Today is “Equal Pay Day,” the day of the year supposedly signifying how far into the year women have to work to make up for last year’s wage gap. It’s a misleading effort designed to make women feel like they’re all, inevitably, being short-changed in their workplaces. That’s not the case.
In reality, women often make different choices about work, taking flexible or reduced work schedules in order or prioritize family time, for example. Women also often choose lower paying professions, in general, and studies show men are more likely to work more hours, perform more dangerous jobs, and work more inconvenient hours.
There are plenty of women who recognize and admit that their personal work choices led to lower-paying work and understand how their decisions affect their earnings and expected earnings in the future.
Here are six women who chose flexible work arrangements for less pay — and are happy they did so:
Geri S: In 1996 I had a newborn and a 15 month old. My husband and I worked for the same big consulting firm making the same amount of money. He traveled every week and I was exhausted being in charge of 2 babies and working full time. I asked my company if I could job share. Kept all my benefits and just took 3/5 of my salary and worked 3 days a week. My job share partner did the same. After my 3rd son was born I was allowed to work from home 10-20 hours a week. I still had a great hourly wage based on my skills. It was a fantastic solution for our family. I did this for 13 years. So fortunate because I loved being a SAHM and I enjoyed my job.
Wendy F: I had been a veterinary assistant for 15 years. Trained on the job. Making great money. When I CHOSE to have my child, I went back to work (my CHOICE) after 3 months. I then CHOSE to move from veterinary work to doing pet sitting full time – so that I had flexibility in my schedule for my daughter through her school years. I have owned and operated my own pet sitting business for close to 15 years. I have had CHOICES have that empowered me. My husband has supported me throughout. I have all the struggle of the women in the past to thank. And I hold them in high esteem.
Tara E: In 2012, after serving 12 years in the USMC as a helicopter pilot, I decided to get out and be a stay at home mom. I had just been promoted to major so I could have stayed in for at least 8 more years and retired. Since then, I do some administrative work for our business and I have had 3 part-time jobs. I recently started substitute teaching so I have the flexibility to be with my 5 kids when I need to be. I gave up a 6 figure salary to be a stay at home mom. I wouldn't change it. I also earned my Masters degree while staying at home. I may never use it.
Kimberly D: When my 2nd son was born, I decided (with my husband) not to return to work due to my son’s health issues and cost of daycare. I was a SAHM for years, supporting my husband in building his career. Now that my boys have grown (youngest is 12 now), I’ve started my own business. I work from home so I can be available for my son’s, who both have chronic illnesses, and have created my own flexible schedule around what matters most to me: my family.
Charlotte S: I stayed home for 18 years to raise 4 children. I just returned to the full time to the work force and I can’t imagine that I should be paid the same as the women AND men who have worked for the last 18 years in the same profession. My husband is now working from home as he has started his own business. and I sought work outside the home for health benefits.
Kerri C: I was a single parent when my daughter was 18 months old. I needed to work but wanted to be there for her. I started my own children’s clothing business from home. Eventually I had reps in various big cities that carried my line. The business kept us going and since I was able to do most of this from our apartment my daughter grew up with a valuable work ethic which she has to this day. When she was little I “put her to work” helping me pick orders to ship. She loved it and looked forward to our shipping seasons. She, of course, got paid and also learned the value of money. It was a wonderful bonding experience for us. There were some very difficult financial times if a season didn’t go as well as expected. However, my time was my own and I was able to be there for her. I could go on field trips with her class, drop her off and pick her up every day, and, as she got older, I was able to be there when she came home from school. There were many financial struggles throughout the years probably more than there would have been had I chose to work at a job outside of our home. However, I have never regretted the choice I made. It was an invaluable growing experience for both myself and my daughter that enabled an extraordinarily deep love and bond that we share forever. I am so grateful I was able to watch her grow into the amazing woman and mother she is today. The struggles were well worth it.
While we can all rally behind “equal pay for equal work,” “Equal Pay Day” is unnecessary and misleading.
Instead, we should champion greater opportunities, flexibility, and freedom, so women can choose how, when, and where we work.
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