Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Understanding the gap

Feminists go on and on about the "wage gap" between men and women. The fact that men earn more money than women is held to be the single greatest proof of sexist discrimination against women.

But is the wage gap really due to sexist discrimination? Warren Farrell, in a new book called Why Men Earn More, thinks not. He provides a wealth of interesting facts to support his case, and these are very usefully summarised in a short review of the book by John Leo.

For instance, the mass media rarely reports the fact that women are 15 times more likely to become top executives in major corporations before the age of 40. Or that a female investment banker's starting salary is 116 percent of a male's. Or that never-married, college-educated males working full-time only make 85% of what their female counterparts earn.

These facts hardly suggest a hostile sexist discrimination against women. Far from it. So why do men in general earn up ending more? Farrell himself suggests a variety of reasons, including the female preference for choosing glamorous but lesser paid work, and the greater willingness of men to take on risky and dangerous jobs.

The deeper reason, though, is likely to be the role of human nature: that men are more likely to be highly committed to paid work because of their masculine role as providers within a family, whereas women are more likely to lessen their workplace commitments because of their role as mothers.

Achieving equal earnings between men and women will therefore never happen naturally. It would require massive social engineering to overcome the effect of differing gender roles within the family.

In fact, it was reported earlier this month that despite decades of feminist initiatives and campaigns, the pay gap in Australia is actually growing, from $230 a week in 1996 to $310 now.

Although it's the height of political incorrectness to say it, this isn't necessarily bad news. It means that men are still working hard to be providers, and that women are still committing at least a part of their lives to motherhood. It means, in other words, that part of the social basis of the family is still operating healthily to the benefit of both men and women.

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