Earth & Conservation

How Workaholic Men Increase the Pay Gap

A large contributor to the wage gap is a gap in values between men and women.

<p>Photo: ThinkStock</p>

The pay gap is one of the most critical issues in the battle for gender equality in the United States. Women typically earn 79 percent of what men earn, and only one in five executive level positions are filled by women.

The reason for this can be easily attributed to many different societal norms like the expectation for new mothers to stay home and care for their children, while dads go back to work. However, there is also a difference in values at play here, reports The Atlantic.

A recent NYU study found that among elite college students bound for the workforce, men and women expressed very different ideals for their future jobs. In general, female students tended to favor jobs with fewer hours and the option to work part-time, while male students favored the opportunity to earn more money.

Of course there are many women who highly value earning money and men who value flexibility, but the research shows that on average the situation is more likely to be the reverse.

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These job ideals also influence a student's field of study. Those who value making money are more likely to major in business or economics (typically men). Those who place more value on flexibility and don't mind lower pay are more likely to major in the humanities (typically women). At every Ivy League school in the country, men are 50 times more likely to major in economics than women.

A Harvard Business School survey found that most of its high-achieving female graduates actually failed to meet the career goals they set for themselves prior to graduation. While many hoped to be in marriages where their career was valued as much as their husband's, more often than not, the couple ended up prioritizing the husband's career.

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However, women in the United States report being happy in their careers more often than men do. Researchers concluded this is likely because women choose jobs with fewer hours and more flexibility. Women also report being more satisfied with work than men are overall.

Wealthy American men work longer hours than most full-time middle class employees in the country, and they work longer hours than wealthy men in other countries. This tends to have an inverse relationship with their happiness. Seven of the 10 happiest countries in the world are in Europe, where the majority of people work fewer hours than Americans.

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We know the wage gap can be attributed to the values gap, but it can be difficult to pinpoint the precise cause of the values gap. It seems that women are choosing careers based on having enough flexibility to care for the family they don't yet have, and men are choosing careers based on having enough income to provide for the family they don't yet have. American men and women are essentially making career choices based on the cultural expectations of our society.

One thing in all of this is very clear: affluent American men are working any number of hours it takes to get rich, and while their wages might reflect these long work weeks, their overall happiness does not.