Gender wage gap continues, especially when the dinner bill comes

The question must be asked: what's a gal to do when the bill comes? Logically, whoever makes the most money should pay. But it's not always that simple, Hether Setka writes

Much is being made about the economic power women hold these days.

Not all women, of course. Across the board, men still out-earn women. Statistics Canada data states that the gender wage gap continues to see women earning 70 per cent of what men earn on average annually.

But books like The End of Men by Atlantic writer Hanna Rosin and The Richer Sex by Liza Mundy take both great lengths and great pains to prove the point that women's economic power is growing. It's educated, upper-middle class women who are presumably leading the way for others.

Age-old question

So the question must be asked: what's a gal to do when the bill comes? Logically, whoever makes the most money should pay, right? Men once held all the economic cards and all the power, but they also picked up the tab. Fair or not, it was a trade-off.

But now what? If you out-earn your new romantic partner, or even an old one, should you wrestle the cheque away from him or her based entirely on that assumption?

Here's a scenario for you: A writer and a lawyer go out for dinner. Let's say, since this scenario takes place next Saturday night, that they met online. They chatted on the internal workings of whatever dating site had promised them true love, then they moved to texting. Eventually, their witty electronic banter signaled that they must meet in person.

This flirtatious back-and-forth parlayed well (thank goodness) IRL (that means "in real life" to you, grandpa) and everything was going swimmingly, until the cheque came.

Who, I ask you, should snatch it up first? Well, the lawyer, of course. This profession is obviously more lucrative than the writer's. I'll attest to that.

What if (and I'm sure you saw this coming) the writer is a man in the scenario, and the lawyer is a woman?Who picks up the cheque between lawyer woman and writer man? If he does, it might be at a great cost to him, perhaps even his groceries for the week.

Heather Setka says the subject of who pays is a common dating pitfall (Heather Setka)

If she does, is his male ego bruised? Does she wonder if their married lives — because yes, all women go there during the first date — will always be like this? Will she constantly have to pay and subsequently resent him? I don't know the answer, so I consulted someone who would.

Cara Anderson runs a speed dating service called Six Minute Dates and has been a dating expert for five years. She says we're currently existing in a "dating vortex" where no one knows their role. "It's murky water," she says.

However, Anderson's definitive rule is this: "the person that asks pays." It should be relied on in 99 of 100 situations, she says. Women who ask men out should expect to pay, and she says splitting the bill just isn't sexy.

Anderson is so clear in her position that I start to feel confident. We are in a new age where men and women are economic equals, even at the dinner table.

That is until Anderson adds this: "My experience," she says, "has been that when women ask men out, it doesn't lead to anything long term."

In order to feel masculine, most men, Anderson says, need to ask women out, and pay for the date. This doesn't sit well with Anderson, or me for that matter. She says it makes her stomach turn, especially when a photo in her office of feminist Gloria Steinem catches her eye.

Difficult conversations

"I hope for something better in the future," Anderson says.

I'm just glad I'm not currently on the dating scene, although these perils aren't unfamiliar. My partner is a chef, and I am a mid-level manager who writes on the side. All told, I earn more.

I also carry more economic responsibility in our household, partially because the mortgage is mine and I have a child from a previous relationship. But it's also because I make more money than him. When we go out for dinner — and we do a lot, because he's a chef — I ask him to order for me (again, he's a chef), but I feel awkward when he pays.

I like it, and I kind of feel like it balances out our financial world a bit, if not our emotional one. Yet somehow, it still makes me queasy, like I'm taking more than my share.

We're not yet at the point where his money and my money add up to our money. It will be the last thing we merge, and I doubt it will ever be to the degree that my parents, and even some of my peers, pool their finances.

But like Anderson, I hope for something better in the future. Until then, I'll just have to stomach all the uneasiness I feel whenever the cheque comes.