We communicate to our kids how we believe the world works. We pass down to our children our beliefs about people, truth, and opportunity, and this will influence their outlook on the world. I choose facts, and I choose to teach my children that they will go as far as their hard work will take them. My daughter is no exception. I want to take a closer look at the gender pay gap, and the implications it raises. If the gender pay gap isn’t what we think it is, then a lot of the things we believe about the world are suddenly under review.

You Are Not a Victim

Perceived injustice is an interesting topic, because it’s real for people. If you feel there is injustice, then your brain and heart believe it’s absolutely real. Let’s assume for a second that women are marginalized in society. They get paid less. Men are sexist. There are nefarious forces around every corner seeking to keep women down. Even if this were all true, why would you teach your daughter that she is a victim?

If you’re teaching a young girl that the world is against her, and especially men, what does that do to her outlook on life? I would say it makes her distrustful. It makes her bitter. It gives her excuses. If life doesn’t work out the way she wants, then she should look outward for someone to blame, not within to see if she could have done something different. This is a huge problem because it makes your daughter expect forces to be against her, regardless of reality.

Of course there are racist, sexist, bigoted, and horrible people in the world. Don’t let men speak down to you because you’re a woman. Don’t let people say you can’t do something because you’re a girl. Call out discrimination when you see it. I want to raise my daughter to evaluate people for what they do and say. A girl that has been told her whole life that she is at a disadvantage because of her gender is not empowered, but jaded. I’m not suggesting we raise our girls in a fairy tale, where the world is perfect and they have nothing to fear. I’m suggesting we raise them to believe in hard work, personal responsibility, and judge people based on their character. If you meet a sexist jerk, call them a sexist jerk, but always start with facts and the truth.

Implications of a Gender Pay Gap

My daughter is young, but I want to raise her to believe that she is just as capable as a man, and that she has the same opportunities. I hear often that women make less money than men, and women don’t have all the same opportunities as men. If you believe these things, then I can understand why this would influence the way you raise your daughter. I want to raise my daughter with attitudes and beliefs grounded in truth.

As men, I think the issue of whether or not there is a gender pay gap is worth addressing. If the culture believes there is a pay gap between men and women, and it’s a big social injustice, then there are implications to this belief. The culture believes that women are treated as second class citizens. Men are guilty of being sexist and discriminating against women, even when there is no proof. Men as a group are maligned regardless of facts, and I think it’s OK for us to stand up and seek truth.

Here are some facts about men and women in the workplace that throw a wrench in the idea that the gender pay gap is indicative of bigger societal problems.

  • Young single women have an 8% higher median income in 147 out of 150 of the biggest cities in the country (Time). In some cities they’re making 10-20% more than men.
  • Women work less hours, and less continuously than men (Thomas Sowell). They get pregnant, have babies, and often stay home for some period of time before going back to work.
  • Women are earning degrees more often than men.
  • Men and Women make different career choices. Women are the sole bearers of children and make different life choices.

Comparing the median income of men and women grossly oversimplifies the issue. It takes two very different groups of people, and assumes they should be identical, but they’re not.

Here are some questions to consider when you hear that there is a gender pay gap. Are they looking at the median income of men vs the median income of women? Did they take into account hours worked, or full-time hours vs part-time hours? What careers are women choosing, and is anyone forcing them to make those choices? How do choices related to raising children affect the earnings of some women?

Equality of What?

When the media and politicians repeat over and over that women are being paid less than men, without an accurate analysis of the statistics, it comes with all sorts of implications. “The gender pay gap proves we haven’t achieved equality. We don’t have an exact 50/50 split in every single profession, therefore we don’t have equality. Therefore sexism. Therefore discrimination.” The word equality gets thrown around a lot, but are we talking equality of outcome, or equality of opportunity?

Here’s an example of how this thinking can lead to flawed conclusions. Professions like engineering are overwhelmingly male dominated, and this gap in gender representation leads some to believe that there is a problem. In fields dominated by men, are women being discriminated against? If a High School teacher tells a girl gifted in math that she shouldn’t go into math or science, by all means, call them on it, but void of any evidence, can we really make those claims? What about female dominated fields? Is the lack of men in nursing the result of discrimination? Are young men being discouraged to go into nursing?

It seems a little silly to say that the lack of women in engineering is due to discrimination, while the lack of men in nursing is simply due to choice. Gender employment gaps favoring men are evidence of discrimination against women, but gender employment gaps favoring women are simply because men don’t choose those fields?

If equality of outcome is your goal, then you will never have equality. You will never have representations that perfectly mirror demographic percentages because people. If this is your bar for equality, you’re focused on the wrong thing. What we should be focused on is equality of opportunity. People should flourish based on their hard work and personal responsibility. The opportunity to use your gifts and succeed should be your measuring stick for equality. If you can’t point to the person or institution and the thing they are doing to discriminate against someone, then maybe it’s not there? And if it is there, then let’s fight it together.

Seeking Truth Is Not Easy

As a father, I want my daughter to live in a world of truth. I’m not going to teach her to assume people think less of her because she’s a woman, but if anyone ever does, she should call them on it. I’m going to teach her that unless someone gives her a reason to believe she is being discriminated against, then maybe she’s not. If she has a male boss one day that says something derogatory about women, then stand up for yourself and get HR on the line. But we don’t look at statistics and draw faulty conclusions, or oversimplify complicated issues.

We should love our daughters and raise them in what we believe is right thinking, and we shouldn’t be afraid to speak up, even when it’s not popular to do so.

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Nathan Charlton
A husband and father of three, he is first and foremost a Christian, but will openly admit he doesn't have everything figured out. His passions include writing, spending time with his family, and any game by Blizzard.

3 COMMENTS

  1. YES! I agree completely. I was born in 1951. I’m sure there were many more obstacles in the way of women then than there are now. But I remember, at a very young age (maybe 4 or 5), my parents telling me that I was smart and I could do anything I wanted to. I could be a doctor if I wanted and not a nurse. I didn’t have to choose a secretarial job or one of the few other ‘traditionally female’ careers. And while our family didn’t have a lot of money, I was told we were going to save for me to go to college, so just plan on it.

    Also, in my family, the men treated the women with respect. That was just normal. I didn’t know anything different. As a result, I grew up expecting that from all the boys and men I encountered. If I happened to notice that some male was disrespectful, they certainly were not anyone with whom I would associate.

    Funny, because at work a couple of weeks ago, we were all sitting at the lunch table, including the boss and his wife and a story was told of the wife’s first job as a dental assistant. Her boss at the time required her to wait until he had a chance to “check out” the chest of the female patients before she, as the assistant, put the bib on the patient. Before I realized that they thought that situation was slightly amusing, in addition to being offensive, I blurted out, “That would have been when I started looking for another job.” My boss was amazed that I had never encountered or been subjected to sexism in the workplace. Maybe it is because of the expectations that my parents gave me. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as a victim and I will forever be grateful to my upbringing for that.

    Your children are blessed, Nathan!

    • I think it’s really interesting that you were raised with certain expectations of how men should behave, and look how that has shaped your life. It makes me wonder how many women are NOT being raised with those expectations. How many women are growing up in broken homes without a single male role model, and with no idea of what a strong, respectful, and dedicated man even looks like.

      Thank you for the personal story and kind words!

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