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Does Wonderwoman earn as much as Superman?

8 March 2010

Last night’s news carried a story on the status of women in the workplace today. The teaser promised to inform us on France’s relative progress on pay differentials, discrimination and harassment.

My 13 year old son piped up in disbelief, “That’s not true anymore…Maybe it used to be, but women are treated just the same as men now.”

I pause to think of an age-appropriate explanation of  “the treatment of women” – on the history of women’s rights, the progress made and the confounding barriers that remain.

Trying to explore the meaning of equity and equality is actually a great way to put the issue in perspective.  In the developed world, women are present in most fields (and have begun to outnumber men in higher education).  Still, they lag behind in average pay – and what more concrete measure is there than compensation?

The latest data show that across the OECD, men’s median earnings are on average about 18% higher than women’s.   In some countries the difference is as much as 30%.  We may appear to be on equal footing – projecting an image of strength and success to our children – but the figures tell a different story…

Useful links:

Overview of Gender Differences in OECD Countries

8 Responses leave one →
  1. June Ebert permalink
    March 8, 2010

    It is true that things certainly have improved over the years. I remember the story my mother used totell about having to monitor the work of a male co-worker even though his salary far surpassed her own. She made many strides over the years, inspite of being a woman, and was the first person in her large corporation to have a personal computer at her desk. Even though she retired comfortably, her salary never compared to that of her male co-workers. In the twenty years or so since her retirement women have continued to make incredible strides in the workplace finding more opportunities in a wider variety of jobs with greater access to the “big bucks.” No doubt things have improved, but it is imperative that organizations like the OECD and others continue to work for true equality in the workplace in all parts of the world. Wouldn’t it be nice if this were the only inequality for women?

  2. Annika permalink
    March 8, 2010

    To me, the answer to the question is: who picks up their kids from school and does Superman ever do the laundry? Because women still take care of most of the domestic work, employers will (subconsciously or not) think of them as less engaged and less willing to spend time at work. Because women still (even in my country Sweden) stay at home much much much more often than men with small children or sick older kids, employers will think of them as someone who will be away a lot and therefor not suitable for longer engagements or responsibilities. Apart from the first months of a baby’s life, there are no longer any areas in life where men and women can’t share the responsibility totally equal. Until that day it will be hard for women to reach the pay levels of men.

  3. Caroline Evans permalink
    March 8, 2010

    I work in a corpation where the men that are working where I work make less than their wives.
    It is really strange to hear them talk about wives making more and how they have to live where the wives company sends them.

  4. Joanne Gardner permalink
    March 8, 2010

    It is difficult to comprehend that we are still facing the issue: wonder woman/superman regarding pay! Because of my extremely conservative approach to life and the way I think it should be lived I am more than willing to acknowledge the differences in males/females; however that should not affect pay. Salaries should be based on the ability to produce of the one being paid and not whether male or female. Actually, I believe the same applies across the board i.e. no difference should be made according to sex, race, etc., but all should be based on performance.

  5. kaye laPointe permalink
    March 9, 2010

    Amazing statistics, so many strides in some ways but wages are still far behind!! The plight of women in developing countries is lagging in more areas than just wages. A woman, Meg Whitman, is running for governor of California this fall. It will be interesting to see how that turns out. Can a woman clean up the mess that this state is in……

  6. carole permalink
    March 9, 2010

    A form of affirmative action ^^… The status of women is typical of French demagogy : Asserting that it is not misogynistic (racist), advocating desegregation and equal opportunity, give one day of the woman (or for the paperless) nd do nothing concrete to change the situation (if not blocked it). We all know that only man (white) has deserves to succeed. Our little darlings should also know the future this difference more or less well hidden.

  7. Laura nasr permalink
    March 10, 2010

    There are people who would claim that women earn less than men because of the careers they choose. If this is part of the problem (and it would have to be only part–it is clear that women are often paid less for the same work that men do), then what causes the pay differential might be happening earlier. Are parents and teachers telling young children that girls are better at reading and boys are better at math, or saying that mothers stay at home and fathers go out and work?

  8. Wendy B permalink
    March 10, 2010

    I think the answer is even more basic. A couple of years ago my son (about 5 at the time) started using the phrase “don’t act like a girl” as an insult. I jumped all over him for it but the underlying idea behind the phrase is still widely pervasive the world over. He still gets surprised when I correct his peer driven notion that girls and boys can’t be interested in the same games, toys, books, etc. If boys are not taught to treat gender differences as strengths instead of weaknesses, then how can we expect them to grow into men that will treat women as equals. Men that perceive women as weaker will pay them accordingly.

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