The gender wage gap is still an issue. I used to think that battle had been won. I was wrong. I thought men and women being treated unequally in the work force was a thing of the past. My grandparent’s generation took care of that, right? My great grandma (born in 1920) had to fight the board of education to be allowed to finish high school because she got married at 15. She became the first married woman to graduate high school in Metcalfe County, Kentucky. When my grandma (born 1944) was younger the pay for jobs were openly and acceptably different wages for men and women. It’s 2018. We women have all the same rights as men. We can vote, own property, marry who we want, divorce if we want, pursue education without restraints, apply to any job, join the military, and basically do whatever we want. I thought equality had been fully attained. Studies have shown that when men and women are compared in the same career field with the same education and same experience level they do make the same when you count it down to the hour. Men do make more throughout the year, but they also work more hours than women. I thought closing the gender wage gap had victoriously been accomplished. Yay!
Wait. Within the same career field things have drastically improved. Have you looked at jobs lately in career fields that are predominantly female? With the exception of nursing (and maybe a few other careers), every female career field makes poverty wages. Even jobs that require bachelor’s degrees and sometimes even master’s degrees aren’t even paying a living wage. Social work, child care, teaching, entry level health care, clerical work, and the list could go on. I’ve seen multiple jobs in my area that require a bachelor’s degree and only pay $11-$14 an hour. Only when it’s “women’s work” are workers so undervalued. You can be an educated, hard working woman who can’t afford to live on her own with low wages and high student debt. There are people with degrees still living with their parents because they can’t afford to live on their own. The cost of college is a blog for another day. Meanwhile, male dominated career fields are paying a living wage even on an entry level that requires no education. As a single woman, this is a problem. I spent 4 years getting a degree thinking that would get me out of poverty only to wade through job ads that required degrees and paid $12 an hour. Combine low wages with student loan payments every month and these college educated women are financially no better off than McDonald’s workers. If you have to add in the expense of child care, you may not even be profiting anything. Isn’t that insane? I’ve always been drawn to nurturing and caregiving roles that are female dominated career fields. I’ve wished many times I could have a passion for a male career field so I could make real money.
Then I became a small business owner. I have repeatedly experienced firsthand people expecting self-employed females to be free or ridiculously cheap because they know we’re passionate about what we do. Are we only entitled to pay if we hate our jobs? I regularly – and I do mean regularly – have men talk down to me like I’m just playing around. Oh, you have a little business? Oh, that’s nice. When are you going to get a real job? We are not seen the same. When a man has a work-from-home business he is praised and admired for his ambition and hard work to provide for his family and improve the community. When a woman has a work-from-home job she must be an unemployed mom with a hobby. If we price our services the same as men doing the same thing, we are scoffed at. We have to be firm with our prices and then be regarded as a bitch for not backing down. I constantly have people ask me if they can have one of my books for free. You realize I pay for them, right? You realize I spend years writing a book. For bonus points, I choose to have them printed in America thus making it a fully American product. If you don’t find them worth the retail price, you don’t get one. That’s how that works. If you don’t find something worth paying the price for, you don’t get to have it. Welcome to adulting. I literally have total strangers contact me and ask for free book coaching. I mean seriously, do you actually expect me to spend months or over a year of my life teaching you how to write a book and publish it for you when you’re not willing to pay me? Get real!
As soon as I became a doula, I realized this disparity is far more severe in the career field of birth work.
You know, career field.
Worthy of pay kind of work
Birth work is beautiful and amazing, but it’s still a hard job that takes a lot of effort. It’s far harder than a lot of other jobs. It requires much more skill than fast food. Yet it makes lower wages. What is that about? Doulas are expected to be free or super cheap. Birth photographers are expected to be cheap despite the major amount of hours put in and the on-call nature of the job. People don’t want to pay for childbirth educators because they don’t value what they do. That’s what it comes down to. Society does not value what is traditionally women’s work. Even women don’t value the women that serve them. That is a huge problem.
Here’s another problem. Women who work hard to offer these services and products don’t value themselves. They make excuses to not be paid fair wages. Somebody can’t afford their service (which is a luxury service, not a human right). They’re trying to help somebody. They’re passionate about what they do. They enjoy their career. They’re afraid people won’t be willing to pay them if they raise their prices. I hear these things all the time. When the female small business owner doesn’t declare her worth, nobody else will either.
STOP giving in to the undervaluing of women’s work. Stop declaring doula work or photography or indie educators to be worth less than a living wage. In all honesty, this line of work is worth far more than just enough money to scrape by. If you are a doula, charge your worth. If you are a birth photographer, you deserve to charge more than a wedding photographer. If you are an educator, declare that your time is valuable. Society isn’t going to hand you fair wages and tell you how much they appreciate you. It’s up to the women running the businesses to shout from the rooftops that their work has value. Our generation needs to fight to close this gap.
Change your prices.
Charge your worth without fear or apology.
Accept nothing less.
Close the gap.
Be the change.
Let our future daughters and granddaughters come into these careers without drowning in poverty to do so. They deserve better.
It's the same for Homebirth Midwifery. Midwives have huge expenses to help keep a pregnancy normal yet are expected to put their lives on hold, not spend as much time with their families, and charge a low fee for what they spend more than they earn to be able to do, because it's a calling. It's also food on the table for my own children, time I need to be a mother myself when a quick look in a book will answer the 2am question, clothing for my growing kids and a roof over our head.
So true. I hear people say all the time that they can't afford a hospital birth and "Well, I'll contact some home birth midwives and see if they will barter" Sure. If by barter you mean buying groceries and writing the check to pay their bills until it's covered the cost of their fee. The gender wage gap bothers me a lot, but this extra insult to birthworkers who work so hard to take care of people really bothers me highly.
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