Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Gender Pay Gap Is A Sign Of Equality Between The Sexes And Not Inequality

Is a gender pay gap a sign of equality between the sexes and not inequality?

The news media reported on a physician wage study last week, e.g. see The Wall Street Journal, "Women Doctors Face $17,000 Pay Gap," that the medical field pays women doctors less than men doctors.

According to the lead researcher's statement in the Wall Street Journal, women physicians trade salary for other benefits:
Anthony Lo Sasso, the lead researcher on the study, and a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the pay gap may exist because women doctors are seeking greater flexibility and family-friendly benefits, such as not being on call after certain hours. Women may be negotiating these work conditions at the same time that they are negotiating their starting salaries.
This is not the first study to find that women in the workforce will give up salary for other non-monetary benefits, such as health insurance, shorter hours, flexible schedules, limited or no travel requirements, etc.

Isn't it a sign of equality, and not inequality, that women can choose, value and negotiate for themselves the benefits and pay combination they most desire in the workplace, even if the paycheck is lower? Employers pay for these benefits and they are indifferent, their costs are equivalent, whether the money goes into a worker's paycheck or to pay for a benefit. The women are choosing how to allocate the employers' costs between salary and benefits.

Suppose law, or workplace practice, required women to receive the same paycheck amount as men in any field. Wouldn't women work much longer hours, have less flexible scheduling, travel more, etc., than they would choose if they could select their own benefits package and workplace environment?

Isn't true equality of the sexes measured by women's freedom to contract? Doesn't that imply that some women, maybe even a majority, would choose lower pay for fewer work hours, more time off and more flexible schedules?

Pay alone does not measure workplace equality between the genders when they there are many work benefits and characteristics not captured by the numbers in the paycheck.

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