Let’s talk about the gender wage gap. Let’s talk about how women continue to make 77 cents to every dollar made by a man in her same position. And let’s talk about this is no longer 1950 and so should no longer be a thing. We’ve all heard of it. Scientists and scholars wage endless debates over what causes it while feminists remain baffled as to why employers don’t just grow a pair (of fallopian tubes, obviously) and stop it. But regardless of whether the gender wage gap is a media nuisance or your everyday reality, worry no more: We’ve found the solution.
According to a study by the American Psychological Association, the disparity between men and women’s career choices and payroll is really just a matter of, wait for it, word choice.
The rationale? Essentialism. Supposedly, “women’s style of communication is more communal, using more emotional and social words than men’s style of speech.” So, because women are entirely communal and sentimental beings, when a job description uses words like “competitive” or “determined,” we ladies hike up our skirts and run for the hills.
The “Feminine” oriented description: "Proficient oral and written communications skills. Collaborates well in a team environment. Sensitive to clients’ needs, can develop warm client relationships."
...And the “Masculine”: "Strong communication and influencing skills. Ability to perform individually in a competitive environment. Superior ability to satisfy customers and manage company’s association with them."
Similarly, men respond more acutely to ads that avoid “soft” language, such as “team” or “proficient.” Sorry ladies, I guess the highest bar we can reach here is proficiency. (10 points to patriarchy for perpetuating this inferiority for centuries)
Although feminists may politely applaud the effort to find a solution that doesn’t blame a single party, there is a greater issue going on here. The problem isn’t that we have a disconnect between “feminine” and “masculine” language, it’s that we have a concept of gendered language at all. Labeling certain qualities as pertaining solely to men or to women limits an individual’s capacity for exploration and ultimately sets up a giant cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy. (Note: See all of history)
And that’s not even considering the exceptions: I know plenty of women for whom a “competitive” work environment would not be a deterrent as well as men who do, in fact, value relationships in the workplace.
I guess what I’m getting at is though it’s an interesting idea, the concept of gendered language falls short of explaining the gender wage gap and ultimately succeeds in promoting the same essentialist ideas it’s trying to escape. But until we find a more conclusive solution ... people, I implore you. Rather than letting subtle (or not so subtle) word choices influence your future, rearrange the puzzle to fit your competence, not your gender.