Tuesday, 30 September 2008

But women just get paid less because they are less skilled don't they?

Hmmmm, research shows otherwise:
The Education Ministry's Adult Literacy and Life Skills survey found women who were highly skilled at maths and reading earned at least $18,000 less than their male counterparts on average.

Salaries for women with high literacy and numeracy skills ranged between $39,000 and $46,000 on average, while men received between $57,000 and $75,000.

Men in the lowest skilled bracket earned between $24,001 and $30,000, while women received $10,001 to $17,000.

The article doesn't seem to quite make the connection between the gap and the possibility of a whole heap of subtle sexism, so let's make it for them.

The evidence here is that women are paid less even when they have the same skill level as men. To my way of thinking this can only partly be explained away by the whole "women take more time out because of their biological urge to breed" argument. Low-paid (not necessarily low-skilled) occupations are dominated by women, not because they have uteruses and sometimes like to fill them, but because women's work has been undervalued for eons - not just the work of individual women who are underpaid, but also the lack of recognition of the positive contribution that traditional "women's work" makes to our society.

And speaking of work, my lunch break is nearly over. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves, especially Megan who I must tip my hat to on this one :-)


Spam said...

I work as an engineer (which is a high mathematics / technical / science discipline), managing a team of 6, 3 of which are women (and it used to be 4 of 6). Pay scales are set based on experience, with a performance-based pay element. Recently, its been the women who have been better performing.

I draw my staff from people doing chemical engineering at university, where over half the class is female (although in other engineering disciplines, the ratio of females is much, much lower).

Ie - this suggests that at least in my field, if women are happy to do "men's work", they'll get paid as much as men. The pay disparity is not about what skills any particular gender has, but in how they choose to employ those skills.

Julie said...

So should women have to change jobs into something more highly valued but with the same skill level, and just accept that the work they love which is low paid is just always going to be that way?

My observation is that if we want to get women's wages up one of the key things that we could do is encourage men into the traditional areas of women's work.

Danielle said...

Spam, I think the point is that if a job is female-dominated, it is inevitably valued less and paid less. If engineering suddenly became a female-dominated field and, say, early childhood education was 95% men, I bet you could watch the wage patterns reverse. It happened with secretarial work (the 'pink collar revolution' of the early 20th century) and it doesn't seem to be particularly different nowadays.

SimonD said...

Of course the next question will remain unanswered but is probably the most pertinent.

Of those woman who earn "..18,000 less than their male counterparts.." and are "...highly skilled at maths and reading.." how many in percentage terms work the same hours as men.