There was a great study reported on by Huffington Post this past week, which you can find here. Basically, the results of this study illustrate the disparity in women’s earnings based on their high school GPA, which indicate a clear trend and illustrate a gender gap.
The problem I have with this study is that it dangerously provokes the notion that one’s career pay should be directly tied to their abilities as a student in school. It’s almost as if the article is suggesting that the entirety of a person’s abilities are represented by their GPA, which of course couldn’t be more wrong. You can’t compare the salaries of males and females based on their high school GPA and use it to highlight the existence of a Gender Gap. The two statistics have basically nothing to do with each other.
I use this phrase a lot, but let’s stop kidding ourselves. Men and women are biologically different and they are raised differently. Let’s also stop kidding ourselves by telling our children that good grades means a good college, which means a good education, which means a good job. The process is far more complicated than that, and it’s actually funny that this study has tried to boil it down to one’s high school GPA. The highest paying jobs are not ones that girls are typically encouraged to explore from a young age. Forget about pay grade, just think about sheer numbers: the number of women in technology, science, and business are far lower than their male counterparts. The fact that women aren’t in these fields has nothing to do with inequality or their high school GPA, it has to do with how we raise and encourage our girls. Since these are frequently high paying jobs, of course women don’t make as much across our population.
I think it’s valuable to explore the field of medicine, since females have a heavy presence in medicine but are the most populous by far in nursing and family care than surgery or specialized diagnosis. Why? What makes more females go into nursing than any other sector of medicine? Med school applications in 2011 were split evenly between men and women, and enrollment was actually slightly in favor of women. What are we doing differently with this industry, that is clearly heavily science related, that we’re not doing in any other area? I think it’s because the ways women are naturally talented regarding the nurturing and care for the human body is something that is heavily valued in the healthcare industry. Not only are women financially rewarded in this industry, but they’re also morally rewarded. It also doesn’t hurt when a woman says from a young age that they want to become a nurse or physician, she is also heavily encouraged. If the same girl were to say that she wants to become a scientist or start her own technology company, the reaction would likely be different.
We can also examine the entertainment industry, specifically in music, where the playing field couldn’t be more even. Women have tremendous success in the music industry, and while some might argue it has a lot to do with sex appeal, I don’t buy that at all. Women are naturally more expressive, compassionate, and emotional than men are. These are key traits to anyone’s artistic expression which could explain why women are so successful in many artistic fields, including music. Of course, most artists, male AND female, make far less than their counterparts in business and finance. Superstar celebrities aside, art is a hobby to the grand majority of talent, not a career.
See, I think the Gender Gap is a convenient way to talk about a much larger problem in American society: the deplorable lack of respect for the arts. Despite the continuing effect of incredible marketing campaigns, creative uses of social media, and superb branding, our country continues to devalue the work of talented artists. Some great art and design is taken for granted by many people, especially in the culinary and software industries. Maybe it’s not women that the Gender Gap exposes as unfairly treated, but the skills and talents that women naturally possess more of. There’s a reason the “starving artist” is a stereotypical image of a creative type, and it has little to do with gender.
In an era where we see art programs being taken away in high schools across the country, I only see this problem getting worse, not better. Many will argue about the difference in pay between men and women of the same career, which I think will even out within the next 50 years: keep in mind women only entered the workforce en masse in recent history. Certain personality traits do have an impact on salary, like aggressiveness, but I believe that between better education with this issue and better training for women entering the workforce, this will change. What won’t change, however, is our society’s value proposition of the arts. Many shrewd businesspeople approach art with the notion that, “if it doesn’t make money, it’s not worth a dime.” The thing is, marrying art and technology in a successful way have created some of the biggest businesses of the 21st century, and eventually people will realize that it doesn’t take someone named Steve Jobs to understand how valuable this is.