One of the main objectives of the feminist movement is equality for women in the workforce. A wage gap, the lack of women in leadership roles, and “gendered societal expectations” that supposedly pressure women to have children and take maternity leave are all cited as symptoms of a sexist society.
Upon closer examination, however, you can see that women absolutely do have equal opportunity in the workplace. Natural, biological differences are actually the root cause of the aforementioned effects and disparities.
Women’s Priorities are Different
Women tend to order their values a bit differently than men do. Workplace environment, for instance, is often deemed more important than salary. One study explored this very idea and concluded that, when considering a workplace, women valued friendships, respect, communication, fairness, collaboration, and family more than men value them. Men primarily valued pay, benefits, and authority. This different set of priorities, along with a desire for flexibility, influences women’s job selection.
Workplace environment is often deemed more important than salary.
Balancing Work and Parenting
Women, far more frequently than men, choose to be the primary caregiver for their children. Thus, women often seek a job with hours and/or location that is more conducive to mothering. The Harvard Business Review conducted a study that showed 64 percent of women citing flexible work arrangements as very important to them because they had obligations outside of the workplace (such as teacher conferences and day-care center closings). The study also indicated that flexibility outweighed higher pay.
The desire for flexibility outweighed higher pay.
Prioritizing one’s children is, of course, admirable, but this will often set you back in the office if you cannot be as present as your coworkers. Still, many women continue to choose family over career.
Industry Matters, Too
Aside from workplace values, women are naturally drawn to different careers than men. A look at the gender divisions in college majors offers clear proof. According to a research report by Glassdoor, nine of the ten highest-paying majors were male-dominated. Men choose STEM majors (i.e. mechanical and chemical engineering, physics, and computer science) more than women. Women, on the other hand, are more drawn to the social sciences and liberal arts, making up the majority of social work, healthcare administration, and anthropology majors.
Interestingly, in 2019, women were the majority of the college-educated workforce. Evidently, there is no educational discrimination against women. Rather, despite many incentives for more women to enter STEM fields, preferences based on biological differences still exist.
Despite many incentives for more women to enter STEM fields, preferences based on biological differences still exist.
Lack of Opportunity?
There is a difference between a lack of opportunity and a decision to not pursue certain opportunities. The latter is the true reason for any disparities between men and women in the workforce. Men have less desire for flexibility. They gravitate to higher-paying industries and chase career success more than women.
There is a difference between a lack of opportunity and a decision to not pursue certain opportunities.
However, that does not mean that women are not afforded the same opportunities and cannot see the same successes. Sheryl Sandberg, educated at the Harvard Business School, is the chief operating officer of Facebook, an author, and a billionaire. Virginia Rometty has been the chair, president, and CEO of IBM since 2012 (she just recently announced that she will be stepping down). Ursula Burns is the chairwoman and CEO of Veon, a multinational telecommunications services company. These women represent just a few of the many who have reached the highest heights in the business world. Such feats would not be possible in a society that oppresses women.
The oft-cited gender wage gap and iron-fisted patriarchal workforce are mere myths. If a woman desires to excel in her career, she can. She will likely, however, have to shift her values, compromise somewhat on her personal life, and enter a higher-paying field (nothing that a man does not also have to do). Our society is not sexist. There are simply inherent differences between men and women that continue to drive women’s choices regarding work - and there is nothing wrong with that.