Saturday, May 22, 2010

Men-Women Equality

An issue which has been visited and revisited countless of times in the past. It has come to a stage where one can be ridiculed for the mere suggestion against WOMEN=MEN. But today, I will be brave—I'm putting my head on the chopping board—I'm saying it here now, that women does not "equal" men!

I'm OK with equal rights for women in terms of access to education, voting rights for elections to choose the governments etc, even to become leaders of nations. But in the job markets, women generally do not measure up to men—far from it.

Women demand to be treated equally as their male counterparts at the workplace. They want, if possible, to hold high positions (even higher than their male counterparts in some cases), earn equally high salaries etc as the men. Gender discrimination is in fact illegal in some countries!

The popular argument for equality is that if women can perform the same quality of work, at the same level of productivity, and bring in the same kind of revenues and hence profits etc for the company, why shouldn't they deserve the same rewards and benefits?

Generally speaking, women take more sick leave than men. Maybe that's because they are the weaker sex, I don't know. In many cases they are also restricted in what they can do. They are not so flexible in, say, going outstation for work. Some jobs may also require field inspections, which not all women can do for safety reasons.

A chance conversation with a friend about the current proposal to extend the (paid) maternity leave for women up to 90 days. As far as I know, this was only for the government sector, not the private sector. But apparently there are plans to influence the private companies to adopt the same benefits for their women employees. We all know that it is usually more expensive to hire temporary replacement staff while the permanent staff is on a long maternity leave.

I have been asked the question several times in the past, and my answer has always been the same. It is not really about gender discrimination, which I myself am against. It's about equality! Yes, equality! Since women demand for equality, that's exactly what they get!

At the end of the day, it boils down to productivity. If a woman and a man both have the same qualification and same experience for the job, the woman usually earns slightly lesser because she is apt to take more sick leave, has the added benefits of 90 days (paid) maternity leave, likelier to have terrible mood swings which would have an impact on her colleagues etc. It is in that sense that the woman is less productive for the company when compared to the man. Gender aside, companies are established to make profits. If a company can make RM1,000 profit per RM100 cost of a male employee, why would it spend RM150 for a female employee to make the same profit? Does that not amount to inequality?

And let me say it here—if it turns out that the man (as opposed to the woman) is the one who takes a (paid) leave for a period of 3 months for whatever reason, I would see to it that he earns lesser than the woman! That is the true meaning of equality.

Having said all those, however, I must admit that some women can perform very well in their jobs. In fact so well to the extent that even after allowing for the (possible) sick leave and maternity leave etc, they are still worth more than the men who hardly go on leave! In other words, these women are still more productive, having taken all the factors into account, and thus deserve higher salaries and positions than their male counterparts.


Sarah Elizabeth said...

Because women are generally the main caretakers of their families, they take more sick time than men because it is not only themselves they need to take off for but also their kids. In some cases even for their husbands also. So I think the real question is: Should women be punished for this and for the fact that they are the ones who get pregnant; by making less money than a man for the same job? Equality is not about sameness, it is about fairness.

This inequality in pay because women and men are NOT the same, is why many women choose not to have children or to prolong having a family, because they know if they do they will suffer careerwise, for those exact same reasons you mention.

So, the equality you speak of is actually the opposite of equal because we are not the same. In Japan women are abandoning the idea of family so they can be treated the same at work, and not suffer the consequences a young woman must face when following her career.

I think the exact opposite of equality is occuring. We are being punished in our careers because we are different from men. We are resented by men for our differences, and paid less because we are thought of as a bad investment for the company.

Cornelius said...


Just finished my long run, came home and nice cold shower. Am so hungry now, but before I go out for brunch, I wanna respond to your comments first.

"So I think the real question is: Should women be punished for this and for the fact that they are the ones who get pregnant; by making less money than a man for the same job?"

I don't think it is about punishment, really. Rather, it is about reality. As I said, most companies are profit-motivated, and most of them would want to maximize profits. There is no basis to pay the same amount of money to 2 service providers if one of them provides several months' lesser services in a year.

I am a firm believer of fairness too, but in this case, I feel fairness should come from within the household, not from the employers. Because the employers are already fair by paying according to what their employees can produce. Whatever happens in the homes, that is not really the employers' concern. It means the men will have to be the ones who provide for the family. If the women can supplement the incomes, that is fine, if not, then the men shoulder the burden of putting 3 square meals on the table while the women organize the homes. That is sharing responsibilities and that is fairness.

I have said it in the first paragraph above, and I'm saying it again here, women and men are not the same. But I'm not saying that women are not playing important roles in the household. In fact they are important!

I honestly do not resent women "for [y]our differences". And not all women are "bad investments" to the companies. Some of them perform very well and earn more than men, even after allowing for all those disadvantages.

Sarah Elizabeth said...

I do agree that men and women traditionally have different roles that help make for a healthy home, but the reality these days is that a dual income is almost needed for most families to become or maintain middleclass status. Essentially, I think job discrimination is wrong, which is what this boils down to. I know you are very practical minded but sometimes it's not that easy. We can't just tell women maintain the home or deal with getting paid less, we should be supporting women and fighting employers for accountability and an end to gender discrimination. That is fairness, and it is not about women taking the man's role, it is about both partners needing to work to maintain a decent income. and what about single women who have no man to depend on? The job is going to pay them less also, is that fair?

Cornelius said...


I doubt that we will come to a consensus on this matter, but it's an interesting discussion anyway!

Imagine a man working in a company and brings in a revenue of, say, $10,000 per month, i.e. $120,000 per annum. In return the company pays him a salary of, say $1,000 per month, i.e. $12,000 per annum.

Now imagine that he has a colleague - a woman having the same qualification and same experience in the job. And she, too, can bring in $10,000 revenue per month. But because she's unable to work for 3 months that year, she only gets to bring in $90,000, yet she earns the same, i.e. $12,000 per annum.

I suppose the woman would be very happy. But do you think the man who works many more days in a year, and brings in $30,000 more in revenues for the company, yet earns to same as his female colleague, would be happy? Is that arrangement fair for him?

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Right now, at least in America, a woman who takes pregnancy leave is unpaid (at least in most jobs I have ever heard of). because of this, she will take her entire vacation time (paid leave) in order to have a child. When her vacation time runs out, she comes back.

The example you give once again boils down to resentment and jealousy by men because women get pregnant and have babies. Paying a woman less for this biological fact is wrong.

We are being punished for our differences.

In many societies this has led to women not marrying until they are much older, so they can establish their career, and not having children at all, or having them at an older age...(I believe the age is mid thirties presently).

I guess in the world you present to me, the solution for women would be the one I just mentioned above.

Cornelius said...

"The example you give once again boils down to resentment and jealousy by men because women get pregnant and have babies. Paying a woman less for this biological fact is wrong."

If you see it as some sort of resentment and jealousy, there is nothing more I can say. In the real world, companies pay employees who can produce. The more the employees can produce, the more they are paid. That's the general idea. And I can't see anything wrong with that too.

That "biological fact" you speak of has an impact on productivity for the companies. Other people have numerous "biological disadvantages" too. Some are born with down syndrome; some are born with deformed legs and have to spend their lives in the wheelchair. But otherwise, they can be productive too - just that they may not be as productive as those with fully-functional bodies.

What you're asking for is that companies should pay equally to those women who produce less for the companies because of "biological fact", same as those born with other biological facts" such as down syndrome.

Yes, that is one possible solution, i.e. women marrying late and delaying having kids. My wife delayed having kids until 10 years after we're married. That's what happens when women have very high priorities for their careers. And there is nothing wrong with that.

The other solution is the one I've mentioned above, i.e. that women handle the household, and the men earn the money. That does not make women less significant than men, but most modern women would feel "small" if they're not earning the money. They want the pride of earning for the family too, when actually the responsibility of organising the household is a big thing!

I have a friend who's a doctor. His wife is a brilliant woman. She was amongst the top students in her class. She has a university degree. But she's dedicating her life to bringing up her children and organising the household while her husband earns the money. That is a kind of sharing responsibilities. I can't see why it can't work well.

unsettledsoul said...

I totally think it can work well to go the traditional way, and I don't see anything wrong with us fulfilling those roles. They have been around forever because they work, when one is in a healthy marriage at least.

I understand where you are coming from, it is logical and based solely on facts, not consideration of possibly creating a more just society.

I accept that point of view, I just think we can do better. Don't you want a more just society for JJ when she becomes a woman?

Cornelius said...

"...consideration of possibly creating a more just society.

I'd like to think that I am just in my dealings too. But when talking about justice, it must be for everyone, not only looking from the point of view of women alone.

There is no question that I want the best for my own daughter, but only to the extent of not depriving justice to others. I don't think I would demand that my daughter is paid the same as others who produce more than her on grounds that my daughter has a "biological disadvantage", unless of course if my daughter can produce more in spite of her so-call disadvantage.

Incidentally, you might also be interested to read this opinion.