The idea that men make more than women is an issue which led to a movement for pay equity in the 1970s through the 1980s. In the United States, the fight for pay equity was launched with litigation and carried through by countless localized initiatives led by unions and feminists. Attorneys waged a creative litigation campaign beginning in the 1970s in an attempt to have the courts recognize gender-based wage disparities as discrimination. Women sued companies and public jurisdictions under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, claiming discrimination because they earned less than men in comparable jobs. Several landmark cases in the early 1980s briefly opened a legal door for comparable worth, but the door was slammed shut by later, increasingly conservative, court decisions that effectively allowed employers to say that it was the free market and not discrimination that lead to depressed wages for female-dominated jobs (McCann, Rights at Work, 1994).

The issue with which the pay equity movement was concerned was not an issue of equal pay for equal work but equal pay for comparable work. This led to a discussion of comparable worth, and attempts to evaluate jobs, awarding points based on criteria from difficulty of the job to the educational level required. Activists argued that male-dominated jobs pay significantly more than women’s jobs, even in those with equal difficulty points.

There is a punitive renumeration that women receive for the choices they make.

One reason may be that women take pink collar jobs. These pay less than blue collar jobs, which have been heavily unionized in the past.

Another important factor in why men are paid more than women is the cultural norm of women as the primary caretakers for children. Women have entered the workforce in huge numbers post-WW2, in the 60s and 70s. However, because of child-rearing responsibilities women were unable to compete on the same level with men. Currently, women constitute 55% of the college population, or 50% for law school but after graduation wages are lower, approximately 78 cents to the dollar a man makes. Part of this can be attributed to unsteady work histories and noncontinuous work. Women also tend to take lower intensity, lower stress jobs. For women who do not take time off for family, their wages are comparatively higher than other women, as they earn approximately 90 cents to the dollar that a man earns.

An interesting conclusion which can be reached from this: the personal choices that men and women make -- the personal decisions we make – have effects on the aggregate. Enormously.