“Down with the patriarchy!” The narrative of the patriarchy, described by modern feminists as when men are placed unfairly into positions of power, lends credibility to this brazen statement. Why? In this case, the narrative isn’t just leftist ramblings. It’s the truth.
The toxic nature of the patriarchy is upheld by an older, more sinister social construct: sexism, which is all too often targeted at women. Sexism’s seemingly eternal lifespan has allowed it to infiltrate not only social settings but also the workplace.
There is an unspoken sanctity surrounding the modern-day workplace. It was established as a meritocracy, awarding individuals based on the quality of their work rather than something entirely out of their control, such as sex. Considering the strides this country has made in civil rights, one would assume that equality is guaranteed.
But it is not. This assumption has been violated in the most basic metric of an individual’s value to a firm — their salary. Even in 2019, a rather large wage gap persists. Women on average earn 80 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn.
A portion of this discrepancy can be attributed to static structural problems, such as a state’s primary industries, demographic differences and regional differences in attitudes about work and gender. However, if society decided to focus its energies on solving these technicalities, we would be able to make strides in promoting workplace equality.
In order to understand why sexism is the root cause of the wage gap, we need to break down the opposing side’s arguments. Immediately what caught my eye was how opponents treat motherhood as an unpaid job title.
Is that not infuriating, that a patriarchal society turns the creation of a family into an unattractive bullet point on a resume? Society has, after all, effectively cemented women into the role of primary caretaker and constricted the definition of parenthood to motherhood.
A study in Denmark showed that children cause a woman’s earnings to drop sharply and never quite recover. This same restriction in earnings did not apply to her male counterpart after the birth of his first child.
Why? Because of social norms. Long-term exposure to male-centered narratives normalizes that the onus of caretaking fall onto the mother. Now, it is an unremarkable expectation.
What are the ramifications of this change in a professional setting? Studies show that there is a link between the expectation of childrearing and tending to household duties and women disproportionately preferring positions that offer temporal flexibility.
Everywhere, especially in Japan, women are doing more unpaid work — such as childcare and household chores — than their husbands. In addition to these duties, these women often still have careers to maintain.
But their domestic responsibilities often stint their professional growth. The “motherhood penalty” they are subjected to is reflective of the influence society’s gendering holds over professional settings.
In addition to this twisted motherhood argument, wage gap disbelievers rely on arguments that supposedly are founded on biological differences between the two sexes. Upon closer examination, these abominations of scientific arguments are rooted in sexism.
There is a common argument that boys are more interested in STEM subjects and, therefore, seek out higher-paying industries. Yet a study using PISA standardized exams and focusing on the top percentile scores for each gender, which could explain differences in future career paths, showed that there was actually little gender disparity among the top-scoring students.
Significant variations were actually more attributable to geographic differences. Clearly, what is advertised as a biological difference is once again a social construct founded in sexism.
Once this argument is dismantled, wage gap disbelievers will proceed to claim that biological inferiorities render women unwilling, even unable, to negotiate for higher salaries.
Women aren’t predisposed for shyness because of genetics. Rather, this is a matter of the gendering that is imposed upon us every day of our lives. It has permeated my life as well — my mother constantly lectures me, “Don’t be so aggressive, be softer! That’s how you succeed.”
And in spite of my self-confidence, I still wonder if I should take her advice seriously. That is how deeply ingrained sexism is, even in our increasingly liberal society.
Now, as the number of women pursuing higher education overtakes the number of men, I can positively say that I am sure of my abilities. I’m tired of having to prove myself in a room full of men when there is absolutely nothing to prove.
Evidently, this new generation of women, empowered by #MeToo and figures such as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, need to and will decisively close this gap.