(A person stands in space, hands on hips.)
Text: When the gender wage gap is brought up, a common response is:
Person: Of course there’s a gap! Women keep picking jobs that don’t pay well!
Text: There’s two misunderstandings with this way of thinking.
(A descending graph shows the dollar amount each demographic earns compared to a white man’s dollar. Asian American women earn $0.87, White women earn $0.78, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women earn $0.66, Black women earn $0.64, Indigenous and Alaska Native women earn $0.60, and Latina women earn $0.53.)
Text: First of all, the wage gap already controls for differences in career. For people doing the same exact job to the exact same standards, white men still get paid significantly more than white women or women of color.
(A field of cubicles fills the panels, split through the middle by a wall. One half of the field is entirely pink.)
Text: Secondly, women aren’t in lesser paying jobs by their own fault, but rather as part of social and institutional oppression. To better explain that second point, let’s explore the whats, whys, and hows of gender segregation in the workplace.
(A wall is filled with frames and plaques, like an Employee of the Month wall. Faces smile from inside the picture frames.)
Text: Look at the workplaces around you. Do you see people of all kinds mingling together? Are your coworkers very different from you, or do they look similar? Who do you see when you go to a restaurant, a car repair garage, a school, or a police station?
(Several women and men are present in a line, each wearing the uniform of the occupation that is represented by the caption next to them.)
Text: Whether or not we deny its existence, our society has strong concepts of what is “men’s work” and what is “women’s work” (completely ignoring non-binary people), and those ideas are reinforced in a million small ways, resulting in statistics like these:
74% of K-12 teachers are women. 80% of software engineers are men. 88% of police officers are men. 90% of receptionists are women. 71% of waitstaff are women. 79% of chefs are men.
In nearly all cases, jobs that are dominated by women have lower wages, less benefits, less schedule stability, and less job security.
(Overlapping images of a traditional 50s housewife cheerily dusting, a young girl pushing a stroller with a baby doll sitting in it, and a flight attendant smiling and waving.)
Text: The reason for this is because these jobs are often considered “women’s work,” that is, jobs that involve communicating and nurturing. The necessary and valuable skills behind these jobs are difficult to conceive, because for generations they were the duties of housewives, done independently in households without formal training or wages. Because of that invisibility, jobs considered “women’s work” are considered less valuable because women are “naturally inclined” rather than skilled and hard working.
(A barista smiles while addressing a customer, who is complaining aggressively about a mistake with a drink and demanding a replacement. In the barista’s mind, she is screaming in frustration.)
Text: The emotional work that goes into female-dominated jobs is also invisible. Women are seen as naturally friendly and caring, when really the energy spent trying to meet the needs of so many customers, many of whom are aggressive or demeaning, is enormous.
(Image of a neurotypical woman and a mentally ill/neurodiverse woman looking at the same tall pile of dirt. The neurotypical woman has a shovel, but the mentally ill/neurodiverse woman has only a spoon [a reference to the popular metaphor of spoons as a measurement for the energy a neurodiverse person has]. Both women look concerned by the amount of dirt they have to shovel, but the mentally ill/neurodiverse woman is understandably even more worried.)
Text: This doubly disadvantages neurodiverse and/or mentally ill women, as they have even less mental and emotional energy to spend, but are expected to meet those same standards, which are high even for the neurotypical and mentally healthy.
(The popular male and female bathroom icons stand next to each other, arrows indicating a cycle between them.)
Text: The ideas of “men’s work” and “women’s work” is the most apparent in the times in our history when the dominant gender in a field has changed, whether purposefully or as part of the subconscious flow of society.
(A teacher addresses a class in the front of a traditional schoolhouse.)
Text: During the Industrial Revolution in the United States, it was becoming clear that an educated population was needed for the growing need of workers in cities. As public schools became more popular, so did female teachers. There were even campaigns to hire more women as teachers, citing both their natural skills with children and their money-saving lower wages.
(Women dressed in late 1960s clothing stand together looking over their coding notes in front of the reels of an old computer.)
Text: A very well-known “boy’s club,” the software engineering industry, started as women’s work. In the 1960s and 70s, software design was seen to involve no more skill than typing. As such, women were frequently hired to do the labor. Many women learned how to program on the job before courses were available in universities. Once it was understood how essential software was to computers, software engineering not only became the billion-dollar-industry we know today, but it also became male-dominated.
(A smiling female vet gently checks the vitals of a happily panting dog.)
Text: Changes are happening today in the field of veterinary care. Over the past few decades, the job shifted from being male-dominated to being female-dominated. With it, our view of the job shifted as well. Now, ideas of veterinary care have moved away from the skill of medicine involved to the nurturing of animals (almost like children).
(A set of scales sits in the middle of the panel, surrounded by tiny people-shaped weights. There are weights on both ends of the scale, but one has more than the other. The scale tips.)
Text: Through all of these examples, not only are the raw numbers shifted, but how society views these occupations and those doing them change as well. This affects everyone, including the women who may or may not be entering the work forces deemed appropriate for their gender.
(A small girl in a fluffy dress is lifted up and away from where she was inspecting a beetle.)
Text: The psychology involved in career decisions, like all gender roles, is extremely subtle and shows up in a million little ways. These ways include what someone was or wasn’t encouraged to learn as a child,
(The same girl, a little older, watches a television show, the main character flirting with a female bar tender.)
Text: What kinds of representation they encountered in their worlds around them (including media),
(A little older again, the girl sits in class, waiting with her hand up to be helped while the teacher explains the assignment to the boy sitting next to the girl.)
Text: what kinds of mentorship they received in every stage of their lives,
(This panel is completely blank, except for the caption in the middle.)
Text: and where they found only silence.
(A woman of color looks worryingly down at a test booklet, pencil poised over the demographics section.)
Studies on stereotype threat show that if a subject is reminded of their marginalized gender or race before a test, they will perform significantly worse (as is expected of the stereotypes of their gender or race). Clearly, one’s internalized oppression is difficult to kick.
(Women crowd together on an upper floor, while the last woman crawls through the hole in the floor/ceiling. However, as the last woman notices, all the men previously on the floor have all escaped, taking their money with them.)
Text: Yet, even if women somehow managed to successfully push through sexism to the point of becoming a significant portion of formerly male-dominated workforces, all they would then witness would be the social and financial devaluing of that job as it became known as “women’s work.”
(Various women and feminine people cluster together happily, each wearing the uniforms of their profession, which include both female and male-dominated fields.)
Text: So no, it’s not the job of women to get better jobs if they want better pay. Instead, it’s the job of society to value working women and women’s work equally by giving equal opportunity, equal pay and equal benefits.