Last week, our class discussed the gender pay gap. Well, it was actually a follow-up that the professor brought up because the first time we talked about it, a classmate had been skeptical of the size of the gap and the professor felt bad that he hadn’t properly addressed that skepticism when it arose. So he did a bunch of research and presented us with a slew of numbers from various sources and studies.
This then prompted a very interesting conversation in which the guy who had pushed back initially explained his thoughts and a few of us chimed in. He said that while there is a discrepancy, it’s not the entire story – men are by far involved in the most dangerous jobs out there, risking their lives all the time and that is not accounted for. While this was very valid and gave me pause, I agreed with the professor that ultimately it was unrelated to the topic at hand. The point would be for any women who are in those professions, whether they also see a pay gap.
I completely agree that it is not fair that men are doing such difficult jobs – going to war, working in mines, and doing hard labor that puts them at risk. Another classmate threw in her two cents about how she felt women don’t choose as much risk as men do and that is a personal choice people make. (I don’t exactly agree with her on that, but it might be broadly true. I still think societal expectations do play a role.) Then as I was thinking about this, I suddenly realized that all my life I’ve been surrounded in male-dominated situations and much as I wanted to part of those worlds, I often did not feel welcome.
Prior to that part of the conversation, we also heard from some people talking about how the gap may be due to the fact that women don’t stand up for themselves as much and go ask for raises or negotiate salary. I’ve never had an issue broaching that topic and I always thought it was expected that you negotiate your salary before accepting. I hadn’t realized that so many people don’t do that!
With all that, I had quite a bit on my mind to share. When my hand raised up, the professor noted it and called on me in order. I almost never speak in class because I don’t like to say anything that isn’t truly interesting or valuable. I think what I shared certainly got everyone’s attention. What came out went something like this…
Two things. First, I think a lot of what happens is not just what women do or do not do, but how it is taken. I tend to be more on the assertive side and the last time I went to ask for a raise, I was told not to, that I shouldn’t ask (instead I should apparently wait for my manager to recognize me in due time). So I think to some extent, even women who do exactly what men do end up getting different reactions and results. Would the same comment have been given to a man asking for a raise? I don’t know.
Second, in regards to the gentleman’s comment about men in riskier roles… these are anecdotes and my personal experience, so I don’t know how well they translate broadly, but: I spent much of my life trying to break in to male-dominated arenas. I was in ROTC and I worked in the tech industry. At one point I was the only female in the office with 12 men. For the women who are trying to join these ranks, it isn’t easy. The amount of sexism I encountered – oh and in the film industry as well (I interned there once) – made me feel sometimes unsafe and at the least, unwelcome. So the question is, for women who do want to take on those riskier jobs, how do they do that with these obstacles?
Some of my thoughts hadn’t ever been properly formulated before I said them! I was the last person to contribute before the professor wrapped up the conversation and moved on to the next topic. It was strangely liberating to share those stories in such a public setting. I found my voice quivering a bit though I’m not sure why. With that, we laid the discussion to rest and continued on with other things in class.
It was strange; I had never made the connection between my own experiences in male-dominated situations and why it was such a challenge. Between this and some other things going on in my life, I have had some painful reminders of bad moments from my past. Then I received an email from the professor recently, thanking me for sharing in class and essentially apologizing for not giving me “an adequate response” and offering to chat more if I wanted. The niceness and effort hit me like a ton of bricks. I cried.
What we need are more men like these. Ones who are willing to open up the conversation, advocate for what they feel is right. After all, we all know deserving women. Too many women are treated poorly at work, whether it is inequitable pay or workplace harassment. On another note, one of the female MBAs in the program shared an article with some strong PSAs about harassment at work – they’re uncomfortable, awkward, and powerful displays of some of the very real things that happen to women constantly. I know I’ve been in similar situations.
So I’m uplifted that men are taking note and speaking up about this. But I’m also saddened that this is such a problem in the first place. I’m glad we talked about it and hopefully my stories touched some people in class, so as they rise in the ranks in their organizations, they can be cognizant of the issues that women face. More than that, I hope they take the professor’s lead and bring up these conversations so it can be dealt with.
As for that gender pay gap? Numbers vary from as good as 98 cents on the dollar to as low as in the 70s. Take what you will from that.« Prev：USC Marshall iTrek 2017: Purim & Western Wall Distractions：Next »