These days, it’s probably the best time in history to be born without a penis. Women are free to choose any path they’d like, a privilege really only granted over the last generation. Women can have all the casual relations they’d like, with minimal consequences. Women are buying houses and making all sorts of other large decisions without having a partner. A woman is more likely to have a university education. And so on. And yet, we still have a gender pay gap.

Only 5% of the 500 largest companies in America have women in charge. Women are still punished for taking time off to have children. And, as has been famously stated, they have to put up with an injustice that would piss off any of their male counterparts, making 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same job.

So naturally, the ladies are pissed. They’ve taken their fight to the Facebook and the Twitter and wherever else the gals hang out. Maybe Pinterest? I dunno. But is the statistic even true? Do women really make 77% of men for doing the same job?

Related: that time I gave the ladies career advice.

In my experience, the answer is a firm no. In fact, I’ve never encountered a boss say such a thing, even privately. (And I heard those same bosses say some offensive things) I’ve never met a woman who could legitimately say she was paid less than a man without a good reason. I’ve met many women who think they’re better qualified than more experienced male coworkers, but I’ve met many men who think the same thing.

So I took a little closer look into this infamous 77 cents on the dollar statistic. And the weakness leaps out immediately. It comes from 2010 U.S. census information which simply divided the total income earned by women divided by the number. The census did the same thing for men, compared the results, and declared a huge gender pay gap.

But anyone with functioning grey matter can see the problem with that. Many women self select jobs that are part time, or lower paying, or offer more flexibility because they want the choice to stay at home and raise children. Women also tend to self select into jobs that focus on humanities and other such skills, jobs which tend to be high on security and low on advancement opportunities. More than three quarters of teachers are women. More than 91% of nurses are women. More than 70% of human resources professionals are women, even though HR people are the worst. Sorry ladies.

Meanwhile, men dominate construction (91%), oil and gas (96% in the field, not counting office employees), transportation (77%), and manufacturing (72%). These jobs are tougher, physical jobs, and they tend to pay pretty well, at least in my neck of the woods. They’re also industries with higher highs and lower lows, which would explain why men’s unemployment tends to be higher.

So if that’s the case, what’s the actual wage gap, controlling for some of these factors? There are differing opinions, but let’s take a look at four.

Factcheck.org took a look at the numbers, and found that there were all sorts of professions that paid women largely the same as their male counterparts. They also found that men tend to work longer workweeks than women, which would also skew the results. They wouldn’t throw out an actual number, but were pretty clear the 23% gap is bunk.

Consad research did some work on this for the U.S. department of Labor. Consad’s findings that once you controlled for all the different variables, the pay gap was more like 5-8%.

The St. Louis Federal Reserve did a similar study, and concluded that the gross gender pay gap was just 16.5%, and once you accounted for all the factors, the real gap was just 3.6%.

And finally, one more. The American Association of University Women concluded the real gap between wages for male and female university grads was just 6%, not the 18% gross number.

Now that we’ve put the 77 cents on every dollar myth to rest, allow me to present a theory on why the remaining gap remains. It’s simple. Women are crummy at negotiating.

It’s partially a society thing, since we label men who push for more money as assertive and women who do the same as bitchy. That needs to end, but it’ll only end as women become more comfortable with it. Hiring managers who have the company’s bottom line in mind are going to lowball potential hires. That’s the way business works.

The statistic is popular because it’s an easy explanation as to why a woman’s career isn’t taking off in the way she’d like. She’s not struggling because work is hard, she’s struggling because men are plotting to keep the whole gender down. It’s an easy and important lesson for anyone reading, regardless of their genitals. Chances are, you’re just mediocre at your job. It takes hard work to be good. Most people don’t want to do it. Just find a way to exceed expectations, and you’ll get promoted. No matter what your gender.

 

Tell everyone, yo!