Things that Defy Logic: The Gender Wage Gap

The other day I got an e-mail from someone who had found my blog “after searching for people that have referenced or mentioned salaries and wages.” She told me she was “part of a  team of designers and researchers that put together an infographic showing why the gender wage gap continues to be a growing concern.”  I responded that I was always interested in learning and understanding more, but I didn’t promise her I would spread the information any further.

Today I’ve decided to share that infographic, for reasons I’ll explain below. Click on the image to reach the original web source.

Provided by:

While I acknowledge that my salary struggles may have more to do with the  inequity in how universities and colleges pay adjunct faculty, who do the same amount of work (or more) per credit hour as full-time faculty but often get payed ridiculously low wages, I can’t completely prove that my gender does not play a role. As a matter of fact, I know that in the past I have been paid less than my husband for similar work, despite the fact that his highest degree is an MFA and I hold both an MFA and a PhD.

But that’s not the only reason I’m sharing this.

The other day I had an interesting conversation with some of my female students. You may recall that I am teaching a course at a university in another state that is known mostly as a business school. This reputation means that the percentage of enrolled female students, though growing, is nowhere equal to the percentage of male students. When I’ve taught theatre classes of any type at other schools, the females usually outnumber the males in my courses. This differed, sometimes, in my Freshman Comp and Research Writing courses, but overall I would say that throughout my career teaching in academia I’ve taught more women than men.

In this course, Studies in Drama, 12 out of 26 students are female. That’s almost half, you argue, but it would have been a greater difference if I hadn’t scared away about 7 males on the first day of class. While there have been a few duds, overall this class has been excellent. In general, however, the women spoke more than the men throughout the course.

One of these women was checking in with me about some research she was doing on the effect of sleep deprivation on college students. (What does that have to do with theatre, you ask? That answer will have to come in a later post, when I am able to share specifics about their creative final project I mentioned a while back.) She showed me her annotated bibliography for an article entitled “Sleep Habits and Patterns of College Students: A Preliminary Study” from the Journal of American College Health. In the abstract of the article it says,

 “In their sample of 191 undergraduates at a rural southern university, they found that most of the students exhibited some form of sleep disturbance and that women, in general, reported more sleep disturbances than men did.”

“That’s interesting,” I said.

“What is?” she asked.

“That women report more sleep disturbances. Do you think it’s because women feel more pressure to succeed?”

“I think it’s true at this university, at least,” she said. [Note, these might not be her exact words, but the gist of what she said.]

This led to a discussion about how women perform at this specific university. “I think we try harder because this is a business school with more men,” my student said. “We make sure we’re prepared. We take the lead in projects. We lead discussions.” Another female student agreed with her.

In my experience of this class, she’s very right. The women in this class work hard to stay ahead and compete against the males. I would add, however, that in my experience of almost any class I’ve ever taught, women almost always take the lead.

Of course there have been hard-working, outspoken males in all my classes as well (there are a few in the Studies in Drama course), but I’d say that the predominant leaders in any of my classes were female.

Is that because I am female and enjoy mentoring female students, or is it because these women were more committed toward succeeding in my classes and in school overall?

Here’s what I realized as I thought about this conversation and looked at the infographic, the only reason men get paid more is because they have a penis.

That defies logic.

All of my students in the Studies in Drama course are seniors. The majority of them will find work before they graduate in May, or continue on to graduate school. At least one of the women has already found a  job, while many of the men have been going on multiple interviews. Most of them will be working in business or accounting or some related field.

Most of these women will be paid less, despite the fact that they will work harder at their jobs to prove themselves and do well.

That defies logic. It makes sense to pay a person more who:

  • performs better
  • has a higher degree or more training
  • works harder
  • takes the lead
  • contributes new ideas
  • has special skills that contribute to job success
  • etc.

It does not make sense to pay a person more who

  • has a penis.

As the above infographic shows, this is an issue that should concern everybody, because the way women are treated affects every other aspect of society.

Disrespecting anyone based on gender, race, sexuality, or any other defining characteristic  that is outside their realm of control, defies logic.  In my opinion, glorifying and rewarding anyone based on those characteristics also defies logic.

Will we ever live in a world that realizes that a penis is really only necessary for a few biological activities and has nothing to do with a person’s ability to work, to achieve, or to lead? I certainly hope so. If not, I think it’s time for vaginas to take over.

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lisaspiral
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 15:49:57

    It really does matter. Thanks for sharing.


  2. termitespeaker
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 16:55:28

    Interesting. I’m from an older generation and yet I never experienced a feeling of inequality because I was female. I think that may have been because I didn’t grow up around men. I never became a women’s libber – in fact, I thought the whole movement was strange. I never believed that there was anything I couldn’t achieve because I was a girl, if I really wanted to achieve it. However, I did feel a difference when I got into grad school. I was an English major and most of my college peers in that major were girls, while the male majors were not particularly top students. But that wasn’t true when I got to Cornell – there, there were many male students with formidable intellects and competing with them was tougher. However, I was only 21 years old. When I went back to grad school at the U. of Texas several years later, I didn’t feel I couldn’t compete. I dropped out of the Ph.D program only because I wasn’t motivated to work that hard, since I had already become a professional librarian and I had a way to make a living (my intent had been to use the Ph.D. to become a rare book librarian.)
    This all has nothing to do with the gender difference in income, which I deplore as much as you do. I’m quite sure that all my life the male librarians were making more money than I did. It was strange how most of the Head Librarians were male, even though the majority of librarians were women. But somehow I never worried about it. I was making a pretty good living, better than my mother ever did as a high school teacher!


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Dec 05, 2012 @ 17:02:33

      It would be interesting to find out what the statistics are now about the number of Head Librarians that are male vs. female, and if there is still inequity in pay. Seems crazy to me, as all the librarians I know work hard for their money, regardless of gender. (I happen to be friends with two female head librarians, come to think of it.) I would bet that, in terms of graduate school, the competition/pressure is heavier in fields which tend to lean more towards men (like the the sciences or business or even perhaps medicine.)


  3. Andra Watkins
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 10:08:47

    When I was a tax manager at a regional public accounting firm, the males made several thousand dollars more per year for the same exact position. This was more than a decade ago now, and I have no idea how that might have changed.

    While I hesitate to type this, it is relevant.

    The biggest amount of discrimination I have received in my career has been due to the fact that I look younger than I am and have always been a female trying to do ‘male’ careers in a part of the country where that was not celebrated. In hindsight, I think I am to blame in part, because I was never confident enough in myself to win some of those doubters over to my side when I was younger.

    I still encounter this problem in the consulting arena today, and I will say that, in general, women have been harsher with me than men have been. I once had a female client who put her watch on the table to time our every meeting, and another female client who told me she didn’t know how I could know anything about anything because I looked so young. I’ve had female clients pretend to be friends with me in an effort to get free advice, and at least one female client started a business and stole everything I taught her as her own.

    Women would be much further along in the world if they weren’t so shitty to each other. I try to remember that every single time I see another woman succeed and applaud her instead of pointing out her flaws. Does that change the pay issue? I don’t know, but I suspect, in the long-run, it would make a difference.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Dec 06, 2012 @ 12:32:08

      I think women’s atrocious behavior to other women definitely affects the pay issue. I’ve experienced a lot of women who have basically tried to sabotage my career when they were in a position to help and mentor. I think its the mentality that the only way to succeed is to be meaner, stronger, and more aggressive than males, but that truly saddens me. The age thing works both ways too. I’ve experience the “you can’t be good at this because you look too young” mentality as well, and now I face the “you’ve aged out of the system mentality” (although I still look young, that has more to do with other issues.) I also face the, “you’re short and bubbly which means you’re cute and sweet so you’re not an authority figure” syndrome.

      Anyway, I digress. I think we would move up the ladder in terms of pay and breaking through glass ceilings by embracing those qualities that make women different from men. The good ones like empathy and mentorship, not the bad ones like manipulation and bitchiness.

      This comes down, in a way, to building relationships with people you trust and respect, male or female, which is difficult in this world. Sigh.


      • Andra Watkins
        Dec 06, 2012 @ 14:58:25

        Difficult, but not impossible. I screen work relationships now by my gut. If I have a bad feeling about the project in the initial stages, I don’t take it. Period. It’s different in a university environment, though. MTM was an adjunct professor of architecture for almost a decade, and he worked as a lecturer after he took his existing job. He loved teaching, but so much of it is not about teaching. I spent my time perpetually appalled at some of the things people did to him, mostly male people.

        In the end, I just try to treat people the way I would like to be treated and leave it at that. Some people warm to it and others do not, but at least my conscience is clean.


        • Lisa Wields Words
          Dec 06, 2012 @ 18:32:50

          Trust me, I know how vicious and wicked academia is (most of my run-ins have been there). You’d think that in a place of thinkers that wouldn’t happen, but it is more brutal than other areas. That’s why I’ve become so disillusioned and stopped pursuing a tenure track position, even though now I am unsure what I am. However, like you, I try to treat people the way I would like to be treated, be open and honest, expect professionalism, and keep my conscience clean. That’s all I can do, or I lose myself to the darkness.


  4. joannevalentinesimson
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 18:40:45

    Lisa, I loved the infographic and will probably use it one of these days in my blog on the theme of Being a Woman. And your commentary expresses so well the dispirited feeling we women so often have when we are undervalued for our work and accomplishments because of the “gender thing.”
    From a biologist’s perspective, I would like to suggest that a reason for men being valued more than women has less to do with the penis than with the testes. Testosterone is a hormone that promotes strength and aggressiveness, both of which tend to engender an aura of power. Women are very uncomfortable with power, but that is what seems to capture the attention of others.and makes a person seem valuable.
    I’m sorry it’s that way, but I’m afraid it is.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Dec 07, 2012 @ 18:45:48

      That makes sense, Joanne, and thanks for the biologist’s perspective. I might argue, however, that if we could get all women on the same cycle, or combined hormonal power might overcome that silly old testosterone. Perhaps not biologically correct, but fun to think about. 😉


  5. joannevalentinesimson
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 18:43:32

    BTW, who was your contact person? I went to the web site and saw that they have a section on health but no content there. I have recently been advised (because of something I’m writing) to start blogging on health topics. This new site could be a foot in the door. What do you think?


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Dec 07, 2012 @ 18:47:34

      I really don’t know anything about them. The last e-mail contact I had with them, they replied by calling me Susan or something. But anyway, here’s the woman’s information who sent me the initial e-mail. Kayla Evans .

      Good luck.


  6. nrhatch
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 13:39:10

    Here’s what I realized as I thought about this conversation and looked at the infographic, the only reason men get paid more is because they have a penis.

    That is NOT the only reason.

    Men often negotiate better salaries for themselves.
    Women often take whatever they are offered without negotiating.

    Men often put CAREER before FAMILY.
    Women often put FAMILY before CAREER.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Dec 09, 2012 @ 14:16:50

      Of course I know it isn’t as simplistic as reducing it all down to a body part. But I would still argue that the injustice is based on societal perceptions of what men vs. women will do and how men vs. women will act. If a woman is lowballed with a salary offer to start with, using the excuse that she may put family as a priority, then even the best female negotiate will a long way to go to even negotiate an equal offer to a male. I’m not saying this always happens, but it’s something to think about. I know that, in my family, I’m the tougher negotiator, not my husband.


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