What if you did the same job as the person next to you, but received a lot less money in your paycheck. The gender pay gap is real. But should you care?
The gender pay gap is real.
It’s the end of another 40+ hour workweek and you’re exhausted. As you stumble to your car, you strike up a conversation with a coworker and discover that you earn a lot less for your efforts.
On paper, your qualifications and workload are identical. You both have the same job title, the same responsibilities and you’ve worked for the company for the same amount of time.
The only difference is that one of you has a Y chromosome.
Wait a minute … gender discrimination in the workplace? That doesn’t exist anymore, does it? Unfortunately, it does. Study after study shows that the gender pay gap is real and it continues to be a problem in the American workplace.
U.S. government statistics show that the median pay for women is 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
Critics argue that the government’s statistics overstate the gender pay gap and they may be right. But according to a recent report by Mike Meyers in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, even after you factor in variables like education, work experience, family leave and “risk,” women still earn 5 to 7 percent less than men.
Does 5 to 7 percent sound negligible? It’s not. Try this on for perspective:
Imagine that your employer decided to keep $1,000 for every $14,285 dollars you earn each year.
Does the gender pay gap sound negligible now? Probably not.
Would Jesus care about the gender pay gap?
As 21st century Christians, we mentally distance Jesus from these kinds of issues. We tell ourselves that if Jesus walked the earth today, he wouldn’t care about the size of our paychecks.
In fact, wouldn’t Jesus tell us to stop comparing our salaries and be thankful for what we have?
Maybe. But I don’t think he would have ignored the gender pay gap . While it’s true that gratitude is a prerequisite for a spiritually sustainable life, Jesus was very conscious about the disparities that existed between men and women in the first century.
In the gospels, we see a Jesus that went out of his way to defend the rights of women.
- The woman at the well (John 4).
- The woman accused of adultery (John 8)
- The woman who begged for crumbs from the table (Matthew 15).
When you look beyond a superficial reading of these passages, you find that:
Jesus went against the social mores of his day to take a stand for the rights of women in a society that considered females to have less value than men.
In the parable of the workers (Matthew 20), Jesus tells the story of an employer who gave the workers who showed up at 9 am the same pay as the workers who showed up right before quitting time.
Predictably, the people who worked the entire day protested about wage inequity. But the employer essentially told them to mind their own business. In his workplace, he would decide what to pay his workers.
I’m sure some critics of of gender pay equality use this parable to justify the existence of workplace disparities. But here’s what they’re missing:
- At the end of the day, everyone in the workplace was paid the same.
- The parable isn’t really about paychecks. If anything, it reaffirms Jesus’ commitment to women and people who are devalued in our society.
In God’s economy, “the last will be first and the first will be last” (Matt. 20:16).
The “Scandal” of the Gender Pay Gap
A few weeks ago, Pope Francis called the gender pay gap “pure scandal.” He called for Christians everywhere to close the gap and take a stand for men and women to receive equal pay for equal work.
Granted, the words sound a bit hollow coming from the leader of an institution that is stuck in the Dark Ages when it comes to gender equality. But Francis wasn’t wrong. Catholic social teaching affirms the dignity of work:
“Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.”
Work is a basic human right and a source of human dignity. But when a gender pay gap exists, women don’t feel dignified. They feel devalued.
Paul reminds us that we’re one body with many parts. When one part wins, we all win. When one part loses, we all lose.
And when one part is devalued, we’re all devalued.
The gender pay gap doesn’t just devalue women — it devalues all of us. By standing up for equal pay in the workplace, we affirm that we all have value and that our participation in God’s creation matters.
If you’re an employer, take a closer look at your pay scale. If you’re an employee, speak up when opportunities arise. Whenever you can, in whatever way you can, affirm the importance of equal pay for equal work.
Because at the end of the day, gender pay equity isn’t just the right thing to do … it’s the Jesus thing to do.