Are We Focusing Too Much on Gender Discrimination?

In an article for Forbes, scholar Andrew Biggs highlights a recent study on the gender differences in Ph.D. graduates. As the chart below shows, women hold a majority of Ph.D.’s in the humanities, while men hold them in the areas of math and science.

As Biggs goes on to explain, such differences are just one of many reasons why the alleged gender pay gap is simply not true. Although it often looks like women are short-changed in pay, those discrepancies are driven by women who choose jobs and areas of study that naturally pay less, that provide greater flexibility, and offer less risk.

For anyone who has delved into the issue of the gender pay gap even a little, these issues are nothing new. What is new and insightful, however, is Biggs’ assessment of the vitriol which surrounds the gender pay gap. Biggs concludes:

“Is there gender discrimination in the labor market, in academic and elsewhere? Sure, and it’s wrong and should be punished. I’m not sympathetic to that at all. But an inordinate focus on potential discrimination is neither healthy nor helpful. It’s not healthy, because it causes women to view men as oppressors and men to view women as a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Truer words were never spoken. Although we are supposed to be living in an age of greater gender equality than has been known in recent history, it seems we have never had greater animosity between the sexes as we do now.

As a member of the female sex, I understand the great desire women have to be treated equally in their professions and their pay. But at the same time, Biggs’ words cause me to wonder: Has the female demand for equality escalated to such a piercing and unpleasant emotional pitch that it is destroying the gains accomplished by women of previous generations?

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