The wage gap isn’t because of sexism

By Shelby Tomassini

When looking at the annual median wages of women and men, it is true men make more money on average than women, however, the reason for this seems to be in the differing jobs women and men choose to pursue.

In 2015, the annual full-time earnings for a woman was $40,742 and the average for a man was $51,212, according to a June 21, 2017, study by The Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that works with CEOs all over the world to help build workplaces that work for women.

The top five male-dominated careers are labor intensive jobs, according to their website. The career category with the most men in comparison to women is bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists. The average salaries for these careers is $46,360, according to O-NET online.

On the other hand, the most female-dominated careers are secretaries and administrative assistants. The median annual salary for this job is $35,590, according to O-NET online.

Despite getting paid less, women are often more educated than men. In 2017, 34.6 percent of women had a college degree in comparison to 33.7 percent of men, according to statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics. Even though women are statistically more educated than men, the fields women are choosing to study in are not fields that pay as much as their male counterparts. These decisions are what have led to men making more money than women.

In 2016, women earned the most doctoral degrees in 2016 for the eighth year in a row. The doctoral degree with the highest female percentage when compared to men was in the arts and humanities. Oppositely, the doctoral degree with the highest percentage of men in comparison to women during 2016 was mathematics and computer sciences.

These statistics demonstrate the idea men and women are choosing different paths at the very beginning of their careers, which are conscious decisions that ultimately affect their salaries. This is not because of sexism as the statistics show it all boils down to the career and educational decisions men and women are making.

On average, women are making lower salaries than men, but when looking deeper into this and not just assuming, it is apparent there are reasons for this which do not involve sexism.

“Women don’t negotiate as much as men do,” said associate professor Anne Hanley Monday during the Smart Salary Negotiation Workshop hosted by The American Association of University Women at NIU. When offered a job 68 percent of women accepted their first offer and did not negotiate their salary, compared to 52 percent of men, according to a 2016 survey conducted by Glassdoor, a leading career database. If more women were to negotiate their salaries initially, the wage gap might improve.

The wage gap exists because of the educational and career decisions men and women are making. Education, the type of degree earned and the job someone ends up having are the biggest influences on how much an employee will make annually.

The earlier comparison of the female-dominated fields of assistants and secretaries against the male-dominated fields of mechanics and engine specialist showed how the careers men and women choose affect their overall median wages. This raises the question of why men and women choose different jobs and fields of study. Societal and cultural influences could very easily be the culprits of this outcome.

“Now, jobs that are stereotypically for women, and that most women are societally pushed into, are generally paid less than those men are steered toward,” Adil Erradi, first-year computer science major said.

Even if that’s the case, America is the land of opportunity, and if a woman has her heart set out to be a diesel engine specialist, then there is no law to stop her.