Image by GregPlom

If you’ve ever spent any amount of time on the internet, specifically in feminist circles, you’ve probably heard of the gender pay gap. The gender pay gap—also known as the wage gap—is the allegedly huge gap in the average difference between women’s and men’s annual earnings. Feminists and social justice advocates believe women earn far less than men every year, and sexism in the workplace is to blame.

The feminist interpretation of the gender pay gap is wrong. These gender activists are under the impression women are paid less than men for the same work, which is not only incorrect, but illegal. Any company paying their female workers less than male co-workers should be reported, either to your union or proper legal action. Wage inequality does happen, even in the current year, but it should not just be accepted as fact. Fast food joints like KFC have been doing this for a long time, full well knowing their underage employees probably don’t know about their rights as a worker, but that doesn’t mean this is the norm.

There is a real gender pay gap, but it doesn’t exist in the way you think it does. When comparing average earnings, many studies and statistics only show “average job earnings” in total across all jobs for women and men. For example, comparing a male computer analyst or surgeon to a female childcare worker or hairdresser is not comparable. These are totally different jobs, and while hairdressers and childcare workers do not earn enough, comparing them to higher-level jobs like STEM fields is just manipulating data to suit your biases.

Even if these stats do talk about the same job title for the same pay, they do not include many important facts. First of all, they skew the meaning of “full-time”. Secondly, even though there are more women in the workforce than ever, they are still predominantly caregivers and child-rearers. This means many women have to organize their work around their family, and not the other way around. Unfortunate as it is, businesses do not generally care if you have a family to raise. They care about profit, and if you can only work certain hours, and certain days of the week (especially in fields which rely on weekend work, such as retail), you will be seen as a liability and thus receive less hours of work. To big business, good workers don’t have a work/life balance.

Many businesses are trying to change this assumption, and care more about their workers, but it is definitely the minority. There are more female caregivers than male, which means more women work part-time and casually. For women who work full-time, maternity leave will weaken a woman’s pay load significantly. This is why it’s great news to hear of many places adopting paternity leave, as there are many men who wish to take time off to look after their newborn, but are unable to with current laws in place. The introduction of paternity leave is excellent, and will do a lot in narrowing the gender pay gap.

The main problem: Feminists do not truly care about stopping the gender pay gap, regardless of how it is defined and interpreted. On the eighth of March, #ADayWithoutAWoman occurred, which coincided with International Women’s Day:

A half-empty workforce doesn’t sound very efficient. That’s the driving force behind A Day Without a Woman, which also happens to be International Women’s Day.

The same people who spearheaded the Women’s March on Washington are now encouraging women to skip work and underscore their importance to the professional world. It’s yet another instance of women rallying for their rights, but anyone can show solidarity by taking the day off, wearing red or not shopping unless it’s at small, women- and minority-owned businesses.

Doesn’t #ADayWithoutAWoman lead to more of a gender pay gap? This is a day’s worth of pay lost, and day’s worth of pay is a lot to most. Many workplaces, especially for casual workers (of which many are women), do not have annual leave, which means they are not paid for this day off to protest. This means it ignores the many lower socioeconomic workers who simply cannot afford to take a day off just to run around with a pink hat and complain about the Oompa Loompa in the Oval Office.

In order to fix the alleged gender pay gap, we must stop pretending what we believe it is, just to furiously rant on Twitter. In most First World countries, it is illegal to pay women less than men for the same work. If there is a gender pay gap, it comes from women generally being more interested in fields which pay less. STEM fields are dominated by men because more men are interested in those, just like the education sector is dominated by women because more women are interested in that. While there are male teachers, just like there are female scientists, they do not make up the majority. People should not be forced into fields they do not care for just to fit a gender quota.

Focus instead on gaining higher living wages for teachers and childcare workers, who are doing incredibly important work. Focus on helping mothers gain long-term employment. Focus more on helping big businesses understand mothers, and to work around their needs. Help men understand it’s okay for them to look after the kids as well. Most importantly, stop studying Gender Studies. If you’re complaining about the pay gap and lack of women in STEM and higher-paying fields, but you study Gender Studies, YOU’RE the problem.

The gender pay gap exists, but not in the way you think it does.