Erika Rudzis at Verily points out that the wage gap between men and women is smaller than is usually reported. Many women choose to work fewer hours in lower-paying jobs and so bring home less pay. But does that mean women are worth less?
Women may choose lower-income professions based on how they have prioritized their commitments, not necessarily because of outside discrimination. This perspective concerning the wage gap is often overlooked and suggests that perhaps we need a more holistic method of measuring success than income.
We all have to make choices about how we balance out lives and many high-powered careers are so demanding that those who want to excel are forced to sacrifice in other areas of their lives. But treating income as the primary measure of women’s achievement perpetuates a narrow and superficial definition of success.
After all, studies have shown that earnings beyond a comfortable middle-class standard have diminishing returns on happiness. Rudzis points out that a choosing a career is not just choosing a pay level; it’s choosing a lifestyle.
Some women may choose a less demanding and monetarily rewarding career path for the sake of the freedom to invest time in their relationships with family, serve their community, or pursue other passions, even less lucrative ones.
A woman who makes a rational decision to prioritize a fulfilling life over achieving a certain income level is not undermining women’s advancement; she is exercising her freedom to determine what is right for her circumstances. Our society, men included, could learn from her choice.