The spending obligation gap
In restaurants, men pay for women about ten times as frequently as women pay for men – the more expensive the restaurant, the more often the man pays.19 Women often say, "Well, men earn more " But when two women go to a restaurant, they don’t assume that the woman who earns more will pay the bill. The expectation on men to spend more on women creates the "spending obligation gap."
I got a sense of this spending obligation gap as soon as I thought about my first date. As a teenager, I loved baby-sitting. (I genuinely loved kids, but it was also the only way I could get paid for raiding the refrigerator!) But then I got to the dating age. Alas, baby-sitting paid only fifty cents an hour. Lawn mowing, though, paid two dollars an hour. I hated lawn mowing. (I lived in New Jersey, where bugs, humidity’, and noonday sun made mowing a lawn less pleasant than raiding a refrigerator.) But as soon as I started dating, I started mowing lawns.
For boys, lawn mowing is a metaphor for the way we soon learn to take jobs we like less because they – pay more. Around junior year of high school, boys begin to repress their interest in foreign languages, literature, art history, sociology, and anthropology because they know an art history major will make less than an engineer. Partially as a result of his different spending expectation (the possibility’ he might have to support a woman but cannot expea a woman to support him), more than 85 percent of students who take engineering as a college major are men; more than 80 percent of the art history majors are women.20
The difference in the earnings of the female art historian versus the male engineer appears to be a measure of discrimination, when in faa both sexes knew ahead of time that engineering would pay more. In faa, the woman who enters engineering with the same lack of experience as the man averages $571 per year more than her male counterpart.21
In brief, the spending obligation that leads a man to choose a career he likes less that pays more is a sign of powerlessness, not power. But when he takes that job, women often assume he will pay because, after all, he earns more. Thus both sexes’ expectations reinforce his powerlessness.