In my recent job application endeavours, I have noticed an intriguing trend; women are listed as a ‘minority’ demographic and thus privy to special considerations denied to the male gender. But with “each generation, the notion that female workers are secondary to their male counterparts fades more and more […] A whole new crop of young grads is entering the workforce right now, sharing the philosophy that leadership is not gender-specific” (Quale, November 2013).
We are now quite distantly removed from the upheaval engendered by the 1960’s feminist revolution. Female students make up the majority of graduate programs; women earned more doctoral degrees than men between 2009 and 2011 (Perry, 2012; Willyard, 2013). In the working world, there are many complexities associated with the so-called gender gap in wages – several of which are outlined here (see this article for the supporting statistics):
- Women earn more than men in part-time jobs.
- Highly educated, single women earn more than men.
- Women working over 50 hours/week experience a greater gender gap in wages.
- The wage gap got worse in 2012.
- The wage gap is lower for younger workers.
- Women who studied architecture experience the smallest wage gap.
- The country with the greatest wage equality is Iceland.
Clearly, there are differences in wage gaps across and between sectors, fields of study, worker demographics, and geographic areas. I would argue that, as a whole, society is currently experiencing radical shifts in the type of work available, and significant income inequalities between age groups of both genders (The Guardian, 2013; White, 2013). Why do we cling to the outdated notion that women are a ‘minority’ demographic, while larger and more pressing economic issues go unaddressed?
Also consider the movements surrounding women within the workplace. Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” movement points to women as fully empowered agents in their future success; first, however, women need to stop underestimating themselves and waiting on the sidelines (Huffington Post, March 2013). Some thinkers are also suggesting that women’s abundance of choice in the working world has resulted in an obsessive quest for perfection (Bielski, October 2013). Debora L. Spar’s book Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection outlines how women expect themselves to do it all – raise perfect children, ascend up the corporate ladder, and support family members all at once. This pressures develops internally and seems to be self-reinforcing; it is also causing Millennial-aged women to burn out of the workplace before the age of 30 (Faw, 2011). As a young 20-something woman, I prioritize career and my personal fulfillment in a meaningful job over having a family. I intend never to have children.
Consequently, I would like to suggest that we shift our focus away from fears about gender inequality and so-called wage gaps to the larger economic and socio-cultural problems of joblessness and poverty. Would it not be valuable for men and women to stand together in solidarity, each seeking to creatively address the major problems of the 21st century? These ancient gender squabbles keep us mired in confusion and divisive resistance.