It’s Equal Pay Day 2019, which means we’ve been thinking a lot about the gender wage gap and how it affects women of all races and backgrounds. And while we try to assume that most people are aware of the basics about gender-based pay inequality, it turns out that a shocking number of men think the wage gap is completely made up.
A new SurveyMonkey survey of more than 8,500 Americans found that 46% of men think the gender wage gap was “made up to serve a political purpose.” Meanwhile, 38% of Americans as a whole hold this (incorrect) belief. Strangely enough, the survey notes that in addition to men, younger respondents were more likely to believe the wage gap was made up, with exactly half of millennial guys thinking that women and men are paid the same.
The statistics on pay inequality are widely available, with the U.S. Census Bureau reporting that on average, women earn about 81 cents for every dollar men earn (with most women of color making even less). So why are all these men convinced that the wage gap is a lie? When asked what might cause women to earn less than men, male respondents were more likely to say that women work fewer hours than men or are more likely to choose low-paying careers—which “explains” making less money on average. Basically, they believe pay differences are a result of personal choice rather than systemic discrimination.
Emily Martin, who oversees work related to education and workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center, explained to Time that an unwillingness to acknowledge pay discrimination could come from a desire to maintain the status quo.
It’s true that the gender wage gap is a multi-faceted issue with more than one cause, and some women might choose lower-paying jobs or work fewer hours than their male counterparts. But it’s worth considering these things as part of the wage gap. If a woman turns down a promotion because she’s responsible for a disproportionate amount of work at home, is that just a personal choice? This also ignores the fact that women make less than men in almost all occupations—including those dominated by women—as the Institute for Women’s Policy Research point out.
The wage gap is very real and has real-life consequences for women—and we need men to acknowledge it.