4 of the Biggest Myths About the Gender Pay Gap At this rate, the pay gap will not close for 200 years.

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The existence of the gender pay gap is a well-documented fact. Respected institutions from the Pew Research Center to the Senate Joint Economic Committee confirm that American women make about 77 cents to the average man’s dollar. For women of color, the disparity is even steeper. Yet conservatives and anti-feminists insist the research is flawed or that it ignores social factors separating men and women. At the current rate at which women’s pay is improving, the World Economic Forum says it will take 200 years to close the gender pay gap worldwide.
This makes it more urgent than ever that we debunk myths about the falsity of the gender pay gap. Here are four of the most common.

1. Myth: Women choose lower-paying work.

Anti-feminists and academic contrarians like to make the case that women are to blame for receiving lower pay because they freely choose lower-paying work. Breitbart likes to push this idea to appease its feminist-hating audience, with headlines like “Data Reveals Women Overwhelmingly Choose Lower-Paying College Majors.” In fact, studies have shown that many women avoid careers in finance and technology that typically pay more because they’ve been socialized to believe that women can’t excel in the sciences or because they lack female role models in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Some women even choose majority-female fields to avoid discrimination and sexual harassment in male-dominated workplaces, which the #MeToo movement has shown us still runs rampant.

Christina Hoff Sommers, a controversial scholar and critic of feminism (whom the Southern Poverty Law Center called out earlier this month for emboldening and legitimizing men’s rights groups) advocated this very argument in 2016 for Time. Feminists, in her view, falsely claim that:

“women’s tendency to retreat from the workplace to raise children or to enter fields like early childhood education and psychology, rather than better paying professions like petroleum engineering, is evidence of continued social coercion. Here is the problem: American women are among the best informed and most self-determining human beings in the world. To say that they are manipulated into their life choices by forces beyond their control is divorced from reality and demeaning, to boot.”

Sommers refers to the well-established fact that even today, women still enter lower-paying fields, as a recent Glassdoor study shows that college majors that lead to lower-paying careers are female-dominated, while those that have more male students, like engineering, lead to high-paying jobs. According to Sommers’ line of thought, a woman should choose engineering over nursing, since she could make more money in that career path. She worries about “self-determination,” but doesn’t it limit a woman’s autonomy to suggest she choose a job path just because it is higher-paying, rather than one she is more passionate about? A better solution, many feminists have argued in response, would be to pay nurses, teachers and other largely female workers more money, rather than pressure more women to opt into certain careers just because they pay more.

Women don’t choose certain jobs because they pay less. On the contrary, historical trends show that as more women entered previously male-dominated fields, average salaries dropped in those jobs. As the Harvard Business Review explains, that’s because the jobs became less prestigious as they became female-d

ominated:

“Researchers have found that the pay gap is not as simple as women being pushed into lower-paying jobs. In effect, it is the other way around: Certain jobs pay less because women take them. Wages in biology and design were higher when the fields were predominantly male; as more women became biologists and designers, pay dropped. The opposite happened in computing, where early programmers were female. Today, that field is one of the most predominantly male — and one of the highest paying.”

Sommers’ argument is also white-centric, ignoring the fact that poor women of color often do not have the same information or access to options that white women do. It is not “demeaning,” as she says, to assert that such women’s career choices are limited by their circumstances. It’s just the reality of American poverty.

2. Myth: Women choose to work fewer hours and select more part-time work than men do.

This argument has appeared in mainstream outlets such as Forbes, but it only tells part of the story of women’s employment in the U.S.

While it’s true that 31 percent of women work part-time compared to 18 percent of men, this can be largely attributed to the fact that the U.S. still lacks federally mandated family leave, unlike countries like Canada, Germany and the U.K. Without this job protection or flexibility, many women must choose part-time work over full-time. In many households, men are able to earn higher salaries than women, so lots of couples still choose to have the woman remain at home with the children while men go to work. According to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center, “more than half of the respondents thought children were better off if the mother stayed home” while “34 percent believed they’d be as well off if she worked. Only 8 percent said they’d be better off if the father stayed home.” This commonly held belief isn’t based in fact—stay-at-home-dads can raise kids just as successfully as stay-at-home-moms. In many families, these parenting gender biases and financial factors mean that women still sacrifice their careers to raise children.

3. Myth: Women choose jobs with flexibility over high pay so they can care for families.

Heejung Chung, a sociologist at the University of Kent who studies gender pay gap myths, investigated this subject last year. She found that, despite the popularity of telecommuting and remote work, this myth does not reflect the reality of most workplaces in 2018. The jobs women generally choose often do not provide the flexibility some economists think they prioritize over higher pay. Chung writes in Slate: “working in female-dominated workplaces such as care work, primary education, or places where the work tends to be largely clerical meant you were only half as likely to have access to flexitime compared to other workplaces.”

4. Myth: More women are getting college degrees than men, so the gap will close on its own.

Not true. As explained above, existing sexist social pressures will mean that women will continue to choose college majors that lead to lower-paying jobs. As the Washington Post explains, though the pay gap between younger and more educated men and women is narrower than for older Americans, male college graduates in their 20s still earn more than women the same age.

Credit: The Washington Post

Just because women today have more autonomy in decision-making when it comes to their careers than previous generations doesn’t mean we’ve finished our work in evening out the playing field. As long as male-dominated careers are seen as more prestigious; as long as girls are not encouraged to pursue higher-paying fields early on in life; and as long as working full-time as a mom continues to be a taboo, women will continue to wind up in jobs that pay less.

By Liz Posner/AlterNet

Posted by the NON-Conformist

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5 Big Myths Sold by the Defenders of Capitalism Our dominant economic system causes too many Americans too much pain.

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I’ve been writing about the economic and environmental realities of marginalized communities for some time, primarily from the perspective of positive systems that are growing to support disenfranchised people. Many of these alternative economic networks, such as barter and time trade, are born out of necessity. As I explore these economies and some of the new ways communities are fostering and investing in health and growth, I am increasingly met by the same arguments against them—and every single one of these arguments is a myth. Capitalism is, at its core, an entrenched system of addiction, whose very root is the greed of over-consumption, whether it’s food, sex, money, mouse clicks, or property.

Here are five myths people continue to promote that we’ll all be better off without.

1. Myth: Jobs Will Save Us!

Permits to pollute and tax breaks are just two of the things corporations receive when they promise jobs to local populations. In a city like Detroit, which has struggled for decades with unemployment and economic decay, oil companies, real estate moguls and sports teams have all offered jobs in exchange for getting something big in return. At the end of the day, the promised jobs aren’t necessarily fulfilled. The rich get richer while the poor fund corporate projects, die from corporate pollution or end up on welfare because they never got the jobs promised in the first place.

Yet politicians love to promise jobs—Trump ran on a jobs platform. But there’s a problem with that: People are infantilized to the point of not being able to support themselves or their families any other way but having a job. It creates a paternalistic mentality that everyone needs a big corporation to take care of them.

If you could hunt, fish, grow your own food, build your own house and have your own clean water source, would you really need a job to go to every day? Today, the basics of sustenance are heavily regulated and placed out of reach, even for the indigenous societies that relied on their way of life for thousands of years.

In our society, jobs are important. How else does one pay for gas, electricity, water, sewerage, and internet? And certainly there are lots of amazing jobs that support society that we absolutely do need. But when a politician pledges to bring jobs back to coal country, and the masses applaud and the coastal elites sneer when the jobs go undelivered, we have a problem.

The truth is, jobs will not save coal country. But what can save the people and places with mass numbers of unemployed are new systems that build people up rather than breaking them down: Educating people to be be self-sufficient and contribute to community and offset taxes would be a better use of taxpayer dollars than a new arena or factories polluting with impunity.

What we need aren’t jobs, but opportunities to identify what we can contribute to our communities, and learn and develop those skills to the best of our abilities, not just for our communities, but for ourselves and our families. A job that a machine can do isn’t the future. The future is in developing human potential. Every minute and dollar spent on the jobs myth is a minute wasted and stolen from that much-needed development.

2. Myth: Brand Loyalty Over Small Businesses

You know it when you see it: Nike, Adidas, Apple, Polo. People identify by the logos they wear, and they’ll pay top dollar for that logo. But why pay top dollar to advertise a company you have no connection to? Brands should pay you for your loyalty, but unless you’re Instafamous, they don’t. For the hundreds you spend on a label, you could pay a local tailor or seamstress to make something tailored just for you. Retail doesn’t want you to do that, but why not give it a try? You might be surprised to find what replacing brand loyalty with real-world community loyalty can bring you.

3. Myth: Trickledown Economics Works

We’ve been talking about this issue as long as I can remember, and it still doesn’t work. Just because the rich received a special tax break that will make them exponentially richer does not mean they will spend any money on you, or contribute anything healthy or beneficial to any community other than their own. Isn’t that what “A Christmas Carol” was all about? That the only way the wealthy will ever share their wealth is if they are terrorized by ghosts? Believing in the benevolent goodness of the super-rich is one of the most perverse things we do in the U.S., and perhaps it’s rooted in the myth that you, too, can one day be wealthy.

4. Myth: Pull Yourself up by Your Bootstraps

The myth that if you just work hard enough you will one day be rich is a pervasive idea in the United States. This myth relies on the absence of inherited wealth and ignores the grievous injustices often committed in creating that wealth, and denies racism, marginalization and generational disenfranchisement. Yet people continue to preach it as gospel. The exceptions are held up as rules, without a close examination of how those folks got to where they are. No one in this world makes it to the top alone, and the lower one is on the ladder, the harder it is to get to the top—especially when the structure is the ladder of capitalism. Make the system a jungle gym, and have the community work together to navigate it, and see how much more successful and happy everyone can be.

5. Myth: Everyone Is Free in a Capitalist Society

In an age of clicks, sponsored content and fake news, it’s sometimes hard to tell capitalism from freedom. After all, capitalism is marketed to you every day as freedom, on television, social media and even NPR. But capitalism doesn’t equate freedom. Look at the prison industrial complex or the number of people going to debtors prison for unaffordable and unpaid civil infractions. Look at the nearly 20,000 households in Detroit that had their water shut off just this year as a result of unpaid water bills. Look at the homelessness created by bad mortgages from which lenders continue to profit. Capitalism in each of these cases isn’t promoting freedom, but robbing freedom from millions of Americans who could, in another time and under a humane system of economic governance, might prosper in communities they are able to contribute to and benefit from.

Capitalism is fueled by many more myths than just these. But these five might be nice places to start disassembling the dominant economic system that is causing too many Americans pain.

By Valerie Vande Panne / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

“Drugs Aren’t the Problem”: Neuroscientist Carl Hart on Brain Science & Myths About Addiction

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Image: Democracy Now

As we continue our conversation on the nationwide shift toward liberalizing drug laws, we are joined by the groundbreaking neuropsychopharmacologist Dr. Carl Hart. He is the first tenured African-American professor in the sciences at Columbia University, where he is an associate professor in the psychology and psychiatry departments. He is also a member of the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse and a research scientist in the Division of Substance Abuse at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. However, long before he entered the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, Hart gained firsthand knowledge about drug usage while growing up in one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods. He recently wrote a memoir titled “High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society.” In the book, he recalls his journey of self-discovery, how he escaped a life of crime and drugs and avoided becoming one of the crack addicts he now studies.

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