We’ve all heard the line before. Depending on where you get the number, it goes something like “women make 77 cents for every dollar men make.” The so-called gender wage gap has become a truism in American political life. Despite the many strides women have made in the workplace throughout the last century, many accept this oft-repeated phrase as fact.
However, a new survey measuring attitudes about the gender wage gap revealed some surprising results. While both genders tend to agree the pay gap exists, their attitude changed when asked about their personal experience.
A Pew Research Center survey found that 62 percent of women believe that women “generally” get paid less than men for doing the same work. However, when asked about their own companies, far fewer — just 14 percent total — believe women are getting paid less than men where they work, and 17 percent say women have fewer opportunities for promotions where they work.
These are nearly 50-point shifts in perception from what women believe is generally happening in society at-large, and what they collectively report is happening based on their experiences in their own jobs.The results of the survey suggest a disconnect between the narrative people are being fed and what they actually experience. Despite the widespread belief that women are systematically discriminated against, many women don’t report that same discrimination in their own lives.
Nonetheless, the media continues to beat the pay gap narrative to death. The result has both genders believing something they’ve never experienced. This is despite the fact that research has continuously proven the wage gap to be a myth:Although Census data show that women make less money on average than men, this fails to consider any information about how women and men choose to pursue a work/life balance, whether they enter a career that requires 80-hour work weeks or 40-hour work weeks, whether they take time out of the workforce to raise children, how much education they attain, whether they go into careers like investment banking or education, surgery or nursing, etc.
Studies that take these other factors into account find that the gender pay gap narrows to about 95 cents on the dollar. The remaining 5 cent difference might be due to discrimination, or it might be due to differences in salary negotiations, or other reasons.
What’s becoming clear is the gender wage gap is just a tool to drum up support for liberal candidates. Making people believe in such widespread discrimination is a powerful way to win over votes, especially from women.
Of course, the research continues to show that such discrimination doesn’t exist. But don’t expect the media to report on that.
[Note: This post was written by Michael Lee. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee]