Hymowitz claims that when Hess, Bennett, and I point out that women earn less and are underrepresented in business and politics we “are telling half truths that don’t do women any favors.” She then argues that the real reason women earn less is that they work fewer hours, work part time or not at all after they have children, and men “work more hours and in higher-paying fields.”
Well, she is right about men working in higher-paying fields. The median wage for mostly male parking lot attendants is $9.23 per hour, which does not include tips. The median wage for mostly female child care workers is $9.12—without tips. The average annual salary for mostly male garbage collectors is $43,000; the average salary for mostly female home care aide coordinators is $30,000—and their salaries are considerably higher than those of home care aides whose median salary is $21,036. These figures do not include overtime.
Can one really argue that parking people’s cars is a more difficult, more demanding job, a more important job with more responsibility than taking care of children?
Is collecting garbage more difficult than dealing with sick, handicapped old people, many of whom are incontinent and require bedpans and changing of diapers?
When it comes to gender pay gaps in Scandinavian countries, it is interesting to note that the 2004 annual report of the Swedish National Mediation Office concludes that differences in pay “primarily reflect gender segregation in the labor market and the fact that jobs traditionally dominated by women are lower paid.” Not surprisingly, sex discrimination is not limited to the United States.
And speaking of sex discrimination, how about the lawsuit against Walmart, one of our nation’s largest employers, brought on behalf of 1.6 million women. Their lawyers provided statistical evidence that the women did not earn as much and were not promoted as often as the men. The Supreme Court rejected the case on purely technical, procedural grounds. Does Hymowitz think it likely that these women went through the trouble of bringing a lawsuit against their employer without grounds? Does she think it likely that they were working fewer hours while irrationally demanding the same pay and promotions as men?
The issue of male /female employment played a small role in my essay, which focused mainly on alternate explanations for men falling behind academically. In fact, I took most of my data from Hymowitz’s own essay and Manning Up. But Hess points to studies indicating that when male M.B.A graduates enter the workforce, they earn $4,600 more than female graduates—no children, no part time work involved here. How does Hymowitz explain this discrepancy?
As for a majority of women with young children wanting to work part time, I do not as Hymowitz suggests assume that they would “really want to be in the office.” I do assume that in today’s economy, many working class women—including those who have a husband or partner—cannot afford to stay home, even if they would prefer to. Which brings me to the serious problem of these women’s low salaries and the loss of men’s blue collar jobs.
It is not surprising that the tensions arising from high unemployment rates and low salaries, combined with a popular culture that discourages male responsibility, lead to working class families being more likely to cohabit than to marry, to be less stable than upper class families, and to have larger percentages of women raising their children alone. W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the recently published National Marriage Project report, points to “a two-family model emerging in American life… While the educated and affluent enjoy relatively strong, stable families, everyone else is more likely to be consigned to unstable, unworkable ones.”