This one has been floating around in my head for quite some time.

Let’s see if I can tackle it, shall we? I’ll just get into the zone and let the words carry me.

Inhale … Exhale … BREATHE.

Okay … let’s take two, comparable paintings of the same genre and hang them side by side on an elegant, gallery wall. Now, look closely. One of the paintings was done by a male artist and the other was done by a comparable female artist.

Let’s say the paintings are – I don’t know – minimal abstraction for the sake of argument. The line, form, color, composition and dimensions of the paintings are virtually the same and the artists spent roughly the same amount of time and money producing them.

Now … given all of that, could you tell which painting was done by the male artist and which was done by the female artist?

More on that in a moment.

For some time, I’ve been thinking about the equal pay issue. Why don’t men and women who do the same job make the same amount of money? When all other things are equal, including ability to negotiate salary, why is there still no parity?

When you look at it in a literal sense, it doesn’t make sense … and the cents themselves just don’t add up. For some relentless reason, they don’t equate.

Why do women who do the same job as men … make less than men for doing the same job? Of course, the most likely answer is the one that’s the most obvious ...

Pay discrimination. Discrimination against women. We don’t like to talk about discrimination. We want it to go away, but it won’t because we won’t address it and not addressing it means it remains unresolved and it grows rather than diminishes.  

Denial wins … yet again.

While women continue to make huge inroads, men still hold and control much of the money and power. That’s the reality. Let’s face it. Men don’t want to give up money or power.

Greedy hands typically hold on for dear life. They do not let go … for anything or anyone. Nobody said life was fair.

But you know, I also think there’s another dynamic at work here. I think it’s about gender roles in our society. From my standpoint, this is where I think both men and women are complicit.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think that the equal pay issue will be truly ironed out until we address gender roles in our society. I think they’re deeply connected.

Let me be clear here. I’m NOT saying that men should be more like women or women should be more like men. I love the differences between men and women.

What I am saying is that I think that while we’re seeing more “stay at home” dads and more women in high positions at top firms – although not in CEO positions – there’s still a great deal of hesitance, if not pure resistance when it comes to change.

What is it?

I think in American society, we’re still struggling with these gender roles and this struggle is metastasizing into the equal pay issue. I’ve actually observed this even among our so-called, “progressive” couples. You know … marriages that involve the man who’s the “stay at home dad” while the wife brings home the bacon.

It’s tricky. It’s fragile. It’s tentative. Still.

Several years ago at work, I overheard a conversation between two of my highly-paid female colleagues. They were discussing the fact that they both made WAY more money than their husbands. One of the husbands did freelance gigs, but was mostly a stay at home dad, while the other husband often worked from home.

As I listened to these women talking, I was struck by the clear dissatisfaction in their voices. Thinking back, I also sensed a trace of resentment. It was almost heartbreaking to hear how conflicted they were about their roles and how their lives were going.

In short, both women were basically saying that this wasn’t what they expected their lives would be.

Deep breath ... I’m searching for the words right now …

I think … I think … I really do think … that there’s still a great deal of hesitation on the part of both men and women to accept or adapt to our changing world and these changing gender roles in our society.

I think that DEEP DOWN inside of us, in that hidden place that we rarely reveal to anyone, sits this profound conflict about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman in these contemporary times.

We’re still having trouble making choices that seem to be “non-traditional.” Tradition has worked for so many – but clearly not for everyone – for so long that we’re often suspicious of the “non-traditional.”

We tend to forget that in order for anything to become “traditional,” it has to be put into practice. Tradition wasn’t born “traditional.”

I don’t care how “progressive” you try to be. Men who are stay at home dads are still viewed with slight suspicion by BOTH genders. Are they less than men? Of course not. I would argue that they’ve reached perhaps the highest form of responsible manhood and masculinity.

Also, far too many people still view high-powered-women as “demanding bitches” who want to “be men.” It’s ridiculous.

We’ve got to face up to this. Society progresses at a very slow pace. American society has a LONG way to go before we can even catch up to life in Scandinavian society which has really addressed equality issues. Of course, they’re not perfect and you may not like what they’ve done, but it seems to be working for them.

What I’m saying here is that on a daily basis, women still do WAY more than men do. They just do. We all know that.

Women are more scattered, stretched and conflicted than men. They do more “running around” in trying to make life work overall … than men do.

The fact that women can and do give birth and remain the center of their families – even while holding down full-time jobs with stay at home dad husbands – proves that they continue to carry a heavy societal burden. Sadly, many women also carry the guilt of not being near-perfect in nearly all that they do.

Have you ever heard a man get upset about not “balancing” everything well?

Women work outside of the home, inside of the home, at school, at soccer practice and everywhere. Many men still don’t carry this burden. Isn’t that the real issue?

Maybe women should just learn to let things drop (with the exception of their kids obviously) without fear or guilt and perhaps this will – by default - teach more men to expand their definition of themselves and what’s required of them.

Needless to say, this would work better with younger men. Even teenagers. You have to start early.

I don’t know. I’m a man. I can only write from my limited, yet expanding, point of view. I don’t claim to be right, I’m just saying what I think.

I think that these societal burdens along with our stubborn view of gender roles are big factors in the equal pay thing. In other words, I don’t think we’re going to have true parity until we reshape the overall work load and expectations that we have of men and women at work AND at home.

I’m not sure that things can ever be perfectly-balanced, but they can certainly be “more balanced.” Call me crazy, but it seems to me that if women make more money and do better in life, their men will be better off as well.

Honestly, if I were married, I’d have no problem whatsoever with my wife making the same or WAY more money than I do. Team work makes the dream work, baby.

I don’t know.

In a nutshell, the workplace is a microcosm of society and it’s hard to change society without reshaping attitudes and biases. The equal pay issue is either going to need far more women in Congress to push it … more men in Congress who’ve been stay at home dads … a gigantic bolt of lightning … or all of the above.

Now … back to those comparable paintings by comparable artists.

Could you tell the difference between the painting done by the male artist and the one done by the female artist?

My guess is that you could not. Perhaps I should just speak for myself and say I could not.

Hmm. The same basic work and yet male artists still get WAY more attention, respect and therefore money, than their over-extended female counterparts.

This is not a pretty picture. 




Where Are the Female Artists?