The Gender Pay Gap

The question of pay equity, obscured by Mitt Romney’s “binders of women” remark in the presidential candidates’ debate this fall, remains critical to American families—two-parent and female-headed households alike. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) analysis of the gender wage gap by occupation, despite progress since the 1970s, the median wage for women employed full time in 2010 was only 81% male full time worker, a gap of 19%.  Not surprisingly, for Latinas, it’s 59.8% of the average white male’s pay, and for African American women, 69.6%. (The gap is considerably smaller within these groups.)

The gender pay gap exists at all levels.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010 data, women earn more than men in only 4 of the 111 occupations for which there is enough data to calculate gender pay comparisons. And these include jobs that keep you barely above the poverty line. Women on average earn less than men in the 10 occupations in which women are most commonly found. They also earn less than men in the ten occupations that pay the most and the ten that pay the least.

Liberal feminists have claimed that gender discrimination is irrational. Socialist feminists respond that, like racial and ethnic discrimination, it’s entirely rational.  It generates larger profits by way of super-exploitation. It reinforces divisions among workers.  And, the policies and gender norms that contribute to the gender pay gap also privatize, on the backs primarily of women, care of nonworkers (children, the elderly, the disabled or ill).

What are the causes of the gender pay gap? Is it inevitable? A glance at other countries shows us that no, the gap is not inevitable.  The 2009 pay gap comparison of 26 developed economies by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) places the OCED-26 average at about 16 percentage points. (That is, the average female earns about 84% compared to the average male.) Korea is worst, at about 38%; the U.S. is at about 19% (larger than the OECD average) and Hungary is best at 4%.

Neoliberals claim that the cause of the gender pay gap is not discrimination but rather women’s choices. Christina Hoff Sommers so argued in 2010 in the New York Times. Her evidence? A study published by the Department of Labor, conducted by CONSAD Research Corporation, that concluded, “The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.” Sounds devastating—except that this was the Bush Department of Labor contracting with CONSAD, whose other clients include conservative Christian James Dobson’s Family Research Council, the Business Roundtable, and the Global Climate Coalition, which opposes legislation to limit greenhouse gases. Perhaps we should explore a bit further.

The causes are multiple and complex.

IWPR finds that actual discrimination in hiring, pay, and promotion exists, despite being illegal. Legal avenues are being foreclosed as the judicial system, from the Supreme Court down, makes it harder to file and win class-action suits.

A second factor is the gender segregation of the labor force. Forty one per cent of women work in female-dominated occupations, compared with 49% of men working in male-dominated occupations. (“Dominated” here means at least 75% of workers are female or male, respectively.) “Pink collar” jobs, in the past and now, tend to pay less than traditional male jobs; hence, opening “male” jobs to women is one strategy for lessening the pay gap.

Third, the neoliberal explanation of “choice” begs the question of how/why people make choices. For example, entrance into more lucrative fields of math, science, and engineering requires math skills. Girls, even girls in school systems that have good math teachers, often are turned off to math (by peer pressure, by teachers with sexist assumptions, by parents with conservative gender values).

Fourth, women often “choose” to have children or care for elderly parents. When women drop out of the labor force to bearing and raise children, they typically suffer consequences in terms of career progression and retirement/Social Security benefits, not just a few years’ earnings. Whether it results from hormonal or biological predispositions or internalized gender norms, this “choice” is made in the absence of publicly funded social supports for family. The impact of our privatization of care falls disproportionately on women.

Enforcing laws against sex discrimination is not enough to dismantle to gender pay gap. Until all workers earn a living wage and the U.S. adopts policies and gender expectations that enable women and men to care for families (publicly funded health care, paid family leave for men and women, flexible work schedules, child care, elder care), the pay gap will continue.

Returning to the OECD statistics, it is not by accident that Norway’s gap is about 8% compared to the U.S.’s 19%. While it has not eliminated gender inequity, Norway promotes social democratic policies that the U.S. should emulate—substantial paid maternity and paternity leave being just the start.

Grassroots Fundraising: Paying for the Revolution (9pm Eastern)

June 23, 2017
· 46 rsvps

Are you new to socialist organizing? Or after many years do you still struggle, raising money from members when you need it but without a steady flow of income or budget to plan ahead? Are you afraid to tackle fundraising because it seems so daunting or you are uncomfortable asking people for money?

In this webinar, you will learn why fundraising is organizing, and how to do it – face to face, through fundraising events, and other ideas.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.


  • Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

Training Details:

  1. Workshops are free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have preferably headphones or else speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt
  5. If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt 608-355-6568.
  6. Participation requires that you register at least 21 hours in advance -- by midnight Thursday for Friday's webinar.

NOTE: This training is scheduled for 9:00pm Eastern Time (8pm Central, 7pm Mountain, 6pm Pacific, 5 pm Alaska, 3 pm Hawaii).

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

June 27, 2017
· 68 rsvps

Join DSA activist Judith Gardiner to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 9 pm ET, 8 pm CT, 7 pm MT, 6 pm PT.

Data Security for DSA Members

June 27, 2017

Ack! I googled myself and didn't like what I found!

WHAT: A DSA Webinar about "Doxing"

We're proud of our organizing, and chapter work is transparent for both political and practical reasons. However, there are basic precautions you can take in this time of rapid DSA growth to protect your privacy.

Key Wiki is a website that meticulously documents DSA activity and posts it for the world to see. If you're an active DSA member, likely your name is on their website. This is an example of "doxing".

As DSA becomes larger, more visible, and more powerful, we might expect that more websites like this will pop up, and more of our members' information might be posted publicly on the web.

Join a live webinar on Tuesday, June 27 with data security expert Alison Macrina, to learn:

  1. what is doxing? with examples and ways to prevent it
  2. how to keep your passwords strong and your data secure
  3. where to find your personal info on the internet and how to get it removed
  4. social media best practices for DSA organizers
  5. what to do if you've already been doxed

Zoom Link:

Call-in Info: +1 408 638 0968
Meeting ID: 917 327 6528

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 8 rsvps


Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.