Forget about whether men or women do more housework--the bigger issue is why men continue to get paid more than women for the same jobs, some 40 years after women started entering the work force in large numbers. A study released this week by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation found that a dramatic pay gap emerges between women and men in the U.S. the year after they graduate from college, and widens over the ensuing decade.
One year out of college, women working full time earn 80% percent of what men earn. Ten years later, women earn 69% percent as much as men. The researchers acknowledge that some of this can be attributed to number of hours worked, occupations and parenthood, but gender is definitely a factor. They estimate that 5% of the pay gap is attributable to gender one year after graduation and 12% 10 years after graduation. (The study, using data from the Department of Education, analyzed some 9,000 college graduates from 1992-93 and more than 10,000 from 1999-2000.)
Particularly unexpected was the gap one year out of college, when men and women should be most likely to show pay equity. "If a woman and a man make the same choices, will they receive the same pay?" the study says. "The answer is no. These unexplained gaps are evidence of discrimination, which remains a serious problem for women in the work force."
Don't assume the gap exists because women choose lower-paying professions, either--the study found a pay gap in the same fields. In education, women earn 95% as much as their male colleagues. In math, women earn 76% as much as men. This despite the fact, as the study lays out, women outperformed men academically, and their grade point averages were higher in every college major.
However, the researchers do suggest that women themselves may be partly to blame for the gap: "Women expect less and negotiate less pay for themselves than do men."
I hate to blame the victim, but that sounds plausible to me. I know far too many women who think it is somehow unseemly in the workplace to promote themselves, or demand more money. I think many women consistently undervalue themselves and their skills, which may be why many of us take on the bulk of the household chores even though we hold demanding jobs. Do we too easily assume that somehow the husband's job is more important, either because he works more hours (and how much of that is by choice?) or earns more? Perhaps its time to re-evaluate our worth, both on the job and at home. Or at the very least teach our daughters to be more demanding.
Here's a good column on the study by Diane Carman of the Denver Post