The following article was first published on the helium.com writers website.
You can view some of my other articles here.
The original piece was very US centric with American business bias and as I am writing from a British perspective I looked at the topic slightly differently.
Should US companies be required to provide equal pay to women and men?
When reading the title question I felt compelled to write a response.
First of all, should this topic be purely aimed at US companies when this is actually a humanitarian issue that affects every person on the planet? Secondly, there needs to be some context as to what equal pay actually means between the sexes.
At the most basic level we are all human beings – we were created the same way and we were born the same way. Our genders are really of no importance unless you really want to define roles right now as to who has what job in the creation of future generations.
Where does this perception that men should be paid more come from anyway?
Throughout history men have been assumed to be physically stronger, that they protect the family by defending their territory and earn the family keep in whatever form that takes. However, it should be noted that the women play an equally important role which also requires strength but more of character and understanding. They nurture, they teach, they prepare us for later life and this is arguably more important in our development. This is a simplistic view based on attitudes going back to pre-history but these are the fundamental rules that man/womankind has lived by.
As males have essentially led their communities they have perhaps assumed a level of importance that is perhaps not worthy of them. Both sexes have natural strengths that the other cannot compete with.
Men and women use different parts of the brain and are therefore programmed differently to perform certain skills. Males are generally more individualistic than their more sociable females for example. Another oft quoted difference is a woman’s inability to read maps but don’t tell my wife I said that!
Some of you may remember experiments being carried out in the 1970s where boys were handed toys intended for girls and vice versa. The aim was to determine whether adult roles were determined in childhood based on what was expected to happen. Culture dictated that the girl played with dolls and the boy played with the model car.
Again, this was a simplistic view and the experiment of role reversal failed. Even though we are born in the same way, the sexes are fundamentally different but that is no reason to discriminate one from the other.
If we take all this as a benchmark where every human is created equally and that it is fair that we all paid the same for the same job, we move to the second part of the argument:
A person should be paid based on how well they perform and not purely based on job title.
This is the key point in actual fact. If a man and woman are paid differently, even if they have the same job, it must only be for performance reasons. If this based on real, measurable and agreed standards, there is no reason to argue in differences of pay so long as it is done fairly.
It would be tempting to say this justifies men being paid more straight off but in fact the reverse is true. Give both sexes a level playing field and let each show the other what they can do.