The Real Reason Women Earn Less

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Managing Partner Kristen Prinz recently wrote an op-ed on the gender wage gap that was featured in Crain’s Chicago Business. Ms. Prinz was responding to an article by Hilary Gowins of the Illinois Policy Institute, which claimed that women earn less money than men because they choose to, and that the 8% wage gap women have to contend with is “nearly nothing.”

Although Ms. Prinz agrees with Gowins’ assertion that multiple factors contribute to the wage gap, Change & One Dollar Billshe refutes the notion that the flexibility with one’s time that many women value should be a barrier to their earning potential. Gowins anchors much of her argument in the research of Harvard University economist Claudia Goldin, whose findings indicate that much of this desired flexibility is related to the fact that women continue to be the primary caregivers for children and elderly parents. While Ms. Prinz agrees that a flexible work schedule is something women will have to continue to navigate, she doesn’t believe they should accept it as a reason to diminish their long-term economic security.

Gowins states there should be greater emphasis placed on collaborative work methods, so that projects can be transferred from one person to another, allowing women to better assist in caregiving needs without losing credit and responsibility in the workplace. However, she also states that she is fine sacrificing the 8% in salary she loses for being a woman, because the flexibility she receives to spend time with her family is well worth the loss in pay.

While Ms. Prinz commends Gowins’ decision to spend time with her family, she argues that the 8% difference Gowins has accepted is far from minor: “Assuming that a) that 8 percent translates to $8,000 annually (a man making $100,000 per year versus a woman making $92,000), b) the gap remains constant for the average 40-year career (despite the fact that research all shows that it widens over time), and c) using the average annualized rate of return from the S&P 500 from the past 90 years, that ‘nearly nothing’ equates to over $3.6 million in lost earnings over her lifetime.”

Ms. Prinz goes on to state that, “The argument is that the loss is justified by the market because flexibility equates to less productivity.” The issue with this line of thinking, she contends, is that, “Women are sacrificing earnings in exchange for the false narrative that working longer hours is more valuable than working productive hours.” As indicated by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), working more hours often leads to burn-out, and can actually lead to less productivity. Ms. Prinz suggests that flexibility should therefore be seen as an asset, given that women who have more responsibilities outside of the office are likely to get more done in the time they have. The emphasis should be on quality of work over quantity at work.

Ms. Prinz also asserts that Gowins’ claims reflect negatively on men. Gowins writes that many “wise” husbands have chosen to take a more active role in the household and in childrearing so their wives can put in additional time at work. Yet this simply reinforces the idea that men only become equal partners and parents at their wives’ insistence, thereby reinforcing the “nagging wives” stereotype, and the idea that it is not masculine for men to contribute at home.

“How does a so-called advanced society still hold onto the idea that being a ‘family man’ means working endless hours and leaving the raising of your children to women?” Ms. Prinz asks. “Men care about their children and want flexibility too.”

Ms. Prinz closes by mentioning her daughters: “I hope they find partners in life who are equally unafraid to challenge the misconceptions that women and minorities continue to confront. And, I hope I have my $3.6 million-plus to retire and support them if they decide to become working mothers.”

Contact Our Employment Law Attorneys

At The Prinz Law Firm, founder and Managing Partner Kristen Prinz and the rest of our Chicago employment law attorneys believe that it is unfair for women to make less because of antiquated gender stereotypes. That’s why we provide fair, approachable, and seasoned legal representation to women and other professionals in Illinois. From severance agreements, to retaliation, to parental and pregnancy discrimination, our team offers creative and cooperative solutions designed to ensure our clients receive everything they are owed. We have years of experience fighting for companies, businesses, and employees. Contact The Prinz Law Firm for advocacy you can trust, legal skills you can rely on, and representation that will work for you every step of the way. Click here to read the original article.

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