The Gender Pay Gap is a Complete Myth

Last Updated Apr 17, 2011 5:06 PM EDT

Opinion

According to all the media headlines about a new White House report, there's still a big pay gap between men and women in America. The report found that women earn 75 cents for every dollar men make. Sounds pretty conclusive, doesn't it? Well, it's not. It's misleading.

According to highly acclaimed career expert and best-selling author, Marty Nemko, "The data is clear that for the same work men and women are paid roughly the same. The media need to look beyond the claims of feminist organizations."

On a radio talk show, Nemko clearly and forcefully debunked that ultimate myth - that women make less than men - by explaining why, when you compare apples to apples, it simply isn't true. Even the White House report: Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being explains why. Simply put, men choose higher-paying jobs.

Here are 8 reasons why the widely accepted and reported concept that women are paid less than men is a myth. The timing couldn't be better - today's International Women's Day 2011. What better time to empower women with the truth instead of treating them like victims. And, in case you're wondering, Nemko's source of information is primarily the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics - rock solid.

Why the Gender Pay Gap is a Complete Myth

Men are far more likely to choose careers that are more dangerous, so they naturally pay more. Top 10 most dangerous jobs (from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics): Fishers, loggers, aircraft pilots, farmers and ranchers, roofers, iron and steel workers, refuse and recyclable material collectors, industrial machinery installation and repair, truck drivers, construction laborers. They're all male-dominated jobs.

Men are far more likely to work in higher-paying fields and occupations (by choice). According to the White House report, "In 2009, only 7 percent of female professionals were employed in the relatively high paying computer and engineering fields, compared with 38 percent of male professionals." Professional women, on the other hand, are far more prevalent "in the relatively low-paying education and health care occupations."

Men are far more likely to take work in uncomfortable, isolated, and undesirable locations that pay more.Men work longer hours than women do. The average fulltime working man works 6 hours per week or 15 percent longer than the average fulltime working woman.

Men are more likely to take jobs that require work on weekends and evenings and therefore pay more.

Even within the same career category, men are more likely to pursue high-stress and higher-paid areas of specialization. For example, within the medical profession, men gravitate to relatively high-stress and high-paying areas of specialization, like surgery, while women are more likely to pursue relatively lower-paid areas of specialization like pediatrician or dentist.

Despite all of the above, unmarried women who've never had a child actually earn more than unmarried men, according to Nemko and data compiled from the Census Bureau.

Women business owners make less than half of what male business owners make, which, since they have no boss, means it's independent of discrimination. The reason for the disparity, according to a Rochester Institute of Technology study, is that money is the primary motivator for 76% of men versus only 29% of women. Women place a higher premium on shorter work weeks, proximity to home, fulfillment, autonomy, and safety, according to Nemko.

    It's hard to argue with Nemko's position which, simply put, is this: When women make the same career choices as men, they earn the same amount as men. As far as I'm concerned, this is one myth that has been officially and completely busted. Maybe you should celebrate International Women's Day 2011 by empowering women with the truth instead of treating them like victims ... which they're not.

    Update 3/18/11: A reader was kind enought to send me a link to "An Analysis of Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women" prepared, under contract, for the U.S. Department of Labor in 1/09:

    "This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers."

    Update 4/16/11: There Is No Male-Female Wage Gap - Carrie Lukas, The Wall Street Journal.

    If you agree or disagree with that, we'd love to hear it.

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