What the Wage Gap Has To Do With Workplace Sexual Misconduct

As seemingly everyday a new account of sexual abuse comes to light, I am encouraged that the powerful are finally proving vulnerable to sexual misconduct. While it is encouraging that the tales unfolding have come to light, unfortunately this is just the fine tip of a monstrous, mangled iceberg.

For every high profile Hollywood star with millions of dollars, followers and powerful networks, there are countless women who lack the social capital to get the kind of validation and support to have their stories heard. For every Weinstein and Affleck that comes down there are thousands of gas station managers, retail bosses and restaurant managers who sexually harass their employees as a matter of course but revelations of their misconduct won’t cause a salacious newsworthy fuss.

And for every woman who speaks up about egregious sexual abuse and assault, know that there are millions who are regularly interrupted, put down and passed over for promotions but don’t have a groping hand or an incriminating email to prove it.

What we have is not a Weinstein or a Halperin problem – it is a structural system that oppresses women. As a financial planner, I often view the world through an economic lens and sexual abuse has more to do with money than first meets the eye. In a 2015 study by the International Monetary Fund, they found that gender inequality is associated “strongly with income inequality across time and countries of all income groups.”

The United States pays women less for the same work that men do. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates the pay gap at around 20%, meaning women earn about 80% of what men earn on average.

Money is a numerical unit of value. We pay for what we value: a home, clothes, transportation. We pay more for things we value more (a luxury vehicle over a standard, first class over coach).

As long as women are not paid fairly, they will not be treated fairly and misogyny will be the norm. How can men view women as equal when they know that they are valued quantitatively more than women? Is it any surprise that so many men play the power card to devalue women sexually and debase them as mere playthings for their pleasure when every single day our contributions to the world are valued less?

Until we as women are valued equally for our contributions, we will not be equal and we will not be safe in the workplace or anywhere else in a society that permits and participates in the oppression of half its members. It may take more than economic parity to stop sexual abuse, but it’s certainly a step we must take to make our society safer for all.

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