Sexual Health

Notes From A Workshop: Gender, Dating & Technology

Bianca I. Laureano

Gender, dating and technology: how can these be used to make national sexuality education curricula and activities more inclusive and appropriate for the community present?

The past several weeks have been super busy for me. Filled with new opportunities to talk with young people, reach out to communities all over the east coast in 3D, and have really important conversations around sexuality and how complex it is for many of us. I want to share some of these experiences, conversations that were created, how I was challenged and what I learned. I’m really interested in hearing others ideas and thoughts about the topics presented here and if you have used similar curricula or activities and the outcomes!

Towards the end of March I was invited to provide a workshop to the students at Saint Peter’s College, a private Catholic college in Jersey City, NJ. Similar in population to the private Catholic college I teach at in the Bronx, I was asked to help participants understand and discuss gender expectations and norms, dating and how technology has challenged and changed courtship. My workshop was called Gender, Dating & Technology.

The preparation for this workshop took some time. I had to have a few conversations with the faculty member that invited me and hear some background as to what led to students requesting such a workshop. I was told that some students were sharing challenges they encountered with potential partners text messaging at late hours of the night asking for a date the next day, not having calls returned, and folks browsing others Facebook page to find potential dates. Then there were ideas about what a partner should and should not do, how they are to behave and challenges to even beginning the conversation about what someone desires in a relationship.

I had some ideas for such a workshop from past sessions I’ve done, but I wanted more options. I headed over to the Advocates For Youth website and checked out what curriculums they share that center around relationships, sexuality, and friendships. Two activities stood out to me: Likes & Dislikes and Body Language from Life Planning Education, Advocates For Youth, 2009. I was inspired by the goals and objectives for these two activities and spent some time thinking about how to use activities targeting high school students with college-aged young adults.

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The activity Likes and Dislikes was one I knew I wanted to start with, but a issue I had with the activity the way it is presented is that it supports a gender binary: that there are only people who identify as women or men and nothing more. It took me a moment to think about how I could alter this activity and it was not until about an hour before my presentation that I came up with an idea. Instead of breaking groups up by gender identity as in the curriculum, I provided each participant with a sheet of paper to list likes and dislikes of all genders and I used gender neutral and inclusive language. For example, I said: “list likes and dislikes for men, women, gender non-conforming/queer, and/or trans people.” This allowed participants to self-select how they would identify and offer opportunities for them to not have to be targeted, choose which side of a gender binary they wanted to be on to build a list, and allowed for some introspective writing. The second addendum to this activity I decided to implement was to have groups share their writing and build a list on a piece of newsprint that they would then present to the group.

One of the things I did not expect was having over 75 students present! Saint Peter’s College is not a large campus and has about 3000 students. I was truly surprised and honored to have close to 100 students, and almost all of them students of Color, present for a majority of the workshop. I did have enough paper for folks to do the first part of this activity, but the second part where they work as a group was a challenge.

I had about 8 groups of 15-20 people in stadium style seating, so no moveable chairs. Good thing I was excited and kept a pretty upbeat attitude as I grouped folks together and provided them with markers and paper to write. I then had to keep moving from group to group making sure folks were not excluded because of proximity and that each person was able to share what they wrote and were comfortable including. Usually I would allow students to do things on their own and more independently, but there were specific circumstances where I thought more facilitation in a specific way was needed. I had participants pick a spokesperson to share what they wrote.

Following the original guidelines for sharing lists in the article, I asked folks to refrain from any call and response and to be quiet and listen as each group shared their list. To say the lists and qualities I heard were amazing is an understatement! Many qualities that were desirable and disappointing overlapped. For example, almost each group shared personal hygiene as a quality that is important yet having poor hygiene was a turn off. Other likes included good communication, being supportive, affectionate, and goal-oriented. Dislikes shared included being overly sensitive or expressive (crying often), lack of pride in physical appearance, and one group said street harassment, fatphobia, and misogyny.

Then I asked participants to share how they felt about what they heard and if there were any stereotypes they heard that they challenged. The conversation was really engaging and powerful. Participants were honest with feeling hurt and angry with some of the things shared. Others shared that they simply dismissed some of the comments while other folks started a good conversation about what it means to desire qualities in a partner but go after the opposite thing in someone.

Several young men shared that they heard the women present say they want certain qualities, that they embody these qualities but are ignored or overlooked for various reasons, mainly connected to class status and ideas of having “swag” or “game” and being “too nice.”  This sparked a conversation about responsibility and friendship. How are we as friends of people who say they want one type of partner but choosing ones that are abusive, hurtful, and the complete opposite, responsible to our friendships and ourselves? This then led into a conversation about technology and communication. How do we share with a potential partner that their personal hygiene is a turn off, or could be altered to appeal to the other partner? Is a text message or phone call appropriate for such a discourse? When is a 3D conversation needed versus something online?

This activity took well over an hour. Yet, it was a good lead into the next activity. I had done this activity almost 15 years ago as an undergrad in a human sexuality college course. My professor at the time was Dr. Robin Sawyer, it was his wife Anne that mentored me into working as a sexuality educator a year later and who helped me realize this is the work I wanted to commit to as a professional. Dr. Sawyer had created an activity called “Can’t Buy Me Love” (find it in this workbook) where he listed several characteristics some folks desire in a relationship (i.e. communication, attractive, supportive, etc.) and added a value to each. The instructions on the activity were that each person was given $100 and could go shopping and spend their $100 to find the partner they desired.

I used this activity for the second part of my presentation and had altered the original a bit to include more characteristics, terminology the community I was working with was familiar with, and to represent and be more inclusive of various types of relationships (i.e. polyamory). I shared with the group that they could not borrow money from someone else’s sheet and that they could spend as much money as they had. This activity took a while as well, and many students had to pair up as I didn’t have enough copies for all participants present.

When I asked the group what they thought of this activity they had varied responses. Many of the students shared that they thought a lot of the characteristics were too expensive. They gave the example of communication being almost $40. This I found interesting, and shared that we had spent almost 20 minutes talking about how important and valuable communication was to them and now they didn’t want to pay so much for that quality. Many laughed at the irony while others rethought their position.

Other students shared how they did the activity with their partner and they both came up with different responses. We talked about what that could mean, how that may alter a relationship or strengthen one. Students shared that it was a good exercise to do with a partner versus alone as it could spark conversation. Others shared that they were unclear about the difference between supporting someone and someone offering security. I shared that for some folks being supported by a partner may mean they will listen to them and help them through difficult times, whereas offering security could mean for others having a home or feeling emotionally secure/open with a partner (being comfortable enough to cry). This offered some clarification and students were able to make the best decision for themselves at that time about what characteristics they desired.

I shared how I’ve used this activity in my own personal dating experiences. My current partner and I did this activity together last summer and had some very interesting conversations. We spoke about how being attracted to your partner is essential and that I did not have enough money to purchase it along with the other things I wanted (I was $5 short). That led to a conversation about what I was willing to give up, if anything, to be attracted to my partner. I argued that I could find some of the other characteristics attractive, and my partner argued that it may not be enough at some times.

That story led me to ask participants what characteristics they would buy if they went on sale, or had a lower value. I also shared that their ideas may change over time. That they could do this activity at various different times in their dating history and have very different outcomes. Some students shared that they planned to do the activity with other friends and potential partners. We spoke about how this may also be useful for when meeting people online through either dating services or via social networks. That meeting in a public space and using this as an “ice breaker” may be a good way to figure out what our priorities are and what type of relationship we seek with specific people.

We finished with the Body Language activity, which ended up being like a game of charades. About six students volunteered to act out the emotions on the card and we had a short conversation about how our body language sends certain messages. We briefly discussed how when we try to show our emotions (i.e. disappointment, anger, discomfort) it may be interpreted other than how we imagine it to be (i.e. participants guessed frustration, sadness, complacency for disappointment).

By this time my two hours were complete and I was exhausted but invigorated. I had put together a powerpoint presentation to include some film clips to use as points of discussion in case they were needed but they were not. The three films I had planned to use were Girlfight (2000) to discuss gender norms and roles, Raising Victor Vargas (2002) to discuss how we are socialized to act out based on gender norms and roles and to discuss body language, and I Like It Like That (1994) to discuss characteristics in a relationship that we desire or do not want. (And yes these films are over a decade old and I think it says something about media and what has been produced and can be used to begin discussion in specific ways).

I want to thank all of the student groups that worked to get me to their campus to provide this workshop, the audio visual and technology folks who recorded this presentation (when video is available I’ll share) and Dr. Alex Trillo who reached out to me, discussed the needs of the students, and gave me a ride back to the Path train!

Have others had similar conversations with students? If so, what were the outcomes? How have some of us changed curriculums to be more effective with our specific populations? Are there other ways that you have used similar curriculums and had different outcomes?

Analysis Economic Justice

New Pennsylvania Bill Is Just One Step Toward Helping Survivors of Economic Abuse

Annamarya Scaccia

The legislation would allow victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to terminate their lease early or request locks be changed if they have "a reasonable fear" that they will continue to be harmed while living in their unit.

Domestic violence survivors often face a number of barriers that prevent them from leaving abusive situations. But a new bill awaiting action in the Pennsylvania legislature would let survivors in the state break their rental lease without financial repercussions—potentially allowing them to avoid penalties to their credit and rental history that could make getting back on their feet more challenging. Still, the bill is just one of several policy improvements necessary to help survivors escape abusive situations.

Right now in Pennsylvania, landlords can take action against survivors who break their lease as a means of escape. That could mean a lien against the survivor or an eviction on their credit report. The legislation, HB 1051, introduced by Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery County), would allow victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to terminate their lease early or request locks be changed if they have “a reasonable fear” that they will continue to be harmed while living in their unit. The bipartisan bill, which would amend the state’s Landlord and Tenant Act, requires survivors to give at least 30 days’ notice of their intent to be released from the lease.

Research shows survivors often return to or delay leaving abusive relationships because they either can’t afford to live independently or have little to no access to financial resources. In fact, a significant portion of homeless women have cited domestic violence as the leading cause of homelessness.

“As a society, we get mad at survivors when they don’t leave,” Kim Pentico, economic justice program director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), told Rewire. “You know what, her name’s on this lease … That’s going to impact her ability to get and stay safe elsewhere.”

“This is one less thing that’s going to follow her in a negative way,” she added.

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Pennsylvania landlords have raised concerns about the law over liability and rights of other tenants, said Ellen Kramer, deputy director of program services at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which submitted a letter in support of the bill to the state House of Representatives. Lawmakers have considered amendments to the bill—like requiring “proof of abuse” from the courts or a victim’s advocate—that would heed landlord demands while still attempting to protect survivors.

But when you ask a survivor to go to the police or hospital to obtain proof of abuse, “it may put her in a more dangerous position,” Kramer told Rewire, noting that concessions that benefit landlords shift the bill from being victim-centered.

“It’s a delicate balancing act,” she said.

The Urban Affairs Committee voted HB 1051 out of committee on May 17. The legislation was laid on the table on June 23, but has yet to come up for a floor vote. Whether the bill will move forward is uncertain, but proponents say that they have support at the highest levels of government in Pennsylvania.

“We have a strong advocate in Governor Wolf,” Kramer told Rewire.

Financial Abuse in Its Many Forms

Economic violence is a significant characteristic of domestic violence, advocates say. An abuser will often control finances in the home, forcing their victim to hand over their paycheck and not allow them access to bank accounts, credit cards, and other pecuniary resources. Many abusers will also forbid their partner from going to school or having a job. If the victim does work or is a student, the abuser may then harass them on campus or at their place of employment until they withdraw or quit—if they’re not fired.

Abusers may also rack up debt, ruin their partner’s credit score, and cancel lines of credit and insurance policies in order to exact power and control over their victim. Most offenders will also take money or property away from their partner without permission.

“Financial abuse is so multifaceted,” Pentico told Rewire.

Pentico relayed the story of one survivor whose abuser smashed her cell phone because it would put her in financial dire straits. As Pentico told it, the abuser stole her mobile phone, which was under a two-year contract, and broke it knowing that the victim could not afford a new handset. The survivor was then left with a choice of paying for a bill on a phone she could no longer use or not paying the bill at all and being turned into collections, which would jeopardize her ability to rent her own apartment or switch to a new carrier. “Things she can’t do because he smashed her smartphone,” Pentico said.

“Now the general public [could] see that as, ‘It’s a phone, get over it,'” she told Rewire. “Smashing that phone in a two-year contract has such ripple effects on her financial world and on her ability to get and stay safe.”

In fact, members of the public who have not experienced domestic abuse may overlook financial abuse or minimize it. A 2009 national poll from the Allstate Foundation—the philanthropic arm of the Illinois-based insurance company—revealed that nearly 70 percent of Americans do not associate financial abuse with domestic violence, even though it’s an all-too-common tactic among abusers: Economic violence happens in 98 percent of abusive relationships, according to the NNEDV.

Why people fail to make this connection can be attributed, in part, to the lack of legal remedy for financial abuse, said Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project, a public interest law center in Pennsylvania. A survivor can press criminal charges or seek a civil protection order when there’s physical abuse, but the country’s legal justice system has no equivalent for economic or emotional violence, whether the victim is married to their abuser or not, she said.

Some advocates, in lieu of recourse through the courts, have teamed up with foundations to give survivors individual tools to use in economically abusive situations. In 2005, the NNEDV partnered with the Allstate Foundation to develop a curriculum that would teach survivors about financial abuse and financial safety. Through the program, survivors are taught about financial safety planning including individual development accounts, IRA, microlending credit repair, and credit building services.

State coalitions can receive grant funding to develop or improve economic justice programs for survivors, as well as conduct economic empowerment and curriculum trainings with local domestic violence groups. In 2013—the most recent year for which data is available—the foundation awarded $1 million to state domestic violence coalitions in grants that ranged from $50,000 to $100,000 to help support their economic justice work.

So far, according to Pentico, the curriculum has performed “really great” among domestic violence coalitions and its clients. Survivors say they are better informed about economic justice and feel more empowered about their own skills and abilities, which has allowed them to make sounder financial decisions.

This, in turn, has allowed them to escape abuse and stay safe, she said.

“We for a long time chose to see money and finances as sort of this frivolous piece of the safety puzzle,” Pentico told Rewire. “It really is, for many, the piece of the puzzle.”

Public Policy as a Means of Economic Justice

Still, advocates say that public policy, particularly disparate workplace conditions, plays an enormous role in furthering financial abuse. The populations who are more likely to be victims of domestic violence—women, especially trans women and those of color—are also the groups more likely to be underemployed or unemployed. A 2015 LGBT Health & Human Services Network survey, for example, found that 28 percent of working-age transgender women were unemployed and out of school.

“That’s where [economic abuse] gets complicated,” Tracy told Rewire. “Some of it is the fault of the abuser, and some of it is the public policy failures that just don’t value women’s participation in the workforce.”

Victims working low-wage jobs often cannot save enough to leave an abusive situation, advocates say. What they do make goes toward paying bills, basic living needs, and their share of housing expenses—plus child-care costs if they have kids. In the end, they’re not left with much to live on—that is, if their abuser hasn’t taken away access to their own earnings.

“The ability to plan your future, the ability to get away from [abuse], that takes financial resources,” Tracy told Rewire. “It’s just so much harder when you don’t have them and when you’re frightened, and you’re frightened for yourself and your kids.”

Public labor policy can also inhibit a survivor’s ability to escape. This year, five states, Washington, D.C., and 24 jurisdictions will have passed or enacted paid sick leave legislation, according to A Better Balance, a family and work legal center in New York City. As of April, only one of those states—California—also passed a state paid family leave insurance law, which guarantees employees receive pay while on leave due to pregnancy, disability, or serious health issues. (New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, and New York have passed similar laws.) Without access to paid leave, Tracy said, survivors often cannot “exercise one’s rights” to file a civil protection order, attend court hearings, or access housing services or any other resource needed to escape violence.

Furthermore, only a handful of state laws protect workers from discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy or familial status (North Carolina, on the other hand, recently passed a draconian state law that permits wide-sweeping bias in public and the workplace). There is no specific federal law that protects LGBTQ workers, but the U.S. Employment Opportunity Commission has clarified that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Still, that doesn’t necessarily translate into practice. For example, the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 26 percent of transgender people were let go or fired because of anti-trans bias, while 50 percent of transgender workers reported on-the-job harassment. Research shows transgender people are at a higher risk of being fired because of their trans identity, which would make it harder for them to leave an abusive relationship.

“When issues like that intersect with domestic violence, it’s devastating,” Tracy told Rewire. “Frequently it makes it harder, if not impossible, for [victims] to leave battering situations.”

For many survivors, their freedom from abuse also depends on access to public benefits. Programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the child and dependent care credit, and earned income tax credit give low-income survivors access to the money and resources needed to be on stable economic ground. One example: According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where a family of three has one full-time nonsalary worker earning $10 an hour, SNAP can increase their take-home income by up to 20 percent.

These programs are “hugely important” in helping lift survivors and their families out of poverty and offset the financial inequality they face, Pentico said.

“When we can put cash in their pocket, then they may have the ability to then put a deposit someplace or to buy a bus ticket to get to family,” she told Rewire.

But these programs are under constant attack by conservative lawmakers. In March, the House Republicans approved a 2017 budget plan that would all but gut SNAP by more than $150 million over the next ten years. (Steep cuts already imposed on the food assistance program have led to as many as one million unemployed adults losing their benefits over the course of this year.) The House GOP budget would also strip nearly $500 billion from other social safety net programs including TANF, child-care assistance, and the earned income tax credit.

By slashing spending and imposing severe restrictions on public benefits, politicians are guaranteeing domestic violence survivors will remain stuck in a cycle of poverty, advocates say. They will stay tethered to their abuser because they will be unable to have enough money to live independently.

“When women leave in the middle of the night with the clothes on their back, kids tucked under their arms, come into shelter, and have no access to finances or resources, I can almost guarantee you she’s going to return,” Pentico told Rewire. “She has to return because she can’t afford not to.”

By contrast, advocates say that improving a survivor’s economic security largely depends on a state’s willingness to remedy what they see as public policy failures. Raising the minimum wage, mandating equal pay, enacting paid leave laws, and prohibiting employment discrimination—laws that benefit the entire working class—will make it much less likely that a survivor will have to choose between homelessness and abuse.

States can also pass proactive policies like the bill proposed in Pennsylvania, to make it easier for survivors to leave abusive situations in the first place. Last year, California enacted a law that similarly allows abuse survivors to terminate their lease without getting a restraining order or filing a police report permanent. Virginia also put in place an early lease-termination law for domestic violence survivors in 2013.

A “more equitable distribution of wealth is what we need, what we’re talking about,” Tracy told Rewire.

As Pentico put it, “When we can give [a survivor] access to finances that help her get and stay safe for longer, her ability to protect herself and her children significantly increases.”

Commentary Economic Justice

The Gender Wage Gap Is Not Women’s Fault, and Here’s the Report That Proves It

Kathleen Geier

The fact is, in every occupation and at every level, women earn less than men doing exactly the same work.

A new report confirms what millions of women already know: that women’s choices are not to blame for the gender wage gap. Instead, researchers at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the progressive think tank that issued the report, say that women’s unequal pay is driven by “discrimination, social norms, and other factors beyond women’s control.”

This finding—that the gender pay gap is caused by structural factors rather than women’s occupational choices—is surprisingly controversial. Indeed, in my years as a journalist covering women’s economic issues, the subject that has been most frustrating for me to write about has been the gender gap. (Full disclosure: I’ve worked as a consultant for EPI, though not on this particular report.) No other economic topic I’ve covered has been more widely misunderstood, or has been so outrageously distorted by misrepresentations, half-truths, and lies.

That’s because, for decades, conservatives have energetically promoted the myth that the gender pay gap does not exist. They’ve done such a bang-up job of it that denying the reality of the gap, like denying the reality of global warming, has become an article of faith on the right. Conservative think tanks like the Independent Women’s Forum and the American Enterprise Institute and right-wing writers at outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Breitbart, and the Daily Caller have denounced the gender pay gap as “a lie,” “not the real story,” “a fairy tale,” “a statistical delusion,” and “the myth that won’t die.” Sadly, it is not only right-wing propagandists who are gender wage gap denialists. Far more moderate types like Slate’s Hanna Rosin and the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson have also claimed that the gender wage gap statistic is misleading and exaggerates disparities in earnings.

According to the most recent figures available from the Census Bureau, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes only 79 cents, a statistic that has barely budged in a decade. And that’s just the gap for women overall; for most women of color, it’s considerably larger. Black women earn only 61 percent of what non-Hispanic white men make, and Latinas earn only 55 percent as much. In a recent survey, U.S. women identified the pay gap as their biggest workplace concern. Yet gender wage gap denialists of a variety of political stripes contend that gender gap statistic—which measures the difference in median annual earnings between men and women who work full-time, year-round—is inaccurate because it does not compare the pay of men and women doing the same work. They argue that when researchers control for traits like experience, type of work, education, and the like, the gender gap evaporates like breath on a window. In short, the denialists frame the gender pay gap as the product not of sexist discrimination, but of women’s freely made choices.

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The EPI study’s co-author, economist Elise Gould, said in an interview with Rewire that she and her colleagues realized the need for the new report when an earlier paper generated controversy on social media. That study had uncovered an “unadjusted”—meaning that it did not control for differences in workplace and personal characteristics—$4 an hour gender wage gap among recent college graduates. Gould said she found this pay disparity “astounding”: “You’re looking at two groups of people, men and women, with virtually the same amount of experience, and yet their wages are so different.” But critics on Twitter, she said, claimed that the wage gap simply reflected the fact that women were choosing lower-paid jobs. “So we wanted to take out this one idea of occupational choice and look at that,” Gould said.

Gould and her co-author Jessica Schieder highlight two important findings in their EPI report. One is that, even within occupations, and even after controlling for observable factors such as education and work experience, the gender wage gap remains stubbornly persistent. As Gould told me, “If you take a man and a woman sitting side by side in a cubicle, doing the same exact job with the same amount of experience and the same amount of education, on average, the man is still going to be paid more than the woman.”

The EPI report cites the work of Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, who looked at the relative weight in the overall wage gap of gender-based pay differences within occupations versus those between occupations. She found that while gender pay disparities between different occupations explain 32 percent of the gap, pay differences within the same occupation account for far more—68 percent, or more than twice as much. In other words, even if we saw equal numbers of men and women in every profession, two-thirds of the gender wage gap would still remain.

And yes, female-dominated professions pay less, but the reasons why are difficult to untangle. It’s a chicken-and-egg phenomenon, the EPI report explains, raising the question: Are women disproportionately nudged into low-status, low-wage occupations, or do these occupations pay low wages simply because it is women who are doing the work?

Historically, “women’s work” has always paid poorly. As scholars such as Paula England have shown, occupations that involve care work, for example, are associated with a wage penalty, even after controlling for other factors. But it’s not only care work that is systematically devalued. So, too, is work in other fields where women workers are a majority—even professions that were not initially dominated by women. The EPI study notes that when more women became park rangers, for example, overall pay in that occupation declined. Conversely, as computer programming became increasingly male-dominated, wages in that sector began to soar.

The second major point that Gould and Schieder emphasize is that a woman’s occupational choice does not occur in a vacuum. It is powerfully shaped by forces like discrimination and social norms. “By the time a woman earns her first dollar, her occupational choice is the culmination of years of education, guidance by mentors, parental expectations, hiring practices, and widespread norms and expectations about work/family balance,” Gould told Rewire. One study cited by Gould and Schieder found that in states where traditional attitudes about gender are more prevalent, girls tend to score higher in reading and lower in math, relative to boys. It’s one of many findings demonstrating that cultural attitudes wield a potent influence on women’s achievement. (Unfortunately, the EPI study does not address racism, xenophobia, or other types of bias that, like sexism, shape individuals’ work choices.)

Parental expectations also play a key role in shaping women’s occupational choices. Research reflected in the EPI study shows that parents are more likely to expect their sons to enter male-dominated science, technology, engineering, and math (often called STEM) fields, as opposed to their daughters. This expectation holds even when their daughters score just as well in math.

Another factor is the culture in male-dominated industries, which can be a huge turn-off to women, especially women of color. In one study of women working in science and technology, Latinas and Black women reported that they were often mistaken for janitors—something that none of the white women in the study had experienced. Another found that 52 percent of highly qualified women working in science and technology ended up leaving those fields, driven out by “hostile work environments and extreme job pressures.”

Among those pressures are excessively long hours, which make it difficult to balance careers with unpaid care work, for which women are disproportionately responsible. Goldin’s research, Gould said, shows that “in jobs that have more temporal flexibility instead of inflexibility and long hours, you do see a smaller gender wage gap.” Women pharmacists, for example, enjoy relatively high pay and a narrow wage gap, which Goldin has linked to flexible work schedules and a professional culture that enables work/life balance. By contrast, the gender pay gap is widest in highest-paying fields such as finance, which disproportionately reward those able to work brutally long hours and be on call 24/7.

Fortunately, remedies for the gender wage gap are at hand. Gould said that strong enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, greater wage transparency (which can be achieved through unions and collective bargaining), and more flexible workplace policies would all help to alleviate gender-based pay inequities. Additional solutions include raising the minimum wage, which would significantly boost the pay of the millions of women disproportionately concentrated in the low-wage sector, and enacting paid family leave, a policy that would be a boon for women struggling to combine work and family. All of these issues are looming increasingly large in our national politics.

But in order to advance these policies, it’s vital to debunk the right’s shameless, decades-long disinformation campaign about the gender gap. The fact is, in every occupation and at every level, women earn less than men doing exactly the same work. The right alleges that the official gender pay gap figure exaggerates the role of discrimination. But even statistics that adjust for occupation and other factors can, in the words of the EPI study, “radically understate the potential for gender discrimination to suppress women’s earnings.”

Contrary to conservatives’ claims, women did not choose to be paid consistently less than men for work that is every bit as valuable to society. But with the right set of policies, we can reverse the tide and bring about some measure of economic justice to the hard-working women of the United States.