Reports of a study have recently circulated that male models earn only one quarter of what female models do. While it is not really news, with the latest one from mid-2017, it does provide an another departure point for discussing the gender wage gap.
The fashion magazine, Elle, had a story about the 2016 gap, and the author concluded with the comment that “regardless of the industry, paying employees different wages on account of their gender is a grave and illegal injustice that must be stopped.” It is, in fact, not grave, not illegal, and not unjust in any sense. The author was being ridiculous and politically correct.
According to the study, Cara Delevingne was the highest paid model, who also happens to have forty million Instagram followers, making her a very valuable asset for fashion promoters and advertisers, similar to top sports figures who earn big money because they draw big crowds and big endorsements. That is not unfair, it is economic reality. That Delevingne earns more than your average plumber or male model is not surprising, just as it is not surprising that senators, including very wealthy social justice warriors, earn many multiples more than your average burger flipper or clerk. They are not equivalent.
That women earn seventy-seven to eighty percent of what men earn is the oft-repeated dogma, and it is thus de facto evidence of massive and egregious workplace discrimination. On an aggregate basis, it is a true statistic, but the problem itself is is the abuse of aggregate statistics. While it is likely that workplace discrimination does happen to some extent, a host of factors must be considered before passing judgment.
Some promoters of the pay-gap crisis point to the evidence that men with university degrees at all levels earn higher entry salaries and have higher lifetime earnings than women with the same level of education. Again, that might be true on an aggregate basis, but is it even within the realm of reason to expect that a gender studies major will land the same type of job as a chemical engineer or astrophysicist? A female gender studies major is likely to have approximately the same earning potential as her male counterpart, as will the female and male astrophysicists. There is, in fact, evidence that females in some professions earn more than males with the same qualifications.
The evidence is overwhelming that men and women tend to choose different careers. There are lots of reasons why that might be, but the leading occupations for women are secretaries (98% female), registered nurses (92% female), elementary and middle school teachers (74% female), and cashiers (74% female). The first three represent eighty percent of all women employees, and none of those are highly compensated on average. Some say that we need to adjust as a society to change those facts, but those are the facts as they stand, and they tell a very different story than overt and malicious employer discrimination that needs legal redress.
Further, many jobs are subject to contracts, with pay increasing with time at the job. Though starting out with the same contract salary, females are more likely to accumulate fewer active credits and earn less after taking time off for child rearing. There is nothing unfair about it. Some people might not like traditional gender roles, but a lot of people do and would not trade their experiences for the world. People have their own visions of what a happy life looks like.
These are only some of the many factors that skew the aggregates. If there is to be an honest discussion about workplace gender inequality, an honest inventory of the facts must first be made. That is missing in most discussions.