THE EQUALITY PARADOX
By- Myra Sharma
Rising inequality is one of the, biggest social and economic issues of our time. It has a positive correlation with poor economic growth and, undoubtedly, fuels unrest and discontent. However, the Scandinavian countries seem to have tackled this problem well, becoming famous for their egalitarian reforms and policies. But, as much as these policies aim to reduce gender inequality and the pay gap, they have had the opposite effect. This effect has come to be known as the “gender paradox”. This paradox is explained as follows – ‘in the countries where the most has been done to equalize the society, the gender differences between men and women have maximized, not minimized. The Scandinavian countries are probably the best example of this paradox because they have done the most to equalize the playing field between men and women, and their equality model is often considered the best. Everyone would find it hard to believe this paradox.
You make society almost the same, and men and women get more different. The answer seems to be that there are fundamentally two sources of variability in personality – genetic and sociological. If you remove all the sociological differences, as you do in egalitarian societies, the genetic/biological differences maximize. And scientific research done globally has shown that men are more interested in ‘things’ and women are more interested in ‘people’. Studies also show that the reason behind men being interested in things is purely due to the presence of testosterone. So, this interest reflects the occupational choices of men and women in life. If you give them equality of choice, you certainly cannot expect equality of outcome because men and women will have different occupational interests and will choose different paths. For example, the proportion of women in Scandinavian countries choosing S.T.E.M fields has decreased rather than increased, and vice versa for men. Also, there are significantly more female nurses than male nurses in these countries. Consequently, the difference in occupational interest becomes one of the reasons behind differences in income inequality. This is also not just a theory but has significant scientific backing. There is nothing wrong with equality of choices, but then it would be wrong to expect equality of outcome.
Since it is clear that differences in temperament and interest play a significant role in determining occupational choice, and that difference in occupational choice creates variability in such things as income, one can imply that the political and social policies that promote equality of opportunity/choices also drive inequality of income. That is a big problem, especially since we’ve been trying so hard to create a utopian society. People have also come out saying that we haven’t just gone far enough in our egalitarian attempts. They hold the view that we should socialize young boys and girls in exactly the same manner – making all toys gender-neutral, for one. Why should we launch a social experiment where we don’t have the faintest idea of possible results? Why is it a problem for men and women to make different choices and have different occupations and different incomes? So, this is the Scandinavian paradox, affecting other parts of the world. Men and women are different, but they are importantly different. We have let nature affect our temperaments and interests for millions of years, and we should let it do so in the future. Global growth and gender equity of rights go hand and hand with the reshaping of gender roles rather than their suppression, with the introduction of new and more horizontal modes of social distinction between genders.