What we don’t know for certain is the cause of these facts. Countless ‘reasons’ are flung around to try to explain the disparities, from unsupported theories about gender-based skill sets, to frustratingly simplistic claims that women are to blame for not being tenacious or ambitious enough, to over-generalised stereotypes about childbirth and family life. The latter frequently fail to take into account the enormous influence of provisions for maternity and paternity leave, support for working parents and more, thus conveniently blaming parents whose careers are adversely affected instead of critiquing the system that has created this result in the first place.
None of these theories alone is sufficient to explain the enormous disparity between men and women’s professional achievements and earnings. It is likely that several of the more considered and balanced ideas may hold some merit and account for some part of the problem.
But there are other factors at play. While it may not be convenient or popular to acknowledge it, the huge number of women who have written to the Everyday Sexism Project to document their experiences of sexism in the workplace strongly suggests that this is another important influence.