The Corner

Economy & Business

The New York Times Faces Facts About the Gender Pay Gap

Despite decades of indoctrination and career-worship, there are many millions of parents who will desperately want to either stay home with their children or spend as much time as possible with them even as they pursue a career. Despite decades of specifically feminist indoctrination and career-worship, women will disproportionately want to make that choice. They find full-time mothering (or most-time mothering and part-time jobbing) to be far more fulfilling and meaningful than any career – even the most high-achieving jobs in law, medicine, and the marketplace.

This is only a problem if you’re one of those zealots who believes that immersing yourself in a career is the highest and best use of every human on the planet, regardless of their preferences and talents. If you’re not one of those zealots, then you realize – as a matter of common sense – that leaving the workforce has economic consequences. You also realize that choosing jobs with fewer hours and fewer demands also has economic consequences. And if you’re honest, you tell that truth.

This weekend, the New York Times published a blast of refreshing honesty — a piece called “The Gender Pay Gap Is Largely Because of Motherhood.” It begins:

When men and women finish school and start working, they’re paid pretty much equally. But a gender pay gap soon appears, and it grows significantly over the next two decades.

So what changes? The answer can be found by looking at when the pay gap widens most sharply. It’s the late 20s to mid-30s, according to two new studies — in other words, when many women have children. Unmarried women without children continue to earn closer to what men do.

And why is this?

The big reason that having children, and even marrying in the first place, hurts women’s pay relative to men’s is that the division of labor at home is still unequal, even when both spouses work full time. That’s especially truefor college-educated women in high-earning occupations: Children are particularly damaging to their careers.

I love the use of negative language like “damaging.” I don’t know a single mom who decided to stay home with their child who said, “I’ve decided to damage or destroy my career.” Instead, they proclaim overwhelming love for their child and a sense of gratitude at having the choice (along with a sense of sorrow that many other women don’t have the financial resources to stay home.)

The cult of the career is very strong within modern feminism – as if every woman is inches away from becoming chair of the English department but for their tyrannical husband making them clean toilets. In reality, women are often choosing between staying home with a child they absolutely adore and a returning to a grueling job they don’t love. For this very reason many women want their husband to be the breadwinner and make marriage and relationship decisions accordingly.

Moreover, when comparing men and women, it’s pretty plain that women often form a different kind of bond with their children in part because they have a different kind of experience. At the risk of being transphobic, I’d just note that men don’t carry or birth children, and they’re notoriously bad breastfeeders. I’ve known many professional women who were simply shocked at the level of love they felt for their child and contemplated career changes they once mocked and derided. This isn’t a problem, it’s a healthy blessing of freedom of choice.

Modern feminism is less concerned with giving women a choice than in telling them which choices to make. But if the choice they’re selling is cubicle over child, that’s a choice many millions of women will never make.