Women’s choices not the same as men’s
NationalPost.com – FinancialPost.com/FPComment – It’s time feminists, who see discrimination everywhere, realized that
Mar 15, 2011. By Nathalie Elgrably-Lévy, Ariane M. Gauthier, Marie-Josée Loiselle, Joanne Marcotte and Rosalie Nguyen - Special to the Financial Post
Last week, we celebrated the 100th International Women’s Day to salute the women who fought to obtain the same economic and political rights that benefited men. It is important to remember that the freedoms enjoyed by women today stem from the relentless demands and hard work of these female pioneers who had the courage and audacity to demand equality with men under the law. Now that March 8 is behind us, it is also important to look forward. In 2011, what do women want?
Today we find women in very diverse careers and in traditional men’s jobs: many start businesses; they are found in larger numbers than men in many university programs, they head major corporations such as Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. and prestigious institutions such as McGill University, and they head spaceship missions to the moon and beyond. Women today achieve great things and can envision the highest levels of accomplishment. But contrary to conventional wisdom, this results not only from actions by feminist groups but also from the profound transformation of the labour market in free societies. In effect, it is due mostly to the technological and industrial progress that brought about a shift from a society where men’s brute force (a biological fact) was needed in the workplace to a knowledge society where almost anyone can sit in front of a computer and generate a decent income.
In the midst of this evolution and the accompanying successes, it is sad to note that what we hear most often about women is that they need help, they are fragile and poor, they can’t help themselves and are discriminated against. And this comes from feminist groups! They see discrimination everywhere: women sitting on boards, women in politics, women in engineering or mining. But now that women are free to choose their careers, it is possible that they may not be interested in those occupations for all sorts of reasons (travel, long hours, tastes, physical endurance, etc.). We must respect the free choice of women and should not push them into careers they do not want.
Moreover, it goes without saying that, for the same work and the same worker attributes, we should receive the same compensation. Indeed, one study compared “never married” women with “never married” men and found that in this situation women make the same as men, if not more. When you account for marriage and its asymmetrical responsibilities between men and women, the biggest differences in income are likely to be seen between married women and everyone else. This gap exists because women “tend” to have babies; it is a biological fact.
Public policy should not be guided by sex discrimination or by any other form of discrimination. Issues of poverty, violence and work-family conciliation are not the exclusive realm of women. Many people experience periods of difficulty during their lifetimes.
So what do women want?
Fortunately, ever fewer women, especially among the young, identify themselves with notions of misery, and this is a good thing. In 2011, now that all doors are open to women, feminist groups need not rely on unequal means or unequal protection under the law to achieve equal outcomes. It is not up to them to decide which values everybody should embrace. What women want is not to benefit from “positive discrimination” policies or from convoluted figures under pay equity acts, but to be hired and compensated because they are the best for the job.
What we want is simple. It has been proven over and over that what it takes to improve anyone’s lot on this earth are economic and legal freedoms enabling us to fulfil ourselves to the best of our abilities — nothing more and nothing less.
The authors have written this article in their personal capacity. Nathalie Elgrably-Lévy is senior economist, Montreal Economic Institute. Ariane M. Gauthier is communications coordinator, Montreal Economic Institute. Marie-Josée Loiselle is president, MJ Economics. Joanne Marcotte is co-founder of Quebec Freedom Network (Réseau Liberté-Québec) and director of The Quiet Illusion. Rosalie Nguyen is a CFA.
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