When Donald Trump talks about the economy, his anti-trade tirades center on a promise to bring blue-collar, well-paying manufacturing jobs back to the United States. At last night’s debate, he said his tax cuts would stop businesses from moving overseas, spur the formation of new firms and lead to millions of new jobs. “That’s going to be a job creator like we haven’t seen since [Ronald] Reagan,” he said. Implicit in this claim is a very nasty argument — that those jobs, the ones he wants to create, should belong primarily to men. It’s a message that resonates among the white men who used to dominate as wage earners. And in some ways, that makes sense. The effects of the long-term decline in jobs like manufacturing were laid bare during the Great Recession, when the country also saw a large, sudden dip in construction jobs. Like manufacturing, construction labor is traditionally well paid, especially for those without college educations. It’s also typically done by men, who lost the most jobs during the recession. It led to a brief, topsy-turvy period, from the summer of 2009 to the fall of 2010, when women outnumbered men in the workforce. But the economic slump men suffered in the Great Recession, dubbed the “Mancession,” was short-lived. In the recovery, men gained jobs at a 2-to-1 rate compared with women, ascribed in large part to the fact that states with shrinking budgets cut back on government jobs, which tend to be in more female-heavy professions, like teaching. Overall, it is true that the workforce participation rate for men has been declining for decades, from 79 percent in 1970 to 70 percent in 2012. During that same period, women have been making small but steady gains both in entering the workforce and earning more. People are picking up on these trend lines, and some experts suggest that women will make huge workforce gains in the coming decades. Women and girls tend to do better than men and boys in school at many different levels, seem to do better in the kinds of interpersonal, communicative tasks that our service-oriented economy is moving toward. Women have been enrolling in college in greater numbers for years, ultimately shifting the balance in education levels. The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey found that, in 2014, 30.2 percent of women had bachelor’s degrees compared with 29.9 percent of men, the first time women surpassed men. Educational differences is a big reason that, in one survey, women earned more than men in some urban areas, though that is not where Trump voters tend to live. All of this leads plenty of observers to assume that women are going to do better in the workforce than men for a long time to come. That’s not true — or, at least, women have never quite filled the gap. Though their workforce participation rate is declining, working men still outnumber working women, of whom only 58 percent are in the labor force. This is true even in states like Kentucky and Michigan, which have lost a lot of stereotypically male jobs in coal mining and manufacturing. On the wage gap, women are paid less than men in every state in the country. White men are paid the most, and everyone else makes less than they do, but black and Latina women are the worst off. The 80-cents-on-the-dollar figure always cited as “the gender gap” comes from a simple calculation from Census Bureau figures, comparing what the average man makes versus the average woman. The gap is not entirely due to simple, easy-to-identify discrimination. It’s hard to know how common it is for woman with exactly the same qualifications and experience to be paid less than a man who is doing the exact same job she is, because there just aren’t many instances in which that scenario is true. Instead, a lot, but not all, of the gender-wage gap is due to the fact that women and men make different choices in their lives, often believe themselves to have different kinds of skills, and have different responsibilities at home. To start with, women go into different careers. Broadly speaking, most female-dominated careers are paid less. “Parking lot attendants actually make more than child care workers,” said Kevin Miller, a senior researcher at the American Association of University Women. “People who watch cars make more than people who watch children.” Even when men enter traditionally female jobs, like being a teacher or a nurse, they’re paid better than women are. Once they’ve picked a career, women are less likely than men to successfully negotiate for better starting salaries. Studies show that when women are starting out, the wage gap is smaller but still there. In 2012, the American Association of University Women found that new female college graduates were paid 82 cents on the dollar. But the gap grows more over time. “Once women reach prime childbearing and child-rearing age, that’s the age when you really see the gap expand,” says Kevin Miller of the American Association of University Women. “Ages 35 to 55, that’s when the gap is biggest.” This is, in part, because women are much more likely to take time off to care for young children. That’s a personal choice, but there’s also a lot of societal pressure to do so. Numerous studies have shown that most people judge working mothers more harshly than working fathers — about half of Americans still say children are better off when mothers are at home. Mothers are paid only 73 cents compared to every dollar paid to fathers. Even if they don’t take time off, they’re seen as much more likely to potentially take time off to care for sick kids or elderly parents, and they’re penalized in advance. They’re seen as flaky, while highly educated professional men with children are seen as desirable and actually receive a bonus in earnings when they have children. But motherhood isn’t all of it. A study by Lean In and McKinsey & Company found that women in corporate America are 15 percent less likely to be promoted than men. That means that, during the same years that women are having children, they’re also watching the men in their offices advance to leadership roles while they’re stuck in lower-paying jobs, and not getting raises as often or as high as men. So far, women haven’t been able to turn educational advantages into more leadership roles and better pay. Men see a future in which they believe women will surpass them, obscuring the very real challenges for women are still facing in the workplace now.