Equal Opportunity Versus Equal Outcome


The article above concerns an interesting case. Some tech companies like Apple/Facebook are paying women to freeze their eggs. This presumably allows them to have kids at a later age. They would thus spend their youth working very hard; just as hard as men in the tech field.

 On this topic, people tend to throw around the contrasting phrases equality of outcome versus equality of opportunity.

Equality of Opportunity

 Arguments that grasp onto equality of opportunity claim that as long as there is nothing stopping you from working, then you simply make a choice. Some men value their time and take a less stressful job. Some men really want to work hard and excel in their field and devote their life to it. There is nothing standing in their way, but their own choices, dedication, and talent. No one is barred from the field. You simply make your choices.

Equality of Outcome

Equality of outcomes alternatively favor the idea that since we are all viewed as 'equal' then there should be equal representation in all areas of life. If there is not, there must be some barrier that is actually in place that prevents this desired equal outcome. Perhaps it is not a legal barrier, but there must be some barrier, and we must aim to remove that barrier.

It's Complex

The more you ponder it, the more it is actually quite complex.
There is no doubt that women who want kids or wish to spend time with their family are not going to be as productive as the young single person. It is thus natural for companies to prefer young single people. More likely, they would prefer young single men as even if they do get married or have kids, they are less likely to stay home or take reduced work time. Why would a company invest in training or promoting a person who is not likely to stick around long term?

Some would argue that this is simply a natural result of biological and social choices. There is already equal opportunity, so what do women want? They could:

  • Choose to work in high tech
  • Choose not to work in high tech
  • Choose to marry a man who would stay at home with the kids
  • Choose to stay at home with the kids, while her husband works
  • Choose to stay near family who would take care of the kids
  • Choose to use childcare or nanny services to take care of the kids
  • ...
All are valid choices, and many would say that beyond this women are not seeking equality of opportunity, but just feel entitled to outcomes. They don't want their choices to have any consequences. They simply want everything.

What About Labor Laws

I like the article above as it presents the argument in a different way. Universal labor laws. Most of the world has all kinds of labor laws ranging from the minimum wage, to overtime, to safety. We do not live in some libertarian paradise where everything is just a choice that has consequences. If someone wants to work for less than the minimum wage, they cannot.

Of course, this presents issues with free trade, where your trading partners can have a different set of laws. I have a big issue with this, but let's face it, these are the laws in most of our countries.

These laws exist to provide a baseline by which we all compete on a fair stage.
You cannot compete on lower wages, by working for less than the minimum wage.
You cannot compete by working in dangerous condition without the proper safety equipment.
You cannot compete by working long hours for no pay, or little pay.

Family Life as Labor Law

Just like all other labor laws, what would be wrong with changing the laws and culture in technology for BOTH men and women so they have enough hours in the day to take care of their family? Perhaps policies like:
  •  IT workers are no longer classified as exempt and are thus eligible for overtime pay
  • As in Sweden, maybe 2 years of maternity/paternity leave
  • Reducing the work week or offering flexible work arrangements?
The stage will be fair. The competition will still be fair. We would just be adding labor laws as we have always done.

The arguments will always be the same. We would lose competitiveness. We would stifle our best or hardest working. Yet, this will always be the case with labor laws. Today, the Canadian minimum wage reduces our competitiveness with China. Today, our hardest working cannot work 24 hours a day.

It is perhaps why feminism is highly tied to socialism. The government must in the end reduce general hardship(including for men) in order to women to feel less impediment to true opportunity.


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