“Women are weaker, are smaller and less intelligent” and should be paid less – is the gender pay gap really justifiable?

On average, women are paid 18-24% less for the same job than men; and it should not be so.


The statistics have it: as full-time workers women are paid on average only 76-82% of what men are paid for the same kind of job. The recent sexist tirade of Janusz Korwin-Mikke, a Polish MEP, about women being inferior to men and deserving smaller pay has met with an outburst of protest in Europe. But should it be so? Should the pay gap be sustained on the basis that “women are weaker, are smaller and less intelligent” just as Korwin-Mikke said in the EP? No, it should not; nobody should be paid less for the same amount of work, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or disability.

Since the end of 19th century, women have fought for equality and finally now they are able to be a real part of the public sphere: vote in  elections, apply for the same jobs as men and be reasonably paid for their work. The times of Kinder, Küche, Kirche, women’s resignation to being only housewives dealing with household chores, are now over for good. In the 21st century, women constitute a vital part of the work force around the world as, according to the UN, 61,5% of service and 13,5% of industrial workers are female and 25% of them work in agriculture. Nevertheless, after more than a century of fighting for equality, women earn less.

An average white woman will have to wait until 2059 for equal wages, and the gap for women of ethnicity different than Caucasian is significantly wider. Black women will have to wait 65 more years than white women to reach this level and Hispanic women 189 years more, which is an estimate far outreaching the life span of any average person. People’s gender does not count in a variety of jobs, just as it does not determine one’s qualifications to perform well at work. Determination, discipline, education and personal skills are elements essential for a good worker and do not depend on a given person’s gender. Women’s abilities are identical to those of men, and for the same amount of work everyone should be equally paid.

Some studies investigating the issue of gender pay gap comment upon women being disadvantaged because they are more likely to leave the job for maternity leave and it just seems more beneficial to employ male workers. These penalties of smaller salaries, not being able to compete for some occupations due to a risk of maternity leave are intertwined with further consequences on the job market for women, which are: the lesser spending power of women and the lack of retirement security. The fact is, however, that men do not have the slightest ability to give birth to children and a break from working does not affect the overall abilities of women to be a good employee. Women are just penalised for their ability to bring new lives into the world; something that is of course gender dependent, but at the same time vital for humanity as a whole.

Korwin-Mikke in his speech in the Parliament put forward three arguments why women “must earn less”, which are the following: women are weaker, smaller and less intelligent. He illustrated his speech with some anecdotal evidence that there are no women in the ranking of the 100 best chess players and that in the Polish Olympiad of Theoretical Physics a woman was ranked only as the 800th person. There are some grains of truth in his words; in the chess ranking, the first woman is ranked at the 110th position, and only 33 women hold the title of Grandmaster in chess (whereas the same title was granted to 1515 men). The same gender disparity can be seen in physics; even though there is no Olympiad of Theoretical Physics in Poland, which was a lie made up on the spot by Korwin-Mikke, only two women have won a Nobel Prize in physics. Could one infer from this evidence that women are less intelligent? Not really. The mean intelligence rate is the same for men and women, however, men are more likely to have extreme outcomes in the intelligence tests; they more frequently obtain the best and the worst results, while women tend to perform more moderately. This generally has no bearing on the job market, as in few occupations an employer would really need a person who has won a Nobel Prize in physics, but rather a person who just has enough skills to be fulfil one’s duties.

Employing a person on the basis of such variables as gender, hair-colour, ethnicity or disability and not because one has good qualifications for a certain position is plainly a senseless decision as it will not prove beneficial for the employer’s business. Given that a woman and a man have comparable education, experience and abilities, they both could be valuable workers for a company and there is no real reason that women working in the same position should earn less just because they are female. The strong-words of Korwin-Mikke about women’s earnings seem really bold, especially that he is a man who inherited a vast part of his fortune from his mother, most probably, also a woman.

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