A different argument for “equal wages”
I ran across some articles today about whether or not a wage gap exist between men and women. While most agree that some sort of difference in wages exists, most often favoring men, there is a lot of debate as to how big that gap is. There is also a lot of speculation as to whether or not the gap is due to sexism, working habits, or career preferences.
This Daily Beast article argues that women are more likely to choose people-oriented jobs such as social services and education. These jobs pay less than fields that men are more prominent in, like engineering and computer sciences. The article goes on to argue that pushing women towards STEM jobs isn’t effective because women just don’t seem to want those jobs.
Well, I think that because those fields are male-saturated, that most of the efforts to give interested women the resources they need to be successful in those industries are great. But sure, I would never recommend that someone who wants to do social work choose engineering instead just because it pays more.
I’d rather focus on the question of why engineering jobs pay so much more than jobs that focus on improving people’s lives.
The pattern I see in the daily beast lists that outline which careers are more male-dominant and which are more female dominant are that most of the “male” jobs are engineering focused. These jobs are most likely for big companies that can have big budgets because they’re being paid by other companies.
The majority of the “female” jobs, on the other hand, are human services oriented. These jobs are for small companies paid directly by individuals. Social workers can’t be paid 150,000 a year, because their pay comes from their clients and from whatever government supplementation exists. You can’t use government money for large wages. If you charges patients and clients more, they would be less likely to afford it, and you’d end up helping a lot less people.
Now, I know most people don’t go into human services fields for the money. But it’s also bugged me for a long time that it often seems that you can’t help people and make a decent living.
This week, an entrepreneur from nampa, the city I live in, got a lot of press for announcing that he is rolling out a $70,000 minimum wage for his 120 employees. He reduced his own wage and dedicated a large percentage of his company’s projected profits for the next three years to make this happen. He says he chose this number because he read studies that indicated that money makes a big difference in the lives of people who make less than $70,000 annually. He doesn’t want money to rule his employees’ lives, so he’s making sure they all make more than that.
I think that’s a great business move. When your employees aren’t stressed about money, they do a better job. They’re more likely to stay loyal to the company as well. I would also guess that this will make the company focus on efficiency when it comes to hiring as well, meaning that they’ll only increase their employee count when absolutely necessary. This means that management should focus on maximizing employee efficiency and minimizing unnecessary processes, overhead, and other superfluous expenses.
Now, wouldn’t it be great if social workers and teachers could focus on their jobs without stressing about money? Wouldn’t that benefit patients and students?
Well, raising tuition or patient costs isn’t the answer. And seeking government assistance often leads to more headache than benefit. I think that human-needs organizations that want to offer their patients, students, and clients the best possible services and resources, and also want to make sure their employees are well taken care of need to start looking for other streams of income.
I’m not talking fundraising. That’s not sustainable. I’m not talking advertising, as I don’t believe that commercial companies should be in the position to take advantage of services that are often for low-income individuals.
The answer will be different for every organization. But I do believe that answers are there. I think if the organizations in this situation hired one person responsible for implementing income-generating business strategies, they could start to raise their employee salaries. This could mean a new hire, or it could mean changing the job description of a current marketing person. Here are some ideas that have just popped into my head
- Assisted living facilities could create ebooks and online resources to sell. These would be useful to potential patients and families, but also to anyone interested in the issues of their general field. These can also serve as marketing documents, as if implemented correctly, they could certainly attract more clientele.
- Schools with gardening programs can work to maximize the output of their gardens (like those families who make great livings off of tiny farms.) Some of this food can be used in the school cafeteria or for educational purposes, while the rest can be sold. While some may question whether having children help in a garden that goes to raising teacher wages, I would return to the point that the idea behind these higher wages is that it benefits the students. Actually, this could be a good strategy for assisted living homes and any organization that has space that could be converted into a garden.
- Organizations can work with local artists, growers, and other business owners to produce income. This could mean creating a retail space and charging a commission. It could mean advertising- though I would always recommend only advertising businesses you truly want to support). It could mean a lot of things. Community collaboration also means community attention, so this can also have multiple benefits.
- Of course, any business looking to overhaul their salary system has to look at their entire employees structure. Is management set up efficiently, or is the organization too top-heavy? Are you employing the right amount of people? Could people be using time more efficiently? Could implementing different systems result in less employee time needed? I’m not suggesting firing people. I’m suggesting analyzing the current system and changing it so it’s efficient. If there is deadweight, cut it. If there isn’t, you still may benefit when an employee announces they’re moving on in life and you realize you don’t have to hire to replace them.
I’m not saying that the solution is simple. I’m just saying that I don’t think that caregivers and teachers should be so underpaid, whether they’re female or not. I know a lot of people that would have gone into those fields but they didn’t feel the student loans they would have to acquire would justify the money they would earn. These issues can’t be solved by relying on more government assistance, or future infrastructure change. They have to be addressed one business at a time.