imagine what would happen if women–all of them–collectively, did the math and decided that they would stop having children, stay in the workforce, and close part of that pay gap. What would be the result of that collective decision?

Within the course of a few decades, our society would cease to exist.

Bearing children is essential to our survival as a species. It is a social good. Without women choosing to bear children, there would be no us. Why do we reward one type of social good–participation in the workplace–and penalize another–childbearing? Why do we assert that women should accept lower lifetime earnings because they choose to bear children?

I will admit that I don’t have a solution for this. I’m not sure how we can make these equally worthy societal goods equitable in monetary compensation, although paid maternity leave would be a good place to start. But I do know that pretending that this doesn’t exist won’t get us there.

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Dr. Christine Eady Mann is a practicing physician from Cedar Park, Texas and a Congressional candidate for Texas’ 31st District. Besides having run her own medical practice in two Texas towns she is also a wife and mother of 3. Service is a family affair for the Mann’s as her husband works with incarcerated juveniles. Dr. Christine sat on the board of directors for the Williamson County American Heart Association and a volunteer to help at risk children. Find her on Twitter @DrMann4Congress

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Pay Gap

Gender issues

Women

public policy