Re(8): women's wages

Barbara J Tavares (
Mon, 28 Dec 1998 10:21:23 -1000

Please, let's not make this a 'boys against the girls' thing.

I don't think the gender wage differential is explained in any single
reason. Resistance on the part of some employer/unions is certainly one
issue. But traditional family patterns impact far greater numbers.

Who takes maternity leave (and thus is non-income earning for a period of
time)? Who stays home with sick children? Who takes leave to care for
elderly family members or take them for medical appointments? Who stays
home to take care of children during school vacations?

Overwhelmingly it is the female spouse. These are valuable contributions
to the nuclear and extended family, but they are not calculated into the
income equation that results in figures on earnings by gender.

These patterns result in loss of earnings over the annual as well as
lifetime incomes of women. The result is lower retirement benefits
and sometimes lower social security payments.

I don't see this as a male conspiracy to subjugate women, but it does add
to the feminization of poverty at all age levels. On a personal level,
each family can work toward the solution by sharing the responsiblities
that require one to miss work, so that both partners build leave time,
retirement accounts, and personal self-sufficiency.

I will close with a family story. My sister, age 55, is as close to June
Cleaver as anyone I've ever known, and wouldn't have it any other way.
But this has come at a great expense to her and her family. The most
recent event was a broken ankle that caused her to miss four months of
work. Because she is always the partner that takes leave for family needs,
she had very little sick leave to carry her thorugh this medical
emergency. Her husband has in excess of a year's accumulated sick leave,
becasue he never uses it. The entire family lost income when her sick
leave ran out. If they had balanced their usage a little more evenly,
they would have both benefitted.

It really isn't just a "woman's" issue.
Barbara Tavares
University of Hawaii

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