The figure used to articulate that there is, in fact, a wage gap varies by source. While everyone who understands the issue agrees there is a gap, what the exact figure is has not reached a consensus. 

The problem with the wage gap issue is that it is multifaceted. We know looking at the numbers women are paid less for the same amount of experience and working the same number of hours.

I’m looking to discuss the sex inequality of the wage gap and explore the reasons why it exists. Many people who deny it exists offer surface explanations. Such as, women choose lower-paying fields, men work longer hours and on and on the reasoning goes. 

However, none of those kinds of explanations take external factors into account. To disregard history, socioeconomics and power dynamics involved in this issue is an amateur’s blunder. 

Personal choice

The naysayers are right that the gap is partly caused by women being dominant in lower-paying fields and taking more time off. But reflect on WHY that happens. There’s a history of women-dominant fields being lower-paying professions. Not because they’re less skilled but precisely BECAUSE women dominate that career.

When it comes to taking time off, think about typical heterosexual family dynamics; usually the woman is the primary caregiver. The one who takes the day off works to stay home with the sick kids. The one who takes parental leave after a birth. How are women to put in longer hours and gain experience if they are expected to be primary care givers for children?

Typically society EXPECTS men to provide and women to tend children. This leads to how moms and dads typically function within their heteronormative gender roles. Would a mom look after her family more than a dad, and would a dad work more than a mom, IF they could do exactly what they wanted? Without the years societal conditioning telling them what they SHOULD want and SHOULD do?

Yes many mothers chose to be stay at home moms, but I’d ask you to consider two things;

1. If society EXPECTS women to stay at home when needed then was it truly a choice? Another example would be the expectation society had for men not to cry. Certainly, there are times men feel like crying but they don’t because they’re EXPECTED not to.

2. What about all the women who don’t choose to, but are paid less because the majority of women ARE working less and there’s a perception that women don’t contribute as much as men at work?

Household trends

These trends translate to gay and lesbian couples as well. Gay couples typically earn more and are more advanced in their careers combined than their heterosexual counterparts. 

At the same time, lesbian couples represent the opposite end of the spectrum to gay couples. They typically receive fewer promotions and raises than their heterosexual counterparts. 

This extends into career paths as well. It explains why female dominated professions typically earn less and male dominant professions typically earn more. If mostly men dominate an industry, they’re earning potential will continue to rise. Especially when you consider that they can work whenever and also cover overtime much more freely than women.

On the other hand, if women dominate an industry but they consistently take time off work and cannot work overtime due to an obligation to tend to their family, they can’t logically earn as much as their male counterparts. So until we remove gender roles from the equation, we cannot expect the wage gap to change. 

Hiring & experience

Another argument naysayers love bringing up is that if women are paid less than men, why don’t employers hire women exclusively? This one is mind-blowing and simply illustrates their ignorance on the subject. Why would an employer hire someone who will require more sick days than their male counterparts due to child care? 

Many employers justify not hiring women of childbearing years because they biasedly view them as a risk. These leaves are costly to employers. They fail to take into account not only that this is discriminatory. The same judgment is not reserved for men.

Men of prime-age to become fathers are not seen as a risk by employers. Likely because of the reality that children will be inconsequential to their careers. If the time off was distributed equally, the sexist discrimination would disappear.

Employers are not stupid, they’ve done their homework on this one. They understand the wage gap exists and they are exploiting it. The proof is in the statistics around hiring practices. When women take time off the bear and rear children, their experience falls behind that of their male counterparts. As a result, they become an undesirable candidate and are usually financially punished for this.

Training costs employers money. Why would they pay to bridge the gaps in a woman’s experience? They could simply hire a man who was able to spend years working in his field? Are you beginning to see the sexist discrimination that women experience for simply being women? Is the reason why unpaid domestic labor and gender roles hinder women in the workplace becoming clearer?

Gender roles

Traditional gender roles interest me because they defy…well, biology, and common sense. Women are viewed as homemakers and caregivers. Because allegedly they’re biologically superior in that regard, and in turn, men are biologically better providers. Makes perfect sense if you don’t think about it.

Let me be clear on this one. There’s no evidence to support the claim that women are better caregivers. Just as there’s no evidence to support that men are better suited for work environments. In fact, there’s evidence to support the OPPOSITE of men and women in the workplace. 

“Women are too emotional” has long been used as a justification to keep qualified women from leadership positions. I think about this a lot when I look at the wage gap. And when considering what this means for paid labor as well as gender roles within the home.

Typically men work more hours, which leads to his raises and promotions. But there’s a significant point wage gap deniers fail to mention. Which is that he was only able to do all that because of his wife being at home more

Now I’m not saying he didn’t deserve the raise and promotion. I’m just saying the woman had to sacrifice her chances at a raise and promotion for him to have his. That’s the heart of the wage gap issue, but I’ve gone off on a tangent at this point. 

It’s critical to understand that it’s not just the number. It’s the lack of opportunity women typically have to make more money because they’re expected to prioritize home over work. Men are not.

Gender stereotypes

As I touched on earlier, being emotional is viewed as also being more nurturing, but there is no scientific support that such a relationship exists because we cannot clearly define what “emotional” means.
It’s also worth noting that if emotions are bad, shouldn’t people who have an excess of them be tasked with just about anything OTHER than raising more humans? The logic on that one is beyond me, but I digress. 

Having emotions is a HUMAN thing and it is not inherently good or bad. 

Toxic masculinity simply teaches boys and men that all emotions that are not violent and negative are feminine and weak. This claim is not based in reality, but it does have real-world consequences.


Parenthood turns out to be an important factor when it comes to the wage gap and naturally gender roles play a major part in all of this. Fathers were more likely than childless men to want the extra cash from overtime, and mothers were more likely to want time off than childless women.

Men and women seem to both prioritize their kids, just in different ways. This isn’t surprising. We have to question whether men and women react this way because they genuinely want to. Or whether men work more, and women dominate caretaking because of societal norms. I’m of the opinion that it’s because of norms.

This is not to say women deserve raises and promotions for work they’re not doing. Just that it’s not a level playing field for either sex. This is why there is a wage gap.

One is expected to work and earn more while the other has the opposite expected of them. We can close the gap and create stronger, more equitable workplaces for everyone. If we can move towards removing stereotypical gender roles and look at the wage gap objectively.

The Next Step

This illustrates that we haven’t evolved our gender roles along with the rest of our society. Why do they exist at all? What purpose do they serve? Maintaining oppression for everyone? It only serves to cause problems, like the wage gap.

We still expect men and women to behave as they did in a completely different time. Having these expectations of men and women hurts both sexes though.

How is it fair to men that they have to work overtime to make more money and spend less time with their kids, or at home? How is it fair to women that they can’t work overtime and can’t be career-focused if they want to? 

I’d love to know…

Women, what are your thoughts on being labeled emotional? Has it ever impacted you professionally?

Men, what do you do to support your female coworkers advance in the workplace? 

Nonbinaries, what are your thoughts on all of this? I’d love to know because I could not find any research whatsoever, which speaks volumes in itself. 

What do you think the world would be like if we had fair pay?

What would you do differently at work or at home if gender roles were nonexistent?