What is this?
Lately, I found myself increasingly often debating discrimination against women – an issue many people believe not to exist. I’ve have often heard and read claims such as that the Gender Pay Gap would be a statistical phenomenon, that feminism in todays egalitarian world would no longer be necessary and women are long since emancipated, and of course that any evidence to existing discrimination would be hear-say and individual experiences and there would be no good statistical evidence support this (who ever said this very certainly didn’t bother checking). Not to forget of the mantra that in our society, everyone could become everything if he or she only tried, a very important notion I will get to in the “evaluation” posts I will write about this very post:
Ultimately, this piece here is me gathering tons of arguments and research evidence for later use. But I thought, why not make it accessible to anyone else? And that’s what I do.
As to my method: I didn’t actively search for studies that prove how women are being treated unfairly. Rather, I googled for studies on women in general, such as “study women pay gap” or “study women in media” or so. If any credible research providing evidence that being female brings you any bonusses would have popped up, I would have included it. I didn’t come across any, but I don’t doubt that there are situations in which women actually are on the „winning“ side of discrimination, given that it is a case in which the goal to achieve goes along with the gender stereotypes (an example could be becoming a kindergarten teacher or a nurse). You could claim that my method is flawed because google turns up the most read and shared stuff and obviously doesn’t give out the studies with the most impact. However, antifeminists have likely as much a fanbase clicking “their” articles as feminists do, maybe bigger, and either way, all of these studies are peer-reviewed.
Also, due to where research is happening and also my language barriers, all of the studies refer only to the “Western world”, aka the EU, Northern America and Australia.
Let’s start of with the Gender Pay Gap
The probably most important thing to say to this: It exists, deal with it. Even if you include all kinds of factors, including profession, experience, education, etc. women in the US still earn only 91% of what men earn (“non-adjusted” 77%).
But as quoted from the article:
Using wage data for men and women with identical degrees and experience, she was able to show that gender discrimination is ultimately at the core of the gap.
Even if differences in occupations account for some of the gender wage gap, why should gender-based educational and occupational segregation count as evidence against gender discrimination? Young girls and young women do not make choices about what to study and where to work in a vacuum. They make them under the influence of peers, family members and adults who tell them, through words and actions, the subjects, majors and careers that are acceptable for them to choose — and these influences inevitably inform their later decisions on careers.
Things are doing not quite so well in Austria, where, depending on the study and the field of work, women earn 81 to 85% of what men earn under the same conditions – for pretty much the same job, as close as one can get to say this.
All of these are .pdf and sadly, the only English one is the one where I’m not sure how much occupation is actually considered. It does say in one paragraph that it is considered, in another that it isn’t. The other studies are being pretty damn clear about it:
The comparison of men and women working in the same economic sector and occupational group, having the same level of education, length of service and age, indicate a decline of the gender wage gap [to] between 15.0 and 18.9 per cent depending on the mode of calculation (Within-Job Gender Wage Gap or multivariate model). Thus one part of the gap can be explained by differences concerning the labour market caused by economic and occupational gender segregation. Another part can be seen as a consequence of individual characteristics of the employees, like education or work experience. Even though taking all factors into account, a significant wage gap still persists that remains unexplained [by the considered socio-economic factors].
Or in the slightly less confusing German version:
Vergleicht man die Verdienste von Frauen und Männern innerhalb der gleichen Branche, des gleichen Berufs, der gleichen Bildungsschicht sowie mit gleicher Dauer der Zugehörigkeit zum Unternehmen und gleichem Alter, sinkt der geschlechtsspezifische Lohn- und Gehaltsunterschied je nach Berechnung auf 18,9% bis 15,0%. Ein Teil des Lohn- und Gehaltsunterschiedes kann demnach durch die Konzentration von Frauen und Männern in unterschiedlichen Branchen sowie Unterschiede in der beruflichen Tätigkeit und individueller Merkmale erklärt werden. Das Ergebnis zeigt aber auch, dass trotz gleicher Hintergrundmerkmale deutlich niedrigere Löhne und Gehälter für Frauen im Vergleich zu Männern bezahlt werden.
Now you could say, okay, there is a gap between what men and women get for the same work as much as this can be accounted for. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is because they are seen as less worthy, right? There could also be other factors that weren’t accounted for, couldn’t there be?
Well, let’s see what happens when scientists turn with the exact same application, only differentiating by the sex of the applicant, to job offers or investors.
Apparently, women have less chances than men to get a job (in Yale) and if they do, they are offered less money:
…and are less likely to be be invested in by both male and female private investors when applying for their start-up:
Fun fact: Attractive men have the best chances.
The weird thing about this is that people in HR are very likely not even aware of their bias. You could probably show someone after twenty years of job interviews a statistic proving that he or she was much more likely to hire men with the exact same background as women, and that person would be stunned in disbelief.
Still, one could speculate about potential other factors the researchers didn’t account for – but that’s a claim you can make with any research. If you don’t accept this evidence for gender gaps, I don’t know what kind of evidence you would accept. Maybe you should ask that to yourself as well.
By the way, this idea that the wage gap exists because engineers are being paid more than kindergarten teachers, despite having effect on some percentage points (see above studies) is basically a myth as well. Sure, engineers earn more, but (in Germany) typically masculine professions such as coal miner and other blue-coat jobs earn less than typically feminine professions such as the service sector – as can be read in this (German) interview with a researcher who actually focusses on how even when the wife is the main source of income, she usually does still more housework than the husband:
Most couples do believe that they split chores evenly, but it turns out that they don’t. Similarly, I’m sure most men who have issues with their female bosses don’t get behind the true reasons for their grudge:
Oh, how fragile is masculinity?
Fun fact and in accordance with the actual research: When I google “female bosses study”, next to studies such as the one above (and studies pointing out how companies with women at the top do better), google suggests that maybe I’ve been searching for “female bosses are worse”, “dealing with female bosses” etc.
It is curious how women are being ignored when they are not hated. For example, women are more likely to be “forgotten” when they are working together with men.
Women in science publish less often and are cited less often than men, a gap that can’t sufficiently be explained by pregnancy breaks but apparently has to do with networking capabilities:
How networking capabilities can be an issue for women in work environments can be seen in this study, which actually focusses on why engineering has so few women doing the job as compared to women studying engineering in the universities:
Women’s experience of their education differed along two critical dimensions — they encountered a culture where sexism and stereotypes were left unaddressed, and they saw only lip service offered toward improving society—and both of these disproportionately alienated them.
Oh yeah, and coming back to the hated-part of “hated when not ignored”:
The Guardian studied its own comment section.
Although the majority of our regular opinion writers are white men, we found that those who experienced the highest levels of abuse and dismissive trolling were not. The 10 regular writers who got the most abuse were eight women (four white and four non-white) and two black men. Two of the women and one of the men were gay. And of the eight women in the “top 10”, one was Muslim and one Jewish.
Now let’s hop from verbal violence to physical violence. Sadly, in the EU, still there is much of sexualised violence going on:
For example, one in three women (33 %) has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15. One in five women (18 %) has experienced stalking; every second woman (55 %) has been confronted with one or more forms of sexual harassment. Given this, violence against women cannot be seen as a marginal issue that touches only on some women’s lives.
Now you could rightly argue that this perhaps isn’t actually evidence for gender-based discrimination because it doesn’t say anything about violence going on against men. Apparently, in the UK, 40% of the cases of domestic violence have men as the victims.
However, statistics like this (and all of the others, too) are to be considered with care. In this research, being slapped on the butt counts as much as being raped at gunpoint. The distorting effect this can have on the statistic the Guardian quotes can be imagined when reading this article about domestic violence in Australia:
In Australia, one in three cases of domestic violence sees a male victim. However, Australian sociologists share with us interesting observations from their research:
[Dr. McInnes] recounts some of her research that showed that when men talked about women’s violence against men, some cited abuse as not having a hot meal on the table, not having the children bathed before bed, or women spending money on gambling or shopping. At the more severe end of the spectrum, they nominated verbal and emotional violence as abuse. Then, a tiny minority documented physical abuse, and an even smaller minority named sexual abuse.
“Women were talking about being run over, being drugged and raped at knifepoint, having their children dangled over high rise balconies till they did as they were told and of course you get verbal and emotional violence,” says McInnes. “When we were talking about physical violence against men, one of the worst examples was that she banged his head with the cupboard door – which isn’t good – but the sheer level of fear, harm and terror that women talked about was simply not present in what the men’s data showed.”
It remains somewhat unclear as to how the secret world of everyday violence actually looks like under the aspect of gender, with violence in relationships still being a huge taboo and so on and so forth. However, it is not far-fetched so say that something is wrong with our image of masculinity in regards to violence. After all, as quoting from the EU’s study:
Women can perpetrate violence, and men and boys can be victims of violence at the hands of both sexes, but the results of this survey, together with other data collection,show that violence against women is predominantly perpetrated by men. This is overwhelmingly the case when it comes to sexual violence and sexual harassment.
I’m going to randomly assume that violence against men (all violence, not only domestic, so including everything from bar fights over prison revolts to actual wars) also mainly is carried out by men.
The invisibility of women, as well as an affinity for violence in the gender expecations for men, can be grasped for example by looking at popular contemporary movies in the US:
Here we see that popular movies focus mainly on men (surprise, surprise), as well as other pieces of the puzzle, such as that the goals of portrayed men and women differ in regards to being social or anti-social (male characters were more likely to strive for anti-social goals), and so on.
Even more interesting is this study (.pdf) though, concerned more detailed about how women are depicted in popular movies in several (and not only Western) countries:
Some of the findings are summarised as follows:
• Sexualization is the standard for female characters globally: girls and women are twice as likely as boys and men to be shown in sexually revealing clothing, partially or fully naked, thin, and five times as likely to be referenced as attractive. Films for younger audiences are less likely to sexualize females than are those films for older audiences.
• Teen females (13-20 years) are just as likely as young adult females (21-39 years) to be sexualized.
• Female characters only comprise 22.5% of the global film workforce, whereas male characters form 77.5%.
• Leadership positions pull male; only 13.9% of executives and just 9.5% of high-level politicians were women.
• Across prestigious professions, male characters outnumbered their female counterparts as attorneys and judges (13 to 1), professors (16 to 1), medical
As to the function of movies providing role models, in this quote in regards to body expectations:
Research reveals that exposure to sexualized and thin content can contribute to or reinforce body shame, appearance anxiety, or internalization of the thin ideal among some females.
Here, many things come together that are important.
Women in movies are to a large extent blurred out, their are sexualised and more likely reduced to appearance, they are not leaders as men are, and so on. The same study provided also a reason how this situation came across:
• Out of a total of 1,452 filmmakers with an identifiable gender, 20.5% were female and 79.5% were male. Females comprised 7% of directors, 19.7% of writers, and 22.7% of producers across the sample.
• Films with a female director or female writer attached had significantly more girls and women on screen than did those without a female director or writer attached.
A product, in this case films, comes into existence reflecting the world according to the perspectives, stereotypes and norms present in those at whoms hands it is created. Which is, in this case, mainly men. (Also, consider: This is popular films, not all films nor series included.)
One final study I want to mention is specifically interesting to me because it shows how a process of structural discrimination is hardly observable and, hinsight, looks to us like a given, “natural” constant rather than a development, or perhaps as the outcome of random individual choices rather than systemic:
Apparently, in the 70s, women would be increasingly interested in computer sciences – until in the 80s, the industry began marketing computers as “toys for boys”. This lead, for example, to families rather buying a computer for their sons than their daughters even if daughters might have shown as much or more interest in a PC. The article also points out that at that time, movies about geeks would be shown in the cinemas, also featuring exceptionally men as protagonists.
This factored into a development which we see changing slightly over the past decade or so, one that resulted in a new major source of power – being able to use computers, the internet, and all of what is connected to that – is again given in the hands of a rather homogenous group.
I could go on like this forever, but I kind of doubt anyone actually read all of it. I think the important question here is, and I will try to answer this in the upcoming pieces:
Why does this disparity exist and why are so many people so certain that it doesn’t still?