The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Pay Gap Reflects the Role Imposed on Women

Jun 6, 2016

The single largest cause of the pay gap between men and women is the different occupations and industries in which men and women work. According to a new study from Cornell University, it accounts for more than half the pay gap.

The median earnings of information technology managers (mostly men) are 27 percent higher than human resources managers (mostly women), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data. These are jobs that require similar education and responsibility, or similar skills, but divided by gender. Another example: janitors (usually men) earn 22 percent more than maids and housecleaners (usually women).

But that is not the whole story. Another study found that when large numbers of women enter jobs historically held by men, pay declines. A striking example is found in the field of recreation – working in parks or leading camps – which went from predominantly male to female from 1950 to 2000. Median hourly wages in this field declined 57 percent, after accounting for the change in the value of the dollar. The job of ticket agent also went from mainly male to female during this period, and wages dropped 43 percent!

The same thing happened when large numbers of women became designers (wages fell 34 percent), and biologists (wages fell 18 percent). Even more telling, the reverse was true when men entered a field. Computer programming, for instance, used to be done by women. But when male programmers began to outnumber female ones, the job began paying more and gained prestige.

Does the value or importance of a job change because a woman does it? No. But this class society is organized around the idea that women’s main role is a procreative one, and jobs are only secondary. In a society which views the care of children as a private, individual affair, instead of a responsibility of the whole society, women’s physical capacity is turned against them, keeping women in a subservient position to men.

Women have been the second and third tier wage-earners for as long as capitalism has existed – to the detriment of women, their children – and men!