We have so many opportunities in the workforce, yet women are often still told that we’ve got to run ourselves ragged and forego balance in order to break through the glass ceiling. Why?
Part of the reason work-life balance is difficult to achieve is because our society places so much weight on the financial success of one’s career.
For women, this has been particularly difficult because of the claim that we are underpaid compared with men and the notion that we have to work twice as hard to get to a level playing field. The ubiquitous statistic that women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn is a compelling story that points to systemic discrimination against women.
The problem is that it’s untrue. In reality, in our 20s women are paid better than men—by 8 cents on the dollar. And overall, 72 percent of women say they have about the same opportunities to advance to top executive and professional positions in their companies as men. We are now as likely as men to be company managers.
Now, it is true that on average men earn more than women, and they also hold a greater number of executive positions. Yet this wage gap is usually not the product of workplace discrimination but rather is the product of the choices and needs of both women and men. Here’s a radical thought: Women are different than men, and our priorities, demands, and career paths differ in most cases because of our own choosing.
Rather than pitting men and women against each other and using simplistic numbers to suggest that women are victims, we ought to acknowledge these differences and embrace the choices we make
When we take into account things like education, hours worked, industry, experience, and career choice, the wage gap disappears.
Rather than pitting men and women against each other and using simplistic numbers to suggest that women are victims, we ought to acknowledge these differences and embrace the choices we make, understanding the different salaries that may result.
For instance, most women today prefer not to work full time while their children are growing up. This decision naturally slows our workplace trajectory and can decrease our wages when we do return, particularly when you take into account that only 40 percent of women who take time off for children re-enter full-time work.
Women also work fewer hours than men on average—thirty-five minutes less per day than men among full-time workers—often due to the fact that mothers voluntarily provide more time at home caring for children. I understand this desire to be home with our children; the bond of motherhood is the strongest emotion I have ever experienced. Feminism refuses to acknowledge and validate this option.
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Additionally, women are more likely to be teachers and men are more likely to work in finance. Women also tend to choose jobs that offer more regular hours and greater flexibility—jobs that can accommodate the demands of raising children and managing other familial demands, but which may pay less.
We don’t all have to be on a path to the Fortune 500. I am so encouraged by the fact that as women gain greater opportunities in the workplace, they are choosing to enter careers that interest them, even if many of these careers have lower earnings over the long run. We absolutely should encourage girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In the past there has not been enough emphasis on this opportunity, and we can do better. I also believe that it should still be their choice.
Perhaps more opportunities for girls and boys at the elementary school level will orient more women toward these fields, but for now we must acknowledge that women’s career choice is a factor that affects the wage gap—and that giving women choice without guilt isn’t a bad thing.
As long as women recognize the financial implications of their career choices, I say, “Good for them!” No one should choose a career based on money alone. There’s not enough money in the world to compensate for a job you hate. I encourage women to choose a career they love, as long as it’s honest work and pays the bills. They should also look at all their options. We often limit ourselves.
Now, all of this is not to say that some fields are still difficult for women to break into or that there aren’t bad bosses. Humans are still sinful, and therefore discrimination against women does still exist.
However, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act have given us recourse in the courts and act as a deterrent to unfair employers. Concerned Women for America recently filed an amicus brief in support of a woman who was discriminated against by UPS because of her pregnancy, and she won. We have legal recourse, and we should use it if we are wronged—including and perhaps especially when it comes to sexual harassment.
I experienced sexual harassment in one job as a twentysomething, and it was disgusting and humiliating. I was highly employable and therefore sought and got another job, but sexual harassment is intolerable. Our daughters should never have to put up with that nonsense—and thankfully they don’t have to. We are blessed in this country by equal protection under the law, something women in much of the world can still only dream about.
Overall, the insistence on a wage gap and on widespread discrimination against women is sometimes used by feminists to perpetuate the notion that patriarchy prevents us from attaining career success and equity with men. Victim bating is politically profitable for feminists, but it simply doesn’t hold up. While choices we make about motherhood, work hours, and industry sectors may hinder our corporate-track momentum or stall our wages for a period of time, they are also opening up avenues to a work-life balance that is manageable and allows us to flourish.
Taken from Feisty & Feminine by Penny Young Nance. Copyright 2016 by Penny Young Nance. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.