In wage gap protest, a higher price for men

Madeline Price really stirred things up a couple of years ago on the campus of the University of Queensland to educate people about Australia’s pay disparity.

She held a bake sale and charged men more. Why not? They make more.

She made her point, she writes today in this month’s McLean’s. Then she woke up to death threats.

The tendency now will be to blame social media for the overreaction, but perhaps it’s something more.

But here’s what she learned: “It is easy to create a stir, and to ignite the flame of misogyny within the souls of online trolls. It is a lot harder to create social change,” she writes.

The pay gap hasn’t changed, even with the international uproar of a bake sale, and it gets worse as women get older, she says.

Following the bake sale, I was contacted by a number of organizations and local political leaders asking me to host “another bake sale” to draw attention to their issue of social justice, from same-sex marriage, to climate change, to reproductive rights. To all of these I said no: the conversation about pay inequality had been started with this bake sale and the focus should be turned towards making it a reality—through the political space (with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency raising the profile of companies with unequal employment practices), the educational space (with my organization, the One Woman Project, delivering in-school workshops on barriers to leadership and employment equality in Australia) and through the social space (with high-profile leaders revealing the disparities in their industry).

In 2017, we saw these conversation starters rise again: sexual assault and harassment globally was brought to light with the #MeToo social media movement; more women in positions of power were brought into the political space; violence against women has become a talking point for national leaders across the globe.

And these conversations are starting to turn into offline, grassroots action. The #TimesUp movement has established a fund for women survivors of sexual assault. An estimated 5 million people in 673 Women’s Marches from all seven continents rallied in 2017. There will be more than 400 Black women running for office in the United States in 2018, inspired—or perhaps infuriated—by the fact that a mere three per cent of Congress identifies as a Black woman, or that only seven per cent identifies as a woman of colour. And every day, organizations are working to create social change on a local, national and international scale.

So, maybe her protest actually did work. Maybe the trolls didn’t win.

By the way, this month’s Maclean’s (the issue is all about the pay gap) has two different prices: one for men, one for women.

Hold for the death threats, Maclean’s.

In the unknowable years that sit between the wage inequity of now and the moment that young woman enters the workforce, quite possibly the fiscal roots of the power imbalance will have finally been shaken. Can she hope to earn the same wage as the man sitting one desk over?

She will deserve nothing less.

Related: Why do men make more money than women? (Maclean’s)

Why your justification for the pay gap is bunk (Maclean’s)

  • Katia
  • John

    I’m trying not to change the subject, because it is real and it is true and it is unfortunate (and I truly hope changing) that women are paid less for the same (or often better) work.

    The thing that jumped out at me from the quoted article was this:

    “I was contacted by a number of organizations and local political leaders asking me to host “another bake sale” to draw attention to their issue of social justice, from same-sex marriage, to climate change, to reproductive rights.”

    Two thoughts come to mind

    1) Go run your own bake sale to draw attention to your cause.

    2) The entire reason that Ms. Price’s bake sale got the attention it did (and deserved) was that it was a creative way to draw focus right in on the issue she was trying to draw focus towards.

    How was “another bake sale” going to do that for other issues?

  • >>Then she woke up to death threats.<<

    I weep for humanity.

    • Veronica

      Oh, no no no.

      I’m not at all surprised. Male mediocrity’s time is coming to a close, and the end is going to be one hell of a fight.

      • And I’m ok with that…(not the “one hell of a fight” part)

      • BJ

        I think we are starting to see the ‘fight’ playing out in a bunch of areas right now. I only hope that it isn’t as bad as I think it could get.

  • Mike Worcester

    Ms. Price, and Macleans Magazine (an excellent publication I might add), showed that there comes a time when just saying a pay gap exists is not enough. You have to demonstrate, in concrete terms, how it works. By hitting people in the wallet, it brings a tangible aspect to what is for most an abstract concept. Bravo to them.

  • Jeff C.

    I bet it is more expensive to be a woman in our society than to be a man. Think about it. There are some expenses that women have than men don’t have. Menstruation products is one. Our society expects women to wear makeup and do more with their hair than men, which costs money. Our society developed the birth control pill for women, and I’m guessing that most women who aren’t in a committed relationship are paying the full cost by themselves. (Why hasn’t our society developed a birth control pill for men that makes them temporarily sterile?) In the workplace, men can get away with wearing the same clothes over and over again (think about the businessman who wears the same suits day after day, year after year). Women are expected to have a wide variety of outfits for the office that change season to season and go out of style quickly. Women’s haircuts cost more than men’s…I’m sure there are more examples. Yes, there are times when women get cheaper prices than men (“Ladies Night” at a bar comes to mind) and I’m sure there are some products that are cheaper for women than men, but I’m willing to bet that it is more expensive to be a woman than a man. And then, on top of it, women get paid less! Not right! Maybe there should be more things like this magazine that are priced in favor of women to help make things more equal.

    • KariBemidji

      Jeff – you are my favorite human being today.

    • Sybil Twilight

      I’ve found the average man has no idea how much a decent bra costs.

      • Kassie

        When sales people tell me that, “if you buy another pair of pants you can get if for 50% off,” I always say no. But if there is a deal on a good bra, I’m going to take it every time. Bras are dumb expensive.

    • Barton

      And did you know that tampons aren’t considered necessities? Meaning they are taxed in many states (and aren’t available to purchase with some benefit plans). Tampons are not taxed in Minnesota, by the way, but they are in all the surrounding states and about 80% of the states in total.

      In NY, they removed the tax on “feminine hygiene” products in 2016, resulting in a reduction in state tax receipts of about $10 million per year, and that tax revenue is why many states still have the tax in place (including CA).

      • John

        I would imagine that the legislature’s most likely solution to that will be to begin taxing shaving cream and razors (sorry – that’s the best I could do for an “equivalent” male product).

        Short end of the stick indeed.

        • Barton

          not equivalent at all. Men can grow beards – its a choice to shave. It really isn’t a choice to bleed for women.

          • John

            Yeah – I know. What I’m trying to say is that the most likely solution to be chosen is to add taxation to other things, not to remove them from this. Like I said – not a good equivalent, because, you know. . . biology.

          • Jack

            Unless we want to have negative or close to zero population growth or a gazillion percent population growth. That’s the effect of a woman’s choice to bleed or not.

        • Barton

          truly there have been studies: there is no male equivalent.

        • MikeB

          Or they could pass legislation that penalizes wage discrimination. Or not award contracts or business to firms that won’t affirm wage equality.

    • Kassie

      Some of this stuff we do to ourselves though. Honestly, a woman doesn’t need a special razor, or even need to shave, we choose that. Women don’t need closets full of clothes. They too can get away with a few suits if that’s what they want to do. Yes, menstruation products can be expensive, but there are reusable choices that may be more expensive up front, but are cheap in the long run.

      I’m not saying women don’t get the short end of the stick, because we absolutely do, but some of it is our own making. We need to ban together and stop talking smack about women who don’t get highlights in their hair or who are wearing last year’s shoes or don’t wear makeup.

    • Bonnie

      You rock Jeff. Also, we need wage transparency. It’s the only thing that will tackle this issue. Years ago a disgruntled payroll accountant mailed everyone in the company a list of what everyone was paid. I got an immediate raise and so did most of the female employees.

  • jon

    This is one way to prove or disprove the claim that men will pretend to be women to use their bathroom… give a concrete financial incentive for men to pretend to be women, and see how many takers you get…

    On a related topic what ever happened to those lawsuits that would have required women to register for selective service? It’s been a few years now since women have been allowed in combat roles, and I’ve not seen much of any movement on either requiring women to register for the draft, or doing away with the draft… what’s up with that?

    • Barton

      I’d rather get behind a movement to end the registering for selective service all together. As large as our standing military is these days (with the inclusion of state national guard personnel) it is hard to see a need for a draft ever again.

      • Jack Ungerleider

        The problem with this is that it insulates portions of the population from the horrors of war and allows them to more easily engage in what Orwell called the “Two Minutes Hate”. As has been discussed on News Cut in the past the virtue, if we can call it that, of the draft during Vietnam was that everyone who was draft eligible had a chance to have their number called. Would some people use creative means to avoid the draft, yes. But not all of those would work. The result is that the entire population had “skin in the game”. The all volunteer military creates a “soldier class” and generally they are from lower rungs of the economic ladder. Wealthy America and politicians who wish to placate then see no risk and often some reward in maintaining conflicts around the world. I believe it was former Congressman Charles Rangel who said at the height of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq that the best way to get the country to understand the cost of war was to have everybody potentially involved. To do that required reinstituting the draft.

        • Barton

          Didn’t we already have that with Vietnam? Wealthy draftees were very able to get deferments (see POTUS who was able to get deferments 5 times) whereas lower economic classes were not able to do so.

        • Barton

          I should also state that even when I was of an age to be draft eligible, it never made sense to me that women weren’t included in the selective service requirement. That is certainly not true in countries that still require such service as part of being a citizen after all.

      • jon

        I think it’s effectively one and the same right now… maybe in the future that will change… but right now I think that if women were forced to register for the draft, the chickhawks would have to weigh the press of women being forced to join the military, against their desire to get re-elected.

        I think it would effectively make the draft so unlikely (compared even to how unlikely it is right now) that it would effectively be the end of selective services.

        Perhaps at some point in the future the value of women’s lives will be viewed to be as equally cheap as the value of men’s lives, and a gender neutral draft would occur….
        Though I really hope we see more value in human life as we go forward in time instead of less… And that we start to see men’s lives as being equally as valuable as women’s lives, and women’s labor as equally as valuable as mens labor…

    • RBHolb

      The Supreme Court ruled that requiring only men to register for the draft was constitutional (Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 US 57 (1981)). There are at least two suits still wending their ways through the system that argue that women should be required to register, since combat roles are now open to them.

      • jon

        And the opinions in the supreme court decisions have consistently held that the only men draft was ok only because women weren’t allowed to serve in combat roles.
        Which is why when the change happened, lawsuits were filed. That was 2016, it’s now 2018… two years have passed and nothing has come from these cases?

        • RBHolb

          Not unusual. One case was dismissed on procedural grounds, but that was reversed and the case is now back at the trial court. There are a couple of other cases, one in New Jersey and one from Texas. Both are still at the District Court level.

          Having a federal court case stay pending for over two years is not unusual.

  • Guest

    I offer two jobs, both with the same background requirements. One is also dirty, unpleasant, miserable and sometimes dangerous.

    I expect to have to pay more to attract applicants for the miserable job. That is what supply & demand is all about. All the “Comparable Worth” studies deliberately ignore supply & demand in setting the correct pay.

    Working outside is a benefit to some, a detriment to others. We all choose the type of job & pay we want. Points aren’t as accurate in determining the value of a job as the law of supply & demand.

    Find two co-workers doing equal work and the lawyers will ensure the pay is fair. Find two different jobs and supply & demand will ensure the pay is fair.

    To say this industry is female-dominated but society SHOULD pay more because it has the same “Comparable Worth” points is no different than everyone thinking society should pay more for their work.

    • John

      It’s cute that you believe this is true:

      “Find two co-workers doing equal work and the lawyers will ensure the pay is fair. Find two different jobs and supply & demand will ensure the pay is fair.”

      Virtually nobody knows what their coworkers make. Lawyers certainly don’t know, because unless you work for the government, salary information is not public.

      • Sybil Twilight

        And most of us have to sign a non-disclosure agreement when taking a job.

      • Kassie

        Having worked my entire career in government, in union jobs, I can’t imagine what it is like to NOT know what my co-workers make. Why do you all let this system continue? It only benefits the bosses. RISE UP SHEEPLE and get yourself a union. (A little over-dramatic, I know.)

        • We have a union, but I don’t know what my co-workers make. Only the minimum starting salary for the jobs they hold.

          • Kassie

            I think that is an oddity for unions that are entertainment or sports related. My experience is most unions have enforced salary ranges, so while you may not know the exact dollar amount, you know that they make between X and Y.

        • John

          My job is not union, it’s management. I have fairly clear understanding from my HR department of the range of pay that exists for my job title, and that’s all I need for my own career. There’s no reason I should know what the person in the next cubicle earns – it’s none of my business.

          Without going into detail, I know second hand that within some areas of government, the way the job descriptions and pay grades have been set up (both within and outside the union) absolutely 100% discourages anyone to be great at their job. Basically, as long as you perform OK, you get the same raise as everyone else. If you excel, you get that raise too. So, why be great at what you do? There’s no reward, and the folks who are mediocre (and there are MANY) work to actively undermine anyone who is trying, because it could make their lives more difficult. Which effectively removes all the best talent from the organization, because they leave (as they should).

          No thanks. I’ll stick with what I’ve got – it’s not ideal, but my pay (and the pay of those I work with) scales with skill – as far as I’m concerned, that’s how it should be.

          • Kassie

            I’m excellent at my job. Many of my co-workers are excellent at their jobs. And what happens? We get promotions to better jobs. There absolutely are incentives to do good. Also, I have never had a co-worker actively undermine someone who is trying. That is ridiculous.

            And sure, you don’t care what the person next to you makes, because you are a man. You benefit from the wage gap. If you suspected you were underpaid by $20,000 you would want to know if that was true or not. And since you don’t know what others are making, how do you know their pay scales with skill? And who decides that? You? And are the skills based on patriarchy? For instance, does a developer who is amazing at working with business but takes a little longer to code something paid less than someone who can’t get along with anyone, but can code quickly? Is the more masculine skill paid more than the feminine skill?

          • John

            I think you missed the part where I said I have access (as does anyone who wants to look up their own) to the range of pay for the position that I have. I don’t know what other people in my role make, but I know the pay range they sit in. If I were making $20K/yr less than another person in the same pay grade (gender not withstanding), I would know, and I would be having discussions with HR about it.

            Every year I put substantial effort both independently (looking at what my team is expected to accomplish in the year) and with my reports setting goals and defining success in our individual roles. So, yes, I decide what success looks like, but with input from the person who is going to do the work and with substantial guidance from upper management around the expectations for a given position/pay grade – in terms of accomplishments, responsibility, etc. The main difference between business and government being (in this case), regardless of gender, if you’re not helping the company meet its goals, you’re not succeeding. Sometimes that’s easy to define, sometimes it isn’t.

            If you can’t look at the people working for you and figure out who is doing the best job at their job, I don’t think you have much business managing them.

    • Sybil Twilight

      We have historically undervalued work traditionally done by women. Nursing, care taking, house hold or cleaning, secretarial work; etc. Frankly I think the folk changing diapers, caring for the children, the elderly, the incapacitated, keeping your bathrooms clean, are doing work that is far more valuable than the person sitting in an office crunching numbers.

      I’m also not sure you can name two jobs with the same background requirements one fitting the descriptions in your first paragraph.

      • Guest

        Pure hypothetical, just getting education / experience out of the way.

        You are correct, the person cleaning up a toilet accident at a nursing home has more impact / importance / appreciation / worth than a number-cruncher.

        Now tell me how easy it is to get applicants for a job that takes a few weeks to learn to perform versus a college degree & 5 years experience.

        It is not about how valuable a job is, it is about the # of applicants at whatever the job is, at whatever the pay is.

        IF you offer a job and get 100 applicants, you are paying more than you need to. IF you offer a job and don’t get any applicants you’d care to hire, you are paying less than you need to.

        Same job, night shift most likely pays more because fewer folks want that job. HOWEVER, some folks may enjoy that shift. Which is why Comparable Worth Points are subjective and not as accurate as Supply & Demand.

        • I used to believe something like this, but three things wrecked my view. One was the rise of reality TV “stars,” who are generally non-skilled and more replaceable then a trained firefighter or teacher, yet make waaay more money. The other was professional sports. Compare the minimum salary of major league baseball player and the salary for a supreme court judge and explain that. The third was my degree in Economics. Supply and Demand are the basics of economics, but they fall far short of explaining how things actually function. It turns out that these things are actually quite complicated. Every time I hear arguments like this I imagine someone smugly pointing out to Pythagoras that if the world was round we would all just roll off of it.

          • Guest

            All bets are off regarding Supply & Demand when top executives essentially set their own pay. Also entertainment (movies, TV, sports)

            Entertainment pays way more than “needed” regarding supply & demand, but those who pay also value speed, convenience, trusted relationships, curry favor and even the prestige of having a high-paid star.

            A show CAN get all the contestants it wants at half the reward, but part of the size of the reward is to draw in viewers.

      • Jerry

        It’s amazing that people think that it is the market that sets pay and not actual humans.

        The hand setting pay is quite visible, and it usually contains Y chromosomes.