Every time you bring up the difference between what women and men are paid, people bring up the potential differences in how they work. “Oh, that’s just because women take off time to have babies” and “Men work longer hours” and so on.
Every time this issue comes up, people offer possible justifications for the gap – some of them worth investigating, others obviously born of a desperate desire to believe the status quo is just fine. One of the most thoughtful reasons I hear is that perhaps women don’t know how to negotiate their salaries most effectively, or maybe they’re just naturally too reserved to do that. First: women are not naturally quiet and non-aggressive, and men are not naturally aggressive. If you believe that, you’ve simply been conditioned all your life to ignore aggressiveness in women and ignore mousiness in men. Clear your mind, Master Yoda advises. Unlearn this bullshit you think you know.
I think women probably could do with some better education on negotiating and standing up for themselves – from birth forward. But I was taught all that, and I’m good at it, and guess how it works for me? When I’m working for good people, I’ve always been quite well-paid for the work I do – sometimes better than anyone else in the department, male or female. But when I’m forced to deal with people who are frightened by women who refuse to take bullshit (but invariably admire the same trait in a man), I couldn’t even get hired, let alone paid fairly. I don’t see how this study could factor in all the times companies tacitly refuse to hire women in certain positions (it’s not like they’re going to admit it, are they?) or refuse to hire women who don’t do the ladylike thing and take a lower salary like a good girl. On paper, it looks like we’re not doing our part. But sometimes it’s that we’re not allowed to do our part because people don’t even realize how they’re discriminating.