Cookies for a Cause- Gender Equality in the Workforce

Students at Jordan High School in Utah organized a bake-sale and took the opportunity to simultaneously teach a lesson in social justice and make a stand for gender equality. Organized by the Young Democrats Club, cookies were sold to men for $1.00 and to women for 77 cents (in order to reflect the pay gap in America).

Many students questioned the accuracy of the statistics used by the organizers to illustrate the wage gap. Even amongst researchers there is disagreement regarding the most appropriate way to measure the pay gap. Some argue that the statistic actually doubles when women’s part-time and intermittent lifetime employment is taken into account. Regardless of which statistic is used, there is agreement that the income disparity exists and this bakesale demonstrates that notion.

However, I think the issue of gender equality is significantly more complex and that it is not enough to simply foster awareness that a pay gap exists. One student said of the bakesale that, “I really think that women should be paid equally. A lot of women out there are just as good as men out there.” The student’s language in her comment reflects the notion of income inequality being a result of power structures– such as women being inferior to men- a point which this particular student contests. While power structures are indisputably at play in the workforce, overt explicit discrimination is considerably less common (although it has certainly not been eliminated). With gender inequality becoming a more nuanced issue, I think it is important to raise awareness of the growing complexity of factors involved.

When examining minimum wage jobs, yes- it is likely that men and women will be paid the same rate for the same job. But the issue of income disparity also intersects with unequal opportunity. Many women experience a “glass ceiling” effect- whereby women are only able to go so far in their jobs and many are precluded from the high-level positions.

The gap in pay is also not exclusive to women, but extends to race and ethnicity. The intersection of race and gender is an important factor when examining the issue of income disparity. White men are significantly better paid than men of all different ethnic racial groups, however men within each racial/ethnic group make more than women in the respective group. Although education reduces the gap in income, there are still gender and racial discrepancies in pay.

Homosociality– the notion that people in the workplace feel more comfortable around people they feel are similar to themselves- offers an explanation from the standpoint of workplace organization for why both women and minorities experience a gap in pay. When the established management circles are white males, this becomes an issue for anyone who deviates from the status quo. Human capital refers to attributes that the individual possesses (such as knowledge, skills and personal qualities) that make up their economic value. The human capital explanation for the wage gap is grounded in social constructions of gender. Human capital theorists believe that women demonstrate lower levels of commitment to paid work and investment in themselves. In a sense, the theory endorses the social construction that men are more industrious and competitive than women, which is why the pay gap exists. Western cultures strongly believe in individualism- the idea that rewards should be distributed in proportion to individual efforts. Social constructions of gender that advance the notion that men work harder than women are likely why many do not take issue with unequal pay (they may believe it is a result of differences in effort and talent). Research has shown that Asian cultures tend to be collectivist cultures, rather than individualistic. However, in Japan women earn on average 68 percent of men’s pay. I think this illustrates that there are intersecting explanations for why gender inequality exists in pay and opportunity and it is unlikely that a single explanation can account for the discrepancies.

Given that there are intersecting causes of gender inequality in pay, I think the issue warrants a broader discussion than the one the bakesale may have raised. Admittedly, it is very possible that the resulting discussion from the bakesale included many of these issues that the article did not highlight. Could the students have done more to foster a constructive discussion? Moreover, based on further reading of the controversy surrounding the bakesale, many pointed out that the idea of making men pay $1.00 to each woman paying 77 cents was to demonstrate how the inequality feels. I think an important question that stems from their strategy is- is using gender inequality to discourage gender inequality counterproductive?

– tiffanygenders

References:

Carlisle, Randall. “Gender equality bake sale causes stir at Utah high school.” Good4Utah.com. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from <http://www.good4utah.com/story/d/story/gender-equality-bake-sale-causes-stir-at-utah-high/10246/0gE6cCkPA0mvNkLZEjyO4Q&gt;

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3 thoughts on “Cookies for a Cause- Gender Equality in the Workforce

  1. I found it very helpful that you further explained how gender inequalities in the workplace and in wage gaps is increasingly nuanced and complex and further intersect with race/ethnicity as well as cultural norms.
    I agree with your final question as well, perhaps there are more effective ways to promote discussion and awareness about this issue. Just based in what the article says, it seems as though the students did not foster further discussion or engagement with the topic. While I think it’s a great thing for young voices to be raised, I think that teachers should continue to help them strive to be as thoughtful as possible.

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  2. As someone who did not read or focus on this article, I appreciate the background you provided and the quote from the student as it helped to better my understanding of what the article was discussing.

    I agree that it is very important to look at all contributing factors in regards to gender inequality and wages, rather than focusing on just one, since there are several issues at play.

    I appreciated how you included the comparison between not only gender, but race within genders when it comes to income inequality since this is a very big issue as well.

    I think the question that you concluded with is one that is very important to consider, because it is quite possible that this means of trying to eliminate inequality could potentially cause more issues in the long run. Fighting fire with fire usually does not end in the way it was meant to.

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  3. Your question that you raise about if fighting gender inequality with gender inequality is really a solution is one that is quite intriguing. As Megan said, is fighting fire with fire really a good idea? I don’t believe that it is. In fact recently there have been many campaigns headed by men about gender inequality. One of the most prominent ones being He for She which views gender equality as not only a women’s issue but a human rights issue in which we need everyone to participate in a move for change. Their website is actually very interesting to look at and read the information they have present.

    http://www.heforshe.org

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