Thigh gap, orgasm gap, gender pay gap - do we women* only have to deal with gaps in our lives? As if we didn't already have enough to do (eye roll and deep sigh)! For example, I'm constantly trying to fill the gaps in my memory - my "memory gaps" - which are caused by too little sleep: a well-known side effect of living with small children. Thigh gaps, on the other hand, concern me less if you absolutely have to have one: just stand with your legs apart and there it is. Life can be so easy! Unfortunately, the other gaps in a woman's* life aren't quite as simple. And since I'm still impatiently waiting for a suitable day of action for the orgasm gap, which is just around the corner for the gender pay gap, let's deal with it a little more closely. So don't put away your red bags from Valentine's Day right away because the right accessory is also crucial on Equal Pay Day, which is intended to draw attention to the wage difference between women* and men*.
What is Equal Pay Day?
Equal Pay Day marks the day in the new year until which women* have to work longer to earn the same wages as men* in the previous year, so-called equal pay. Or the other way round, the day in the new year until which women* work for free because they earn less.
The idea for this day comes from the USA, where it was created in 1966 by the "National Committee on Pay Equity". The motto from back then: "Equal pay, for equal work" still applies today. Actually, one could almost speak of an act of desperation, because the activist Susan B. Anthony had already started this idea in 1868 and in the 1960s there was still no significant change. Unfortunately, this trend is continuing.
In 2008, Equal Pay Day then comes to Germany and in 2011 it takes place throughout Europe, which unfortunately does not mean that it takes place in all European countries (but only in 23), just to avoid confusion or premature jumps of joy.
Do women* really earn less than men*?
This question is as simple as it is complex. But don't be afraid: I dare to try an explanation that is so comprehensive and clear that you will be as well prepared for future discussions on the subject as some chancellor candidates are in the TV duel. However, I recommend a strong coffee or green tea (I've been told that helps too) and a glass of alcohol of your choice and/or a bar of chocolate because some of what I'm about to tell you is not for the faint of hearted.
What is the difference between the unadjusted and adjusted gender pay gap?
Let's start at the very beginning with: Once upon a time there were men* and women* in the world of work (if you're bothered by the binary gender division, I politely apologize, but this is another gap: a so-called data gap for all non-binary people). In terms of gender equality, which is theoretically guaranteed to us in Germany, as in many other countries, it makes sense to take a look: "Hey, do men* and women* actually earn the same amount?".
The unadjusted gender pay gap
All we have to do is compare what men* earn on average with what women* earn on average. No sooner said than done: the average gross hourly earnings of men* and women* are compared and the result is: men* earned an average of 22.78 euros per hour and women* in 2020 18.62 euros per hour. That is a difference of 18%, i.e. 4.18 euros. That makes us look pretty bad in an EU comparison, except for East Germany, it looks a lot better here, mmh, a reason to move?
On average, women* in Germany have to work 18% more to get the same wage and this is how the date for Equal Pay Day is calculated. Tada! But if you're thinking here now: "Didn't she say, it's going to be complex, that was super easy!", I have to disappoint you: that was the easy part. Because what I just presented was just the so-called "unadjusted pay gap". The German word for "unadjusted" is "uncleaned" and might my German speaking readers make think of mountains of dirty laundry or that the bathroom needs cleaning again, anyway, I'll give you a minute to take care of it.
The adjusted gender pay gap
Because now we come to - drum roll - "adjusted pay gap". What can it do that the unadjusted gender pay gap cannot? It takes additional factors into account, namely sectors, occupations, education, scope of employment (part-time or full-time), work experience, whether one has a managerial position or not. Because you don't want to compare apples to oranges, or an investment banker's salary to that of a teacher. This means that salary differences can certainly be justified and this should be taken into account in the adjusted gender pay gap.
The adjusted gender pay gap in Germany has remained unchanged in recent years at 6%, i.e. 1.28 euros gross hourly wage and is only recalculated every four years, most recently in 2018. Now we could all breathe a sigh of relief and think, what are 6 % or 1.28 euros? What's all the fuss about? It's not all that bad. And why don't we celebrate Equal Pay Day at the end of January?
First of all, we should note that this 6% is still problematic if there are no valid reasons for it, even if the Federal Statistical Office speaks of an upper limit here. And while it initially sounds as if the adjusted pay gap is more meaningful, and this is sometimes suggested, we need to take a closer look at the unadjusted gender pay gap. Because here we come to the core of our problem and these are structural reasons. That means reasons that are anchored in society and lead to this wage inequality. And here, as with climate change or Corona, there is the greatest potential for denial. But before we get lost in it, let's take a closer look at the current status.
Why do women* earn less than men*? Or causes of the gender pay gap
As the Federal Statistical Office tries to reassure us, women* earn less mainly because they usually:
- work in lower-wage industries,
- work part-time or in mini-jobs,
- rarely hold managerial positions,
- have more frequent career breaks.
At the same time, statistically speaking, women* are better educated. If you look at these points in this way, various questions inevitably come to mind: Why do women* make such incredibly unfavorable decisions in their lives? Couldn't they work in other industries? Work more? Make an effort to get into a management position? And take fewer "career breaks", which is just another word for "breaks"? When reading, a sarcastic undertone is difficult to convey, so I ask you to read the questions again with this same tone. Because the decisions of women* for a certain profession and the type of professional practice - by the way, likewise those of men* - do not take place in a social vacuum but are dependent on many factors. So please don't succumb to the myth of "free will" and blame everything on it.
Reasons for part-time work
But let’s address the first question: Why do women* make such incredibly unfavorable decisions when it comes to their professional careers? To do this, we need to take a closer look at their decisions. So let's take part-time work: here, the Federal Statistical Office reports that most women* cite "Caring for children or those in need of care (31%) or other family or personal obligations (17%)" as the main reason for working part-time. Now, of course, men* have these responsibilities too, but why are they so unequally divided between the sexes (after all, women* make up 79% of part-time workers)?
In the case of heterosexual couples, there is certainly the simple mathematical reason that results from the gender pay gap: it simply makes more sense that the person who works more who also earns more and that is usually the man*, especially when other tasks such as caring for children or relatives are pending. Let's be honest: very few can afford to forego income in order to act in a gender-equitable manner. In addition, there are also different expectations: Women* are more often assigned the task of looking after and caring for others, and so it is "natural" that they also take on these tasks. It is also more socially accepted than the opposite: Consider the social attitude towards househusbands* compared to housewives*, for example.
Disadvantages of part-time work
However, part-time work is disadvantageous in several respects: the hourly wage is lower than full-time work, although one could assume that the part-time person makes as much per hour as full-time work. In fact, the opposite is actually the case: people who work part-time are more productive. It is not for nothing that the call for the 4-day week or reduced weekly working hours is so great: it could be more economical and better for workers.
But part-time also makes it less likely to be promoted, this applies to collective agreements in the public sector as well as in companies: Those who work longer and more are rewarded and promoted. But if we free ourselves from this idea, then we could also imagine that someone could also be a good boss on a part-time basis. I know: crazy thought! But that's usually not the only reason why we find so few women* in management positions.
In addition, part-time work results in a tax disadvantage because the model of one main earner and one secondary earner is favored, for example, by wage and income tax and the splitting of marital property, and women*, who are usually the secondary earners, have significantly less in their bank accounts.
From the gender pay gap to the gender pension gap
And finally, with part-time work and mini or midi jobs, does anyone else find it disturbing that jobs have the same classification as skirts and dresses? - that women* slide from the gender pay gap into the gender pension gap. Yes, ladies*, poverty in old age mainly affects women* because our career breaks, also known as caring for our children or other relatives and working part-time means that we pay less into the pension fund and thus ultimately get less out of it. If those aren't all good reasons to lead a lavish lifestyle conducive to early demise, then I don't know what is, because being old AND poor doesn't sound particularly appealing.
But what about our original career choice? You could point your finger at it and see it as the origin of all evil. Women* usually choose typical female* professions that can be easily combined with children or other commitments. So why don't we go into other industries? But actually that's the wrong question. Because the actual question is almost philosophical: What determines the value of our work?
How much is your work worth?
Male* dominated occupations vs. female* dominated occupations
We have known since Corona at the latest: the "systemically relevant professions", i.e. those without which it is essential, are not at the same time the best paid, although one could intuitively assume that they are. But what then defines the value of a job and, above all, who? Because here, too, we have to realize that things are not necessarily going right. In so-called typical female* professions, such as educators, nurses* the wages are lower than in typical male* professions. This is often related to the fact that "care work" is given a lower value than physical work. Often, however, the value cannot be justified purely rationally.
The fact that the evaluation of work in gender-segregated occupations is not about the value of the work itself is particularly evident when there is a change. For example, there is a devaluation if the number of women* in a male* dominated profession increases significantly. That means the wages are getting lower and mostly also the reputation of the profession. An example of this is the profession of doctor. On the contrary, there is an appreciation of women* professions when more men* take them. Wages and reputations rise. A well-known example is the beginning of software development. Today a male* dominated profession, with good reputation and remuneration. However, this has only been the case since women* were pushed out of this profession. In fact, in the 1960s, this profession was mainly practiced by women* and today we are trying desperately to reverse this trend, but with what goal? Because these developments show why it will not solve the problem of the gender pay gap when women* "simply" change industries, since this is accompanied by a devaluation of these very professions. Here I recommend a hearty sip of alcohol or a piece of the chocolate laid out ready.
If you think: "Enough of the bad news for women*", I have to disappoint you. Because the Gender pay gap "only" measures the gap in paid work, but not in the work actually performed by men* and women*. Because most of the work that women* do is completely unpaid. And because they do this work, as we have seen, they are disadvantaged in wage labor. I also heartily recommend the Ted Talk by economist Marylin Waring, which makes us realize that although this unpaid labor makes up the bulk of the economy of many countries (in terms of hours worked), it does not show up at all in calculations of economic growth, such as gross domestic product. And in the same way, these working hours do not appear in the accounts of women*. So we might as well have been twiddling our thumbs at that time.
Why should I celebrate Equal Pay Day?
If you haven't feverishly rummaged through your closet for a red bag or looked around for Equal Pay Day events in your area, I'll make it a little palatable for you. Because the Equal Pay Day also proposes some solutions to promote equal pay, namely:
- Wage transparency: if it is not clear who earns how much and why, it is also difficult to prove inequalities.
- Upgrading of female* dominated professions: not only in perception but also through better pay.
- Encouraging women* and girls to work in MINT jobs (and training).
- Promotion of women* to reach management positions.
- Consideration of "absences" caused through caring for children or relatives and help with re-entry.
- Raising awareness of and refraining from role stereotypes, e.g., during career counseling.
Above all, however, the Equal Pay Day is committed to ensuring that women* have a say in the future shaping of professional life because this automatically promotes that the situation of women* is taken into account and thus also improved.
But ultimately it's not about women* adapting perfectly to the current situation and doing the same as men* because that doesn't work. It is often simply expected that women* are simply more self-confident in salary negotiations or promotion talks, opt for MINT professions, work full-time and return to work immediately after maternity leave, i.e. simply become more like men*. But in doing so, they would only adapt to circumstances that are not made for them, that do not take into account the reality of their lives. Besides, it's too short-sighted because the problem of unpaid work remains and I'm sure many men* don't always find the system as it is rosy either. It's about rethinking, reframing work in general and wage labor in particular. So use this day, March 7, to dream, to radically rethink things, to question everything, and best of all, give it a voice, whether virtually, on the street, or simply symbolically, in the form of a red bag.
Rather, it is about rethinking, rethinking work in general and wage labor in particular. So use this day, March 7th, to dream, to radically rethink things, to question everything and give it a voice, whether virtually, on the street or just symbolically, in the form of a red one Bag.