Anything Boys Can Do, Girls Can Do Better
Are we getting ever-closer to the promised land of “equal pay for equal work”? New research from Pew suggests that we could, in fact, in some places, be inching towards that goal.
The latest stats identifies at least 10 cities in which young women are not only earning the same amount as men, but beating them in the earnings arms race.
Now, before we bust out the balloons and declare the battle for gender-equality over and done with, we should point out a few things.
First, these cities are not typical of the country as a whole. Overall, the gender pay gap remains formidable, with the average woman earning $0.82 for every $1.00 earned by men. This is still a pretty hefty penalty for the apparently grave crime of having an extra X chromosome.
Second, there are plenty of cities in the United States in which young women are paid significantly less than their masculine counterparts.
Finally, we have very little understanding of why young women are outperforming their male peers in some cities when it comes to wages and whether this level of performance can be maintained in the face of powerful systemic forces that depress wages for women over the course of their lives.
So, for example, we know that the “motherhood penalty” drives down the wages of women who have or take care of children and other family members. But since the full effect of that penalty isn’t apparent until an age much closer to retirement is reached, it’s unknown whether these high-performing young women in these select cities will fall victim to it.
Further, it’s important to recognize that women are outperforming men in a ton of areas in early life, including educational achievement and many prosocial behaviors. It could be that, even if women are making a bit more than men in some cities, a true and fair reflection of their professional and academic potential should result in even higher wages. In other words, it’s possible that fairness demands they be paid even more.
The US has a ton of strengths. But one area where we could certainly do better, however, is gender parity. Iceland, in particular, is showing the world how it’s done when it comes to treating the fairer sex fairly. And it didn’t achieve this by accident.
Iceland has implemented generous parental leave plans that don’t economically penalize women for having children. It’s also passed legislation mandating that corporate boards be composed of at least 40% female members, a fact that goes a long way in explaining the country’s dramatic lead in executive gender parity compared to the United States.
The lack of many of these protections in the USA is one explanation for the relatively poor showing of many American cities in gender wage differential stats and other measures of gender equality. If anything, the statistics showing that young women are out-earning men in some cities speaks to the amazing resilience and talent that exists within female professionals.
Imagine where we could be if we got out of their way?