Recently, I walked into a local wine establishment to do some Christmas shopping. Every year I give both my stockbroker and his female assistant a fancy bottle of wine. This year, I’d decided on a white bubbly. In the old days, I’d have called it champagne, but that makes France unhappy. The manager understood what I meant, in any case, and brought forward a California wine. The vintage had recently won a prestigious award I’d never heard of, which explained why it was pricey. Seeing my eyebrows leap toward my hairline, the proprietor was quick with a suggestion. “You could give the best wine to your broker, he offered, “and buy something less expensive for the assistant.”
My nose crinkled at the thought. “To be honest,” I told him, “the assistant does most of the work.” As it was Christmas, a time of generosity and good will, I decided to buy a bottle of the expensive wine for each.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by the wine merchant’s suggestion that I buy the man a better bottle of wine than the woman. Discrimination against women is rampant in the world. Why should gift giving be any different? Nonetheless. I was taken aback by a recent study that said discrimination begins, not in the workplace, but in the home. Research shows boys earn more for household chores than girls, for example. (“Unequal Pay: Early Start…” The Week, November 23, 2018, pg. 33.) Equally dismaying is that when a girls asks to have her allowance raised, she’s 50% less likely to be successful than a boy.
A girls’ first job outside the home isn’t much different. Girls are likely to earn money as babysitters. Boys turn odd jobs that involve physical labor and therefore pay more. From there, the disparity between wages and the sexes grows. Today, women take home 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. Highly paid professionals aren’t exempt. Female doctors and surgeons earn 71% of the wages paid to men in the same profession. (Ibid. pg. 33.)
Since women have learned to value their work less from an early age, they fail to recognize that they sometimes discriminate against themselves. Female founders of companies, for example, tend to pay themselves a lower compensation than do their male counterparts.
Over the years, this financial inequality takes its toll. Because they earn less, women, who represent two-thirds of the national college debt, will take longer to pay off those loans. That debt prevents them from saving more, thus they will set less aside for retirement. Since women, on average, live longer than men, their likely fate is to be poor when they are old.
Now that I realize these statistics, I’ll probably return to the wine merchant to buy a second bottle of bubbly for my broker’s assistant.