04 Closing the wage gap and the family gap

How about if the second half the parental leave period could only be taken by the second partner? Think about what this would do to both the wage gap and the family gap. If families could only earn the second half of their leave if the second partner took time off, and this would equalize the impact on men’s and women’s careers, many more men would choose this path, and the stigma would decrease.

The Rational View is a weekly series hosted by me, Dr. Alan Scott, providing a rational, evidence based perspective addressing important societal issues.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Rational View with Dr. Al Scott. Today I’d like to talk to you about the wage gap and the family gap. And most of you are aware of the wage gap. This is the difference in average pay between men and women. On average, women earn less than men. In my field and across North America, this gap is close to 20%. The other thing that I’d like to talk about is the family gap. This is more of an intangible thing. It’s harder to measure. But it’s associated with men feeling pressure to be providers not having strong family networks and dying younger than women. Whereas women take time out to raise children and don’t follow the same career advancement path as men. I would like to bring these issues to light and have people discussing them. And so if you do like this podcast, please comment, like and share as much as possible. And let’s get the word out on this because I think it’s very important.

Now my background in this I came from a traditional farming family. As a child, my mother stayed in the house, took care of the children, my father was out working on the farm. I was confused at the time hearing about women’s rights and women’s lib. Why would women want to go work when you know, we have the perfect lifestyle here. It’s great! Mom’s home taking care of me all the time, we have a lot of fun. I didn’t understand why women would even want to work. In fact, I looked down on people who use daycare services to raise their children. I felt at the time if yuppie women want to work, let them that’s fine, but don’t have kids. That’s not very responsible. Right? This was my mindset. In my mind, women didn’t get to have kids and a career and I didn’t see the injustice.

Obviously, I’ve learned something in the interim in the many years between now and then. But this mindset is still prevalent in a lot of society. And I find it echoed a lot in social media and on television. In fact, early in my career, when my children were born, I only took two weeks off for my first two children’s births. I had no incentive to take longer, it was easy to follow society’s expectations and let their mother take the full parental leave pattern, period. Now, I want to go into a little bit more detail of both the wage gap and the family gap talked about some misconceptions, some commonly held beliefs, and see if we can’t address these problems and come up with some solutions for society.

Now, people will say, “Well, what about controlling for experience and job title in the wage gap? Sure women are making less money, but it’s because they don’t have the same responsibilities or the same experience as men because they take time off.” Well, yeah, if you control for these things, the gap between men and women, for the same work closes to about 2% across the board. And this is mostly concentrated in the executive ranks. So in terms of you know, equal pay for equal work, we’ve gone a long ways. The problem that I want to bring to light is the fact that we have to control for these factors. And that reveals a larger issue. And a lot of it is historical and traditional holdovers from the past. Why are the careers that women select less valuable than those of men on average? And why do women not achieve the same level of experience as men? And as I said, society has made great strides opening up the workforce to women. And this last 10% is going to be the most difficult because you know many people think we are close enough to equality and they’re not really motivated to continue. “I don’t discriminate against women. Women have the same opportunities as me.” And in fact sure, equal pay for equal work has been implemented and carefully watched over in many workplaces where it’s measured.

Why are women getting paid less? Well, you may have heard of pink collar jobs. These are traditional women’s jobs like nursing, administrative assistants, that sort of thing. Why are these pink collar jobs paid less than men’s jobs with similar training and risk levels? Think about it. Why is nursing paid less than policing? Both have a similar level of risk and dealing with violent people. Violent patients versus violent criminals; both have a similar amount of training required to get into the field. Contrast also engineers and teachers: engineers leave school with a Bachelor’s of engineering whereas teachers have to get a master’s degree before they enter the workforce. And yet engineers are paid more than teachers. I think part of the problem can be laid at the feet of inertia and tradition. In the past, employers were expected to pay men in quote unquote men’s jobs, a living wage, to maintain a family. Whereas back in the day, it was acceptable to give young single women less money for the short period of time that they worked prior to marrying. So this I think, is largely historical injustice that we should be aware of, and we should strive to correct.

This podcast brought to you by Kevin Scott, my brother and leader of the effortless Alpha brotherhood. Thanks for inspiring me to do this, bro. Now back to the podcast.

I’d like to give you a little bit more detail on the family gap. And this, men should be very important to you because it impacts men, I think more than women, but it’s not as tangible as easily measurable as the wage gap. And I do think it obviously affects women as well. You’ve heard of the adage, ‘you can’t raise kids and get to the top’. And a lot of people will say, “That’s why women aren’t getting paid as much as men, they decide to take time out and raise a family. Women want to raise kids, it’s their choice.” Well, in a lot of cases, it takes two people to raise kids. Men also want to raise kids and have careers. Why do women’s careers take the hit so much more frequently than men’s? There’s a stigma for men to take parental leave. And this is part of the family gap. And many fathers would love the chance to stay home and bond with their young children. But it’s just not done in the workforce, you’re looked down upon if you take more than a couple of weeks of leave. In Canada, women are guaranteed something like six months of leave, whereas men, as I say only take a couple of weeks. And I did that as well with my first two children. And this means women typically end up establishing the order of the household and are forced by inertia to handling all of the household responsibilities when they return to work. And this doesn’t seem very fair, right? It’s a very heavy load for women to have to bear to get the same opportunities as men and men are, of course happy to let them do that. But that’s really not the right thing to be doing. Partly as a result of this, networking and with other women, women end up with better friend networks. And this may be a factor in why they live longer. My wife, for example, makes all the playdates for my son with other moms. No dads are involved in this interaction and the women hang out and support each other. Now, traditional roles like this did make sense in an agrarian society to a certain extent, but they also unfairly constrained women and men also into predefined traditional roles. Back in the day, men could be anything they wanted to, except a stay at home parent, and women were just not given the opportunities to choose. I think this more than anything is about justice and fairness, we have a responsibility to give women the same career opportunities. They should not have to also do all the housework and be expected to raise the children. Certainly that will be the case in some situations and many situations. But it shouldn’t be an assumption from the start. Society tends to maintain this expectation to push towards traditional roles. Advertisements depicting men and women often reinforce traditional roles and stereotypes. You often see the woman making dinner taking care of the kids. The man relaxing, watching television, barbecuing. That’s the one time that men can cook on television. It should not be surprising to see a man taking care of kids or making dinner for his family.

We start training kids early on they’re expected gender roles. This has become more of a thing these days.  Gender has become very important. There’s gender reveal parties. And these things have become over the top where pink or blue balloons are released to a group of breathless people waiting to find out what sex the kid’s going to be. These colors are assigned at birth and must follow the child. Children’s toys seem to be increasingly gendered, special pink LEGO sets for girls, action figures for boys, fashion Barbies for girls. Why do we try to place these roles on children’s so early? The only reason that gender should be associated with a toy is if it’s being operated by your genitals and then it’s no longer a children’s toy.

I feel this focus on traditional gender roles is unnecessary, unhealthy, and contributes to the problems faced by people who don’t conform to gender norms. I think if we as a society could loosen our collective death grip on traditional gender roles, I think that a lot of pain associated with gender dysphoria issues would go away. Yes, of course, there are differences on average between the sexes in terms of strength and size. But there’s also a lot of overlap between men and women in the spectrum of strength and size. Why is it that genitals tell you which job you can have? Why isn’t your strength, and your size, and your skill, and your speed or your intelligence? So solutions, how can we fix this problem? We see the problem, it’s there. But oh, we’ve worked hard enough. It’s too hard to get that last little bit. It’s not me, it’s other people. These are the excuses that we make. I think there are things that we can all do to help close the gaps, both the wage gap to help women and the family gap to help men.

If men were expected to be equal partners in raising their own children, I think we could eliminate much of this family gap. How about if the second half of the parental leave period could only be taken by the second partner? Think about what this would do to both the wage gap and the family gap. If families could only earn the second half of their leave, if the second partner took time off, then this would equalize the impact on men’s and women’s careers. Many more men would choose this path and the stigma would decrease. This would then mean that employers would not just assume that women would be taking gaps in their career to raise children, they would also assume that men would be doing this. How can you help encourage men to take parental leave? Remove that stigma. I for one took four months off with my third child to stay at home and try to help out. And I didn’t regret that choice.

Examine your biases. Really, look. Don’t just assume. Alot of these things happen and we don’t think about them much. This time. I think that we all work together to eliminate gender as a criterion in the workforce. Thank you again for your attention. And please, if you enjoyed this tune in again for my next podcast. It’s going to be on climate change.

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