WASHINGTON, D.C.—One surprising demographic that saw a majority voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 election was white women. Many are surprised to have seen so many white, suburban women vote for a candidate who so notoriously had public issues with misogyny. A recent Washington Post article stated that since the Trump administration’s entry into office, there was been an extreme surge in the wage gap of staffed members of The White House (Mark Perry). With more recent exposure on this issue people are thinking to the future now and wonder if Trump can hold this niche in 2020.
The issue brings up a larger, ongoing discussion about women’s role in society and how they are reacting to the continuing inequality they face. Women have long held a subservient position to men in the patriarchal control of Americans society. Outdated gender norms and misogyny kept women in a position that was deemed less than capable compared to their male counterparts.
We as modern Americans tend to think that we have moved past this; yet, women are a group that continue to see inequality on a day to day basis. Despite a common notion that women have achieved greater equality, there are so many reminders that it is not full equality just yet. In fact, women still earn less than men in the same types of employment positions. That earning ratio is at about 80% of what their male counterparts earn. Researchers call this the gender wage gap, and it demonstrates how those outdated gender norms and patriarchal controls have not subsided just yet.
Interestingly, several groups saw the gender wage gap close faster than it has ever done so before in the last decade. Working-class women have witnessed the gender wage gap decrease significantly from the 1990s into the 2000s. Women in domestic, education, and various vocation fields have seen major improvement over the last twenty or thirty years, making much more of a percentage of their male counterpart’s income than ever before. This is a positive sign that women of this socioeconomic niche are moving closer to equality in terms of income levels.
Was this progress a factor in so many women turning to Trump, despite his very vocal issues with his own behavior with women? It could explain why so many working-class women in white areas voted for a candidate who represented conservative Republic values economically. Well, maybe not so much. In fact, the rate the gender wage gap is closing has stalled within the past few years, hovering at around the same ratio without much progress.
Moreover, the progress made in the last generation or so was also limited primarily to working-class and some middle-class circumstances. While working-class jobs saw major advancements in the closing of the gender wage gap, the jobs at the very top of the latter actually saw a reversal of this progress. Women in the top positions, like CEO, executives, managers, professors, and scientific researchers in the field, all saw the gender wage gap actually increase over the past few years. They receive around 60 to 70% of what their male counterparts do—a huge drop from the average employment situation.
The fact that women at the top of the ladder are being held back reinforces the notorious image of the glass ceiling still very much in place. It is extremely discouraging for women looking to put in the time and effort to get higher educations or work their way up the corporate ladder. What we need in American society right now is encouragement for women to keep entering those top and key positions in the workplace, not the discouragement the gender wage gap presents. Even worse, the fact that these top jobs are paid so much less really demonstrates the fact the gender equality has not fully satiated the most important power circles of American society. The wealthy elite that own multi-billion corporations still see it is appropriate to pay a woman executive one third less than what they would pay a male executive. The top academic institutions and government research agencies see it is appropriate to pay female deans, professors, and scientists less for the same type of work. I personally believe this is wrong and unjust. This reflects a deep, ongoing problem within the leadership and ruling class. While they may be willing to concede ground for the working-class to make it look like there is real progress happening, the fact that they still deny women equality in the ruling institutions and circles means that the patriarchy still refuses to allow gender equality to permeate on a deeper, more meaningful level.
With all this in mind, one has to wonder if the split among women economically speaking will also split them as a voting demographic. As working-class women continue to see improvement in their pay, they may be more inclined to vote conservative on economic issues and believe that they are reaching greater equality in society. Meanwhile, women in higher job positions, who continue to earn an increasingly smaller portion of their male counterpart’s salaries, may see things much differently at the polls. These women who see increasing inequality may turn more to the left and vote Democratically more often, considering a need they see to fit inequality.
The thing is, we can’t keep looking at women as a single group that have the same interests and political motivations. Women are incredibly diverse as a group and experience very different lives. Their socioeconomic position continues to differ, as the gender wage gap closes for some, but increases for others. This and other factors will continue to split women as a demographic in terms of political ideology and voting behaviors. Thus, don’t think to lump them all together when the frenzy of the next election starts up again.
Ingraham, Christopher. “White House Gender Pay Gap More than Triples under Trump.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 5 July 2017, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/07/05/white-house-gender-pay-gap-more-than-triples-under-trump/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1b96123f9a9f.