What Kind of Equality are We Concerned With?
Eileen Gallagher, Intern
In the past few months many people have been discussing the “War on Women.” In the news there has been a focus both on women’s “reproductive rights” and sex-selective abortions. These topics are very controversial because anyone who dares to think contraception or abortion is bad is contradicting feminist ideals, which include freedom, choice, and tolerance. Interestingly, recent research shows that equality between men and women, which feminists have been fighting for since the early 1900s, is no longer a problem. Two topics often discussed in the feminist movement are salary differences between men and women, as well as the persistent lack of women as top executives in the professional world. For feminists this is proof that we still live in a male dominated culture and that women are still oppressed.
In 2008 Susan Pinker published a book called The Sexual Paradox which explores the paradox that “after decades of women’s educational coups and rising through the ranks, men still outnumber women in business, physical science, law, engineering and politics.” The author explains the paradox, basing her argument in human nature. Men and women are different. In the past 50 years women have had the same opportunities as men in world of education, and gradually girls have had greater academic successes than boys. The ratio of girls to boys among valedictorians or honors students in schools throughout the country is proof of the change. Girls, on average, get better grades than boys in school, and in the past few years more women than men have been graduating from college and graduate programs. If there is a war involving women in the education world, the women are winning it.
But Susan Pinker’s paradox has not been answered: if women are more successful than men at a younger age, why do they still get paid less than men? This is when an understanding of human nature can provide answers. Women have innate maternal instincts, and even if they do not become biological mothers, many (though of course not all) women would rather work with and help people (e.g., social work and nursing are female-dominated professions) rather than doing the design work of engineers, or the lab work of scientists. Certainly some women enjoy these jobs, but many gravitate toward careers where they feel they are making a tangible difference in people’s lives. The careers that pay the most, such as engineering, computer science, architecture, and medicine, often are unattractive to women because of the type of work or the demanding hours. Many women want to be become mothers and it is nearly impossible for a doctor doing her residency to also have a newborn baby. A woman who wants to have children often chooses to be a nurse or a teacher, who will not earn as much as a doctor, but will have flexibility to be available for her children. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute showed that people are more likely to report being proud of the work they do if they are married. It seems that marriage and family life can bring about greater happiness in the working world, contrary to the feminists’ ideas.
Human nature explains the pay difference, as well as the lack of women as top executives. The path to become a senior staff member in a company generally involves decades of long hours, late nights, and little vacation time. Women are capable of this, but often do not want it. Many mothers gladly give up their dreams of a big house and fancy car for a few more hours at home each day, and to greet their children as they come off the bus from school. The feminist movement continues to cry for equality between men and women, but there are different types of equality. Equality of opportunity has been achieved, but equality of outcomes is impossible because men and women are naturally different.