Here is one argument about what causes the pay gap between men and women. Men do what they have to do, even if the job is dirty, even if the work is hard, even if it means missing their son’s school play. Women choose cleaner jobs in a more pleasant environment, jobs that don’t require as much physical labor, and make room in their schedules for their son’s school play.
Therefore, women earn less.
“Women and men make 25 different work-life decisions,” says Dr. Warren Farrell, the author of “Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth About the Wage Gap, and What Women Can Do About it”.
“Each of those decisions leads to men earning more money and women leading a more balanced life.”
That is not a bad thing, he says. Since a balanced life, and time for family and friends, is worth more than high pay, “men have more to learn from women than women from men.”
That is, unless you are divorced, and have to support a family on one salary – yours!
In that case, Farrell has tips for FWW on traveling what he calls the “toll road” to better pay.
One goal for a divorced woman with children, he said, is keeping your ex in the picture. “The more he’s involved, up to 50 percent, the better the children do, academically, socially, in terms of physical health, educationally,” Farrell says.
If the father shares child rearing 50 percent, that will free a woman to be more active in the workplace. And, he says, “men who are involved with their children are 92 percent more likely to pay their child support.”
Then you will have to decide how seriously you want the big paycheck. Will you work in a field outside of your interests? Will you work overtime? Would you be willing to relocate? Will you work on commission instead of salary? To move out of social work and into sales? In some place that’s dirty?
Sometimes, it doesn’t mean working harder, it means taking risks and working smarter.
“Your job is to figure out what your personality is, and what is the gain and loss at each decision,” Farrell tells us.
The first toll to be paid is your training or education. If you haven’t yet gone to college, you may be able to choose the right field now, if earning money is the main idea. That means engineering, and not Comp Lit.
Remember, Farrell says, “When you follow your bliss, it’s the money you’ll miss.”
If you are already finished with college and, say, working as a kindergarten teacher, chances are you’d have a hard time becoming a nuclear physicist.
If you’ve always wanted a chance to be an artist, you probably won’t be able to get someone to pay you to do that.
So what do you do? If you’re single, you can work even harder now as that kindergarten teacher, take on extra work, so you can follow your dreams. It may take a decade, but if you go to school at night and during the summers, and if you’re smart enough, you can get a degree, or a certificate, in something more lucrative.
If your children are grown, and you’ve always wanted to be an artist, work 30 percent more now every year, save that 30 percent and, in three years, treat yourself to a year of painting and living like an artist. (Warning: Stock cans of beans when they are on sale.)
If you’re single, or have built in child care (hello, Mom!) positions that involve travel tend to pay very well. A traveling nurse, taking short-term jobs, can make $25 to $35 an hour, plus a living supplement. “Then,” Farrell said, “you are in a wonderful position to be a consultant. You’ve been at six or seven hospitals, which is better than being at one hospital.”
OK, so there are young children and you can’t travel. But you can always choose more lucrative work. Women are particularly good at sales. “They have good verbal skills,” Farrell says. “Men want to buy from women. A man would rather have a woman in his office than another man.”
Going around to different offices and selling laboratory equipment may not sound fascinating, but earning good money makes it possible to do more in the rest of your life: send the kids to a better school, pay off credit cards, take real vacations, buy a new car.
Consider another line of work, he says. The health care industry has a huge number of assistants to nurses, to physical therapists. “Go to the local hospital,” he says, “and ask to be taken on a tour through the hospital. Look at all the things being done, and then ask about the assistants’ positions.”
Behind every professional, the radiologists, the technicians, the physical therapists – there are well-paid assistants. “It takes minimal training,” he says. “And there’s a wonderful atmosphere around intelligent people, some of them male doctors.”
Dental hygienists make around $30 an hour; it’s a two-year degree, and a licensing exam.
Women should also think about things that used to require pure strength. Forty years ago, a postman had to carry a giant satchel. Now the satchel is on wheels, or the mail carrier drives a small van. And more and more women are becoming carriers.
Farrell also notes that jobs in the steel industry are now available to women. “A lot of the work used to be physical, and now it’s microchips,” he said.
When other ideas fail, try working your way up. If you’re a waitress, become a hostess. And once you are a hostess, become a manager.
And you want bigger tips? “The worse they treat you, the nicer you should be to them,” he says. “They know they are behaving badly. If you treat them with consideration, they will be grateful.”
Finally, you can consider becoming a consultant or an entrepreneur. But don’t go into doing something everybody else does, like housekeeping or catering.
“Those are high exhaustion positions,” Farrell says. “The more that people have learned to do something for free, the less likely you will be paid well to do it for them.”
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