Moving past the gap

Photo credit: The Eisenhower Institute

Photo credit: The Eisenhower Institute

By Nick Arbaugh, Contributing Writer

It is a widely held belief that a wage gap exists between men and women in the workplace. Because the men in charge of corporations are greedy sexists, of course, women must automatically make less than their male counterparts in the same job. Lots of figures get thrown at you, asserting that women make a measly 70 to 80 cents for every dollar that a man makes. The White House and other government higher-ups, as well as special interest groups, echo this narrative of unfair pay for equal work, attributed simply to straight up discrimination. That very gap became a fiery talking point at the Eisenhower Institute’s Policy Debate, and I’ll address it, but there was something else following the debate that was quite bothersome.

The Gettysburgian published an editorial called “The art of negotiation” on September 30, asserting that this gap exists, along with a smattering of other progressive viewpoints. Particularly, it stressed the short stick that the author felt she was getting because she is a woman. Policy matters aside, I think it’s important that we as a society have a discussion about the role one’s gender should play in political debates. It’s high time we moved past immediately seeing everything as a gender or race issue. We need to fight the warped, yet seemingly prevalent, belief that someone’s opinion on issues pertinent to a specific group of people is worthless unless they belong to that group.

First off, the author complained about the lack of women on stage at the debate. Indeed, she was the only female representative on the stage. But why does that matter? I didn’t judge her for being a woman; I evaluated her thoughts and opinions. This is what I’m talking about. We have to stop thinking in these terms of “I’m the only woman up here, so that must be evidence of systemic oppression.” Nobody’s points in a debate should be detracted from or emboldened to because the speaker is one gender or another.

If we’re going to have a policy debate, we should be concerned about debating the complexity of the policy, rather than the genetic makeup of those on stage. Not every race that exists on Earth was represented on stage as far as I could tell, but that doesn’t automatically signify some greater scheme of racism.

If our goal is to create a society where, to paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., we aren’t judged by superficial traits but by the content of our character, then why does gender matter? Why does our campus spend so much time emphasizing the differences between us?  Men have just as much a right to their views and to speak out against statistics as women do, and the implication that being a man somehow diminishes my ability to speak on women’s issues is sexist.

It’s simple; I believe that the wage gap as it is often described does not accurately reflect reality.  The often cited figure of women making 77 cents for every dollar that is made by a man is a deliberate misuse of statistics, intended to justify more government intervention in the private sector. That figure is calculated by looking at the median wages made by men and women in 2010 (the last census) and then taking that ratio and asserting that the gap is the result of gross discrimination.

A difference in median wage doesn’t account for a person’s job, experience, hours, time off or any other factors. For example, a woman working in Job A stands to make much more money if she lives in New York, because the cost of living is more, and therefore companies are forced to pay their workers more in order to account for said cost of living. If a man working Job A has the same exact experience, education, hours logged and other factors but works in an area where the cost of living is significantly less, he would likely see his salary be lower than the woman’s.

There are many factors that go into calculating an employee’s salary, and it isn’t logical to jump to the conclusion that the salary difference described above is due to sexism. The median earnings statistic just can’t be used as accurate evidence of discrimination.

If our goal is to become a cohesive society of individuals, a society where we view each other by personality and not by sex or skin color, we need to stop identifying ourselves and others exclusively by those traits. As the author of “The art of negotiation” pointed out, we should not allow ourselves or others to be placed into boxes.  I’m a Christian, but that doesn’t give me a right to silence a Jew from talking about Christianity. Additionally, I’m not going to start counting how many people of Italian, German or Russian descent sat up on that stage and then use those numbers to paint the situation as discriminatory.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what color or gender you are up on that debate stage. It matters what creed you believe in, and how you argue those points. As common as it has become to play the minority card, it isn’t constructive. The people I saw on the debate stage weren’t simply one gender or race or sexuality, they were complex individuals who had philosophical disagreements with in regards to government policy.

If we want to sit down and actually get something done, then as individuals and a community we cannot continue to accept that it’s okay to use every little trait that separates us from a perceived majority as a crutch. Come on people, we’re adults. We’re individuals. Let’s embrace that we are each made up of more than just a gender, just a skin color, or just a sexuality. Let’s get something done.

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1 Comment

  1. Well, here is a real world example of a gap that exists at Gettysburg College. In a report to the faculty last fall, the Faculty Finance Committee presented data showing that female faculty at the College make less than male colleagues at EVERY rank. The gap is the largest at Full Professor, where women teaching at Gettysburg College make 90% of what male colleagues make. As a basis of comparison, the same data showed that at Dickinson and F&M there is near salary equity at the Professor level. For a broader comparison, among 12 colleges with which Gettysburg likes to compare salaries, there was an average showing women making 96% of what males made at the rank of professor. Gettysburg had by far the largest gender gap in salary at this level and at the Assistant Professor level (level at which faculty are first hired). The middle level- Associate Professor- Gettysburg did better than the 12 school average, but women still make less than men.

    As the writer states, there are many factors that go into calculating someone’s salary. Gender should not be one of them. I encourage a college-wide discussion of this issue.

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