So, You’re OK with Your Wife Making 20% Less Because She’s a Woman?

Original Photo by  Fabian Blank  on  Unsplash

Original Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

Seriously guys? What if it's your wife making less than a guy who’s as good as she is? Or your mom? Your sister? Or, your dear female friend? You're really ok with women making 20% less than men?

How does that honestly sit with you? Or, are you fine in silence, so long as you don't lose the increase you were due, that would have paid your female cohort the same as you, like you both deserve?

You see, it's really easy to gloss over the inequity when you think about it in the abstract: Women earn 80% of what men earn. I love Simon Sinek’s discussions on abstraction (Leaders Eat Last). When it’s about numbers instead of people, we lose our humanity. Thinking about it, the emotional distance we create in abstraction allows us to feel less bad about the situation. And with that, it’s easier for us to insert discounting rationales for why we as an individual deserve more: I must be better, she’s not assertive enough, blah, blah, blah. We men blissfully go on working making more than, and side-by-side with our female counterparts. That’s f*<ked up.

Our work environments’ effects upon our neurobiology aren’t helping things either. That lizard brain of ours works very hard to preserve our sustenance (paychecks). Just think about getting a reduction in your salary, and then, check your pulse. Yeah, you just got a cortisol spike. Stay there for more than 5 minutes, and your oxytocin and serotonin levels, well, drop to about nil. It doesn’t take long in the worry of an individual plight for a paycheck, before we go all Smeagol (selfish and greedy) on things. That’s because much of our work environment is designed and focused upon us in individual responsibility, versus tribal, as a group watching out for each other against the threats of the outside world. This triggers a basic human behavior, the less we connect with our coworkers in a struggle, the less we care for them during it. We’re in fight/flight to attain economic safety for ourselves first, and often, at the expense of our coworkers. You've watched Survivor, right? We fear the sabretooth dollar-sign as he bites our necks. 

Transparency with Heart Helps Our Consciences to Solve This

Photo by  Sean Brown  on  Unsplash

Photo by Sean Brown on Unsplash

Transparency makes that much more difficult because what you can see closes that emotional distance of abstraction, on the personal, economic and tribal side of things.

  1. Get Transparent with the Personal Details: That’s why I opened with the question, “What if your wife was making 20% less?” Your wife is not a number. Her complaints, expressed or silent, about making less for the same work isn’t abstract for you. You care about her personally and she contributes to your sustaining economy. It's personal.

    Seeing personal details triggers empathy. Hey men, it’s your choice to see your spouses, relatives, or good female friends, in the unjust situation that you are part of. Oh, and that you’re probably benefiting from.

  2. Get Transparent with People’s Pay: It’s pretty hard to ignore disparity in full view. Martin Luther King Jr. had it right when he said, “unearned suffering is redemptive,” that is, if you’re returning love for evil. You’re sitting right next to each other, and now an unjust economy is visible.

    “There was no reason why a black person and white person shouldn’t sit next to each other at the diner in equality. Likewise, there’s no reason that a blue person and pink person shouldn’t sit in desks next to each other in economic equality.”

    Maybe we need a #MeToo about male and female salaries? Normally, guilt is a bad thing, rather useless. However, when you sit in the desk next to your female counterpart and you're making thousands more a year for similar work and output, your conscience should be punching you in the face. And, you should support a change to do something about it. I’ve been there. My lizard brain was screaming, "but what about 34 months from now!" Yeah, it sucked to not get as large a raise as my female counterparts, but that money was used to create more equitable pay. And, after my lizard brain got over the shock, I found myself valuing my company even more. Long-term benefit: we worked harder, smarter and better together.

  3. Get Transparent with Corporate Financials for your Employees: Yeah, this call to action's probably freaking some out. Just consider the following, please. When everybody sees their economy in full view with and within the company’s economy, then their emotional perspective can be tribal and individual. Whenever there is a gap in knowing (this applies to corporate financials too), we fill it with the worst-case scenarios of doom and gloom, fear. We are biologically designed this way for survival. It’s why we don’t walk off a cliff to find out that that was a bad choice.

    When we see our financial sustenance within the company’s financial situation, we remove the unknown fear and, we get the ability to care and have empathy about our coworker’s economy alongside our own. We no longer define the threat as the desk next to me, rather, it’s outside the fence of the organization. Believe me the threat outside his way higher than the desk next to you. It's just not in your focus. The more actively we engage with the transparency of company's financial health, a.k.a. fighting the enemy outside the walls, the less we fight each other inside them. We respond to our focus. Now the desk next to me is my partner in fighting the sabretooth dollar outside the walls. When a female is in that desk, I want her focus on the sabretooth outside, not the unjustifiable pay disparity between us.

Transparency brings the economic injustice of paying women 20% less into the human perspective where our conscience can address it. Showing personal details, pay levels and corporate financials, makes it harder for men to blissfully get 20% more money for the same work as women in the abstraction. Here, we can “continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive," (MLK Jr.).

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you found this article helpful, please share it. I’d really appreciate that.

Have a great day and keep making our work world a better, more productive and happier place. Paul