What Does Gender Equality Mean, Anyway?

What Does Gender Equality Mean, Anyway?

As a financial publication for women, we're almost tired of hearing about the gender gap--otherwise known as the fact that women make as much as 12% less than men even 10 years out of college.

Well, good news for us all--recent census bureau stats tell us that it's changing. Women are about to take over the world. No, seriously.

Nowadays, more women in their 20s and 30s have bachelor’s degrees than men (7%, to be exact), not to mention that women also have higher GPAs. During the recession, women also fared better in terms of layoffs. And, although the wage gap is real, it is starting to shrink—in a few parts of the country, women are starting to out-earn men. In Atlanta, young women are earning 21% more than their male peers, and in large cities, women between the ages of 22 and 30 have been making an average of 8% more than their male counterparts.

So, is it all sunshine ahead? The picture is more complicated than it appears.

Although women are outpacing men in certain respects, old-school biases still hold us back. Two of the big reasons for the pay discrepancy between men and women are:

  1. Women are statistically less likely to negotiate pay raises (read here for our advice on how to do it).
  2. Women are much likelier to leave the workforce or cut back their hours in order to raise families.

So, if reducing the pay gap requires conquering those two obstacles (in addition to eliminating the sexism that does, in fact, persist in some workplaces), women need to get better at arguing for their own worth (which we are all for) and need to...rethink having families? Hmm. That seems less plausible.

Women Are Making Gains, But...?

These stats speak of women who are better educated than their male counterparts but don't necessarily have much more to show for it.

Although we have a younger generation of women who are now more educated than their male peers, only 15 of 500 Fortune 500 CEOs are female. And while women did ride out the recession better than men, men are landing most of the new jobs created by the recovery.

To us, these stats speak of women who are better educated than their male counterparts but don't necessarily have much more to show for it.

Looking Past Nice Platitudes

The reality is that major professional success usually comes with long hours and, especially at larger companies, is often equated with inflexible work-life balance. As far as we can tell, something's gotta give in order to have it all--for now, our best hope lies with businesses with warm corporate cultures that acknowledge life outside the office. But those aren't exactly a dime a dozen. The New York Times recently covered an organization of powerful women supporting other women professionally (with a shout-out to our CEO Alexa), but we're still yearning for a clear road map to a world in which a woman can easily be both Mom and CEO.

Does The Rise Of Women Turn Men Into Boys?

As an interesting aside, one controversial essay in The Wall Street Journal argues that women’s success—and the fact that they often delay family life in order to achieve that success—has inspired men to turn into “guys,” or Seth Rogen-ites who play videogames all day and lack basic competitive drive. The author argues that women’s emergence as intellectual equals (and, sometimes, as betters) and the redefinition of gender and family roles has made men feel unnecessary. In her words, “Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway…They might as well just have another beer.”

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TELL US: So, what's the solution? How does the positive trend of women's increased education and earnings affect the realities of our work-life choices and male-female partnership dynamics?

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