Why I'm Proud to Make 78 Cents on a Man's Dollar

Ah, the wage gap. It seems inescapable these days, with everyone from Patricia Arquette demanding fair pay for women during her Oscar acceptance speech to California lawmakers steamrolling a Fair Pay Act through the state congress this week. Because it's apparently not fair that women make about 78 cents for every dollar a man makes.

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You know what? I'm OK with that -- proud of it, even. Because it means that I was able to make choices for my family that have lead to a better work-life balance.

It's become so acknowledged that the 78 cents on the dollar thing has more to do with family and career choices than anything else that advocates for equal pay are having a hard time denying it. Actor Matt McGorry (How to Get Away With Murder) recently penned an opinion piece acknowledging the discrepancy. He wrote:

And then there's any number of other arguments including that men are doing more work, getting higher levels of education in higher paying fields, don't take off for maternity leave, are generally more aggressive in their careers, or any number of other things that people might say to justify the wage gap. The problem with that is that in an enormous amount of cases, women are less likely to be given an equal shot at their careers as men are.

Huh. I never realized I wasn't given an equal shot as my brothers to become a Wall Street exec, or a litigator, or a surgeon, or any other high-earning, male-dominated career.

According to McGorry, when I showed leadership skills in elementary school, I was told I was "bossy," and was discouraged from such antics. He continued, "By limiting girls and women with our own ignorant misconceptions, we are preventing them from having the greatest possible chance to succeed in their careers (and in life generally)."

More from The Stir: Women Don't Need a Fair Pay Act

I bet McGorry would be fascinated to know that I dreamed of becoming a lawyer one day. My parents practiced law together, so I had a strong female example in my mom (my dad did not charge their clients more for his services than my mom did for hers, just in case you were wondering). My initial major in college was political science, and I had every intention of attending a top-tier law school after graduation.

Halfway through, I changed my mind because I did the math (I'm very good at math too -- yes, girls can be proud of being good at math, shocking as the thought may be), and figured that I would probably have to work ten solid years or more at a firm to pay off all the student debt I'd have to take on. I could've decided to go for it, but I knew that I wanted children in my 20s, and didn't want to have to work 10-12 hour days to keep my corporate job.

It just wasn't worth it to me. It was my choice, and one that I'm proud to this day that I made. Of course I make less money as a writer than I would have as an attorney, but I got something priceless in return -- I got to be home with both of my babies.

Yes, there are more families then ever these days where the dad stays home and the mom is the breadwinner, but it's still far from the norm. The fact of the matter is that women are more likely to prioritize family and quality of life over their careers. And that's OK. It just means we're going to make less money in general.

Do you think women are discouraged from making as much money as men?

 

Image via ©Ryan Etter/Ikon Images/Corbis

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