First, I had to remind myself that it was not April Fool's day. This was an actual story I was hearing on NPR. You may understand my surprise if you listen to the story yourself. "Why Women (Like Me) Choose Lower-Paying Jobs" by Lisa Chow aired yesterday (I heard it in the early morning). [note: be sure to listen to the actual story--the written transcript online has been edited]. It opens with Chow recounting her conversation with an economist who told her that "women are making a lot of bad decisions" "they are choosing the wrong majors" and "even when they chose the right majors, they don't take advantage of it." She indicates that women are overrepresented in the "wrong" majors that result in low paying jobs, like arts, the humanities and psychology (hey-wait a second!) and are underrepresented in the "right" areas like engineering. She further argued that even when women choose a "good" major they don't always go into a high paying job. She gave the example that many women who major in math go on to become teachers (as though it should be obvious to the listener that teaching is a terrible profession). Chow even used herself as an example. She shared that she got an undergraduate degree in math and an MBA but chose to become a reporter. She laments the supposedly $3million she "left on the table" with this occupational decision. To be honest, I am more concerned about the decisions she made in reporting this story. It seemed to me that her punchline was "silly, stupid women are just making bad choices." Let me be clear, she never directly called women stupid. But she sure implied it.
Ok. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised by the way this story was told. But I was. And, I am fed up.
It appears that this story was prompted by a recent report released by Georgetown University about the economic value of particular majors. Chow was particularly focused on gender differences in the individuals majoring in these areas. I agree that there is an important story here. And that we should be asking some questions about these findings.
But, I propose that we start with a different premise. How about we stop calling women stupid? Let's stop assuming that they are "just making bad choices" or "opting out" or not "leaning in" enough. Let's stop blaming women for problems that are much deeper and more complex.
Here are some questions reporters could be asking:
Why are we paying engineers more money than teachers, child care providers and counselors?
Why are we (predominantly) measuring the value of work by how much money a person makes?
Why is there a wage gap between women and men in the United States?
Why are more women than men in the USA expected to balance work/career demands with doing the majority of the childcare and household responsibilities?
Why don't we have better family friendly policies (paid maternal and paternal leave, flexible work schedules, sick leave, onsite childcare, etc.)?
Why don't we have a minimum wage that is a living wage?
Why do people expect girls and women to tolerate harassment and unfair treatment in male dominated fields?
I could go on, but I think you get the point. Some people are asking these questions and working on finding out answers. I would like to see more reporters like Chow asking these tough questions and looking for real solutions.
But what do I know, I am not a reporter. I am "just" a Psychologist.
EMPOWERTAINMENT aims to take a critical look at media in regards to how gender and women/girls are portrayed. From popular articles, videos, and websites, to original submissions, we want to not only examine the media and its relation to gender, but help shift it.