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Is the gender pay gap a myth?
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Certain occupations have become gendered, so women are more likely to pursue careers that pay less than the careers men pursue.

Stereotypically feminine traits or qualities are only perceived as being valuable in certain settings, such as teaching or nursing. These positions are not as highly paid as other occupations that value stereotypically masculine traits, such as aggression and decisiveness.
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The Argument

For many occupations, employers are looking for candidates with stereotypically ‘male’ qualities. For example, competent lawyers are expected to be aggressive, and people in manager positions are expected to be decisive. Due to internalized sexism within the workplace, women who attempt to adopt these behaviors may be perceived as being ‘bossy’ or ‘domineering.’ However, their femininity might be perceived as incompetence, making it difficult for women to find a welcoming space within the workforce. Therefore, certain occupations have been unofficially gendered. [1] For example, women are more likely to work as elementary school teachers rather than college professors, or nurses rather than doctors- occupations where feminine traits such as gentleness and warmth are more appreciated, but ultimately pay less. As a result, there is a considerable pay gap between how much women in the United States earn annually in comparison to men. This is less so the fault of women for pursuing these lower-paying occupations, and more so the fault of society and the patriarchy for holding women to certain expectations, and deciding that stereotypically "feminine" traits are not as valuable in the workforce. In the same vein, women being perceived as less intelligent or less competent can result in them being given less responsibility; additional tasks might be assigned to their male coworkers, who are deemed more capable and therefore earn extra money. This could offer an explanation for why women who work in male dominated fields, such as STEM, still earn less. “The average salary for men working in science and engineering in the UK in 2017 was £41,200, while women were paid £33,000, a difference of 20 per cent.” [2]

Counter arguments

Patriarchal influences should not be considered the sole reason for why some women pursue low paying, female dominated occupations. Women are capable of making their own choices, and by claiming that women are so easily influenced, you are doing them a disservice by insinuating that they have no true agency and that they are incapable of making their own unbiased decisions. Some women might prefer being a nurse to a doctor, or an elementary school teacher to a college professor, and so on. In addition, it's unfair to claim that feminine traits are not as valuable in the work force and that's why nurses or elementary school teachers earn less money. The reason these occupations earn less money is because, although they are extremely important roles in society, the work they do is ultimately easier and requires less training. Being a doctor is harder than being a nurse, and being an elementary school teacher is easier than being a college professor. Claiming they earn less money because they are "feminine" jobs is reductive. Gender bias or discrimination often has nothing to do with it.


[P1] Employers find stereotypically male traits to be more valuable in the workplace, but when women attempt to adopt these traits they are not perceived well. [P2] Stereotypically female traits such as gentleness or warmth are more valuable in occupations that pay less money. [P3] The fact that women pursue careers that pay less is the fault of patriarchal pressures and expectations. [P4] Women being perceived as less capable leads to their male coworkers being given more responsibilities, which results in extra money.

Rejecting the premises

Rejecting [P1] This is contingent on the idea of feminine traits not being valued in the work force, which is not necessarily true in all cases. Nurses and elementary school teachers are highly appreciated and acknowledged for the important work they do, and are not paid less simply because the people in these positions are mostly women. Rejecting [P3] This is contingent on women being unable to make their own unbiased choices, which is not always true. Women are capable of rejecting patriarchal expectations, even if it's difficult.


This page was last edited on Monday, 4 May 2020 at 08:02 UTC

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