08/19/2014 01:40 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Sorry, Matthew Weiner, But The Pay Gap Is A Gender Issue Whether You Think So Or Not

Michael Buckner via Getty Images

During a recent trip to HuffPost Live, Matthew Weiner addressed Jenji Kohan's comments about pay inequality for showrunners, saying the discrepancy is "not a gender issue." We love "Mad Men" and "The Sopranos" and all, but unfortunately, Matthew Weiner, you are wrong. Here are some FAQs for anyone else who might be confused about whether the pay gap is a gender issue.

I'm not even sure what you're going to explain to me right now. Isn't Matthew Weiner entitled to his opinion?
Sure, but the issues surrounding the pay gap aren't something you can choose whether or not to accept.

But maybe he was just talking about the money he made for "Mad Men." I feel like he deserved that $30 million. I've heard it's a really good show!
"Mad Men" is a good show. Some of the best prestige television of our time, really. But the comparison, sent up by Jenji Kohan in The Hollywood Reporter, was definitely warranted. She said: "I don't begrudge [Weiner] for one second; it's more of just, 'Why am I not making that?'"

So, this isn't about Matthew Weiner specifically.
No, it's about an enduring, systematic discrepancy that means, on average, women are taking home just 77 percent of the amount paid to their salaried counterparts.

Maybe women are just paid less because they pick lower-paying jobs, like, aren't all women nurses?
I'm not even going to entertain the idea that nursing is a female-specific profession.

Fine, but still! Doesn't it come down to differences between jobs?
Actually, no. According to a recent study by Claudia Goldin, a labor economist from Harvard University, revealed that (as the New York Times put it), "a majority of the pay gap between men and women actually comes from differences within occupations, not between them."

And that's why Jenji doesn't make $30 million for "Orange Is The New Black"?
That's one specific example of a discrepancy. There's pay inequality across most professions, though.

Isn't the gap closing though? Just wait a couple of years, it'll all be equal!
Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case. While the pay gap has narrowed since the 1960s, it doesn't seem to have shrunk much at all in the past decade. According to the AAUW, "in 2012, as in 2002, among full-time, year-round workers, women were paid 77 percent of what men were paid." The Institute for Women's Policy Research estimates it could take until 2056 for women to see equal pay. And a recent study in the U.K. found that the recession may actually have widened the gap since 2008.

Are there any consequences from that besides having less money?
For starters, women on the low end of the gap struggle to pay back student loans. As Forbes noted earlier this year: "Women and men pay the same tuition and graduate with comparable student debt. But Graduating to a Pay Gap found that among full-time workers repaying loans one year after college graduation, more than half of women (53 percent) compared with 39 percent of men were paying more than what they could reasonably afford toward their debt."

Well, maybe women should just ask for more money then.
It doesn't quite work that way. On HuffPost Live, Weiner said "You have to fight for it," as though the reason he is paid so much more than his lady counterparts is simply because he advocated for himself. When women do the same (as the Washington Post said), "they are perceived as pushy or unappreciative." The reality is that our culture supports male decisions and honors their behavior in a way that reinforces a man "fighting for it" over a woman doing the same.

Does this have to do with that other gap ... the thigh one?
Pretty sure you mean confidence gap. That refers to a "gendered disparity in confidence," but, to be clear (as Jessica Valenti wrote over at The Guardian), "the 'confidence gap' is not a personal defect as much as it is a reflection of a culture that gives women no reason to feel self-assured." However, even in cases where women are able to overcome that presiding setback, there is plenty of evidence that leaning in is hardly enough. Consider the fact that under 5 percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

So, you might say the pay gap is the only thing that hasn't changed about the workplace since the "Mad Men" era?
Yep. There are no more mid-day martinis and you'd probably at least get an angry email from HR if you insisted on smoking indoors, but women are still paid significantly less than men.

That's so unfair! I think drinking during the day would really help my productivity.
Let's save that conversation for another day.



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