The gender pay gap actually is because of discrimination, according to yet another study

For whatever reason, debate over whether or not the gender wage gap exists (it does) persists, and yet even among those who do acknowledge it, it’s often condescendingly dismissed as the result of women refusing to take initiative and ask for raises and promotions. After all, it’s perfectly understandable for any employee who doesn’t feel respected in her place of work to not feel comfortable doing so. But one new study from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Warwick and Cass Business School in the U.K. is calling bullshit on this analysis of the wage gap, revealing men and women ask for raises at the same rate — the only difference is that it’s the men who are getting them. So, there you have it: discrimination is more responsible for the gender wage gap than anything else.

Researchers looked at 4,600 Australian workers across more than 800 employers and found “no difference” in the likelihood of female and male employees in similar lines of work negotiating raises or promotions. They noted that these findings starkly contradicted the pervasive tendency to “[place] some of the responsibility for the existence of gender differentials upon female employees and the choices they make,” rather than acknowledge “structural bias.” And, sure, the study looked at Australian workplaces, but there is literally not one country in the world where women make as much as men (patriarchy? what patriarchy?), and rationalizations for this phenomenon all advance similar, victim-blaming stances.

Naturally, I’m not under any illusion that the gender wage gap can be so sweepingly simplified. So many factors contribute to why it exists, and yet, broken down, all can at least indirectly be traced to sexism. For example, even if it were the case that women were asking for advancement and higher pay at lower rates than their male counterparts, let’s just take a moment to consider why that might be before sweepingly blaming women.

Let’s consider how girls are raised to not be “bossy,” where boys are raised to be leaders; let’s consider how merely asking for equality and to not be treated as sex objects results in female feminists constantly being cast as whiny, overly sensitive, and, of course, asking for too much; and, most relevant to this aspect of the wage gap, as actress Jennifer Lawrence pointed out last year, our culture stigmatizes and even punishes women who have the guts to ask for more and negotiate, where it encourages men to. Not only that, but study after study in workplaces across the nation reveal the ostracism female employees who try to negotiate higher wages and promotions face.

I have little doubt that many wage gap-deniers will look at the study’s findings and point out the fairness of denying women, who will most likely go on to have children and be the sole family caretaker, promotions and wages. Let’s ignore, for a moment, how determining who gets promotions and wages based on gendered generalizations of what a woman of a certain age is going to do with her body instead of performance is cold, hard discrimination. The real issue here is that paid maternity leave for women, but not family leave for fathers, reinforces the sexist assumption that women will be the sole caretakers of children while having children will change nothing in a man’s life, rendering women vulnerable to lose opportunities for advancement while men won’t.

In 38 percent of households with heterosexual parents, women are the sole breadwinners, but cultural expectations about women and maternity leave are literally costing women advancement in their careers. Specifically, one by Cornell University’s Economics Department revealed women were 8 percent less likely to be promoted after a law protecting women’s rights to maternity leave and flexible hours post-birth was passed in 2013. This closely reflects new research that shows men and women earn promotions at strikingly different rates when they reach their 30s.

Another primary rationalization for the wage gap is the fact that the 79-cent statistic by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is skewed by gender gaps in high-paying fields dominated by men. Not even touching on the objective facts that our culture pressures boys and girls to have different interests, and adding onto that, young boys typically have no shortage of role models in high-paying lines of work to look to, even among generally high-paying STEM professions, there still exists a roughly 31 percent gender pay gap.

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CREDIT: iStock

Obviously, STEM is a broad field that includes everything from medicine to engineering, and women in STEM tend to work in lower paying jobs related to biology, but if anything, this only highlights an overarching problem with sexism: feminized lines of work are devalued, and as a result of being perceived as lighter and easier, their pay suffers dramatically. Really, there’s no shortage of studies I could cite here. Additionally, in the nursing field alone, even when women outnumber men 10:1, the average salary of male nurses is still $10,000 more than the average salary of female nurses.

Even in female-dominated fields, the men still make far more. And back to that lovely study on the gender wage gap in STEM, Ohio State University researchers found that women working in lower-paying STEM jobs only explained 20 percent of that 31 percent gap, and 11 percent of it was really just — you guessed it! — sexism.

According to one 2007 study by the Stanford Center on Inequality and Poverty, across every field of work, even when factors such as education and experience are accounted for, about 40 percent of the roughly 20 percent wage gap exists. So, all things considered, the median income of American women is still a little more than 8 percent less than the median income of American men, and now that that 8 percent can no longer be brushed off as women failing to take initiative, it’s time for society to finally, finally acknowledge that discrimination is, indeed, a thing.