"Should men and women be paid equally?" Whoo boy... This one is a doozy.
I've been holding onto this one for a while, trying to properly articulate my views on this topic. Hopefully I have done my job correctly in this post.
Ok... let's get into this.
What an objectively absurd question. When this question is asked I always wonder what the intentions are of the person asking.
Questions like this typically means the one asking has not done their homework, or has bought into an ideaology without truly thinking about this very complex problem for themselves, is intended to incite some type of accusation or riot, or all items listed above.
But let's go ahead and answer this question and get that out of the way...
Should men and women be paid equally?
If you mean for the simple sake of equality of outcome then my answer is absolutely not.
If you mean should men and women be paid equally for the same job, with the same quality of work, and the same job role, then my answer is "I don't know".
My bottom line is this...
Gender should not play a role in determining wages.
This is my own personal belief and I think that is something that we can all agree on. However the way this question is posed assumes there is a serious gender-based bias regarding wages in the west. I know that there must still be some employers in the west that continue to discriminate against women or those that are gay by suppressing their earning wages. However I myself am a skeptic in the claim that in this day and age this is a widespread issue. But we can debate this another time.
What we do know is that yes; it is true that women, as a group, do get paid less than men as a group. The claim that women "make around 79 cents for every dollar earned by men" is a widespread belief. But when making this statement we are leaving out all of the complicated factors about how wages are determined, as well as what people are willing to accept for their own wages. Plus, this claim does not represent all women in all areas. For example, almost all of my managers and directors in every place I've worked have mostly been women and all had significantly higher wages than myself. Are these edge cases? I think not. Also, when making this claim they are leaving out the fact that this specific gap has been rapidly closing over a very short period of time and continues to do so as more and more women join the workforce and more and more women take even higher paying jobs in both blue and white collar positions.
The fact of the matter is that determining individual wages a very complex issue with no quick or simple answer. Virtually all employees are paid differently for a variety of reasons. Some reasons of which are valid, and others which may not be valid. But nonetheless people are paid differently.
Let us ask the question in a different manner...
Should two people, with the same title, the same job description, same boss, and same responsibilities be paid exactly the same?
Saying "yes" is the wrong answer. But so is saying "no" because as it turns out the true answer is not that simple. The answer is more complex than you think. The correct answer could be, "It depends" or even "I don't know".
The answer is because of a wide array of factors that goes into how much salary a person earns. It is part of a multi-factored analysis that must be taken into account and cannot be left out. For example, many questions need to be answered such as:
- How much experience does the person have?
- How long have they been in their current position?
- Do they show leadership potential?
- Have they consistently been doing the job correctly?
- Do they have the proper training and skills?
- Do they show up on time and leave at an appropriate time every work day, consistently?
- Does the person even display that they want to work there?
- Is this employee considered reliable and dependable?
- Are we paying the individual comprable market rates for their labor?
Those are questions about an individual person. Next, you now have to focus on questions on the business and its leadership itself...
- Is the leadership corrupt? Or do they actually display integrity? How do they do this?
- Are there checks and balances in their hiring and firing practices?
- Is the business consistently working to train and improve their personnel and business practices?
- Have they consistently shown that they care about their employees? How have they done this?
- And many more...
Note that these questions don't ask anything about a person's worldview, gender, or personal identity because those things do not, and should not, matter when determining wages.
So let's assume that we have asked these questions and we have some answers to them. Now, how do you properly match and weigh these answers to help determine a person's salary? Not every business has the exact same policies and procedures regarding salary rules. Where do you even begin?
I honestly have absolutely no idea. I suppose for myself, I rely on the market to help determine my own wages so I do assume this is how businesses pay wages as well.
On a similar note, I believe that wages is something that trade and labor unions have attempted to try to help with because of historical corruption from business leadership in the past. Most unions enforce blanket wages policy across the board, with some wages based on "levels" or years of service and so forth. I must confess, I am not well versed in the pros and cons of labor unions. However from an outsider's perspective it appears that most unions nowadays are simply corrupt themselves and have made the wages situation worse over time. However that is another topic for another day...
I am one of the kind of people that does not care how much money another person makes, even if that person has the same title or job role as me. I simply have the expectation that my superiors are paid more than myself.
I simply just don't care about anybody else's salary other than my own because I really can control how much I want to earn in my life through hard work, education, and the market. I have found that it is wise to only focus on the things that I can control myself instead of focusing on everybody else's problems. If I really felt like I was being taken advantage of, that I was lowballed in my salary, then I would freely leave and find something else.
In today's western society we operate under the basic rules of a free market economic system called capitalism. It has been like this for a very long time. And a part of the rules of capitalism has to do with salary. Everyone that I work with at my current job does make a different salary than me. Some are paid more, some are paid less. Some are women and some are men. And the reason why people are paid differently is because of experience or title or years of service or other similar factors.
In free market systems like capitalism there are concepts like goods, services, and labor. When I go to work, that is me selling my labor. My labor has a cost. If the business is not willing to pay for my labor then I take it somewhere else. It is their loss. Sometimes my labor gets more expensive. And if the business values that labor they will pay for it. Concepts of value vary widely as well, such as the law of supply and demand. I could go on and on but you get the point.
Capitalism in the west has thrived for centuries thanks to markets. The markets dictate who will succeed and who will not succeed. And markets thrive the best in capitalist societies. Capitalism, when done correctly, does not have built-in gender-bias.
So if a business is corrupt by purposely underpaying women, and if the markets disapprove of this (which our society does disapprove of including myself personally), then people will take their money elsewhere and will not support that specific market - in effect causing that business (or even that market itself) to fail and crumble.
Markets are somewhat equivalent to freedom.
To those who think that markets are/were built by the white male patriarchy, or that women have no power in markets, consider this:
- Women account for more than 85% of all consumer purchasing decisions in the world. It has been like this for decades.
- In short, WOMEN control, and have controlled, how almost all money is spent worldwide!
- More than 50% of all marketing department employees in almost ALL businesses are women.
- Women dominate market decisions as well as marketing decisions.
How did this come to be? Has it always been this way? Perhaps. But does this mean that men are actively trying to oppress themselves and remove themselves from making market decisions? I don't think so. And does this even matter? Who cares if women have all of the purchasing power! It doesn't matter. Because men still get what they want and women still get what they want. It is a non-issue.
So for those that want to destroy markets, you effectively remove 'choice'. All you have left is 'central planning' where very few are making all of the decisions for the majority. And by the way, big government means central planning. It is the same thing. The Soviet Union, Germany, Vietnam, Cuba, and many more all tried to implement central planning. And all tried within the 20th century. Read history and see what happened as a result. Believe me that is a road that we do not want to go down...
If for some reason a great deal of the society is unhappy with how we're using capitalism today, and there is a great want to replace capitalism with something else, then I am open to having an honest and candid conversation about it. But what I am not willing to do is to just blindly accept whatever the popular alternative of the day is. I am not willing to destroy what is currently in place without having some type of alternative ready to go. And I am not willing to accept an alternative without seriously talking about the pros and cons. I want to make an intellectual decision. I want to be as correct as possible. Because if there is one thing that humans including myself have proven time and time again, is that we are NOT perfect and are prone to making very large and very quick mistakes with dire consequences.
I think that our current economic system supports our individualistic ideals and allows us the thrive in a positive way. I do believe that yes, we can always do better too. There are always areas to improve and we should talk about these things without treating others with different ideas as less than human.
Gender should not play a role in determining wages at all. But don't focus on this question because it is the wrong one to ask. Instead, try to think about the complexity of how wages are determined for individual people.
Either we value individual contribution and pay the wages of the individual properly, or we don't. And if we choose not to, then God help us all...
- Joey D