Saturday, September 4, 2010

At All Ages, the Pay Gap Favors Women

The Wall Street Journal reported a study that found that in 148 of 150 cities, women 22 to 30 earned 8% more than men.

Not surprisingly, the mainstream (liberal) media e.g.,
Time, Salon, etc then immediately reminded us that women overall still earn 80 cents on the dollar. The cover story of this month's More magazine, yells, "Pay us what we're worth damn women no longer bring in 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man."

President Obama continues to cite that statistic as evidence that more needs to be done to increase women's pay relative to men's.

Of course, women earn 80 cents on the dollar but that doesn't mean sexism is a cause, let alone the major cause. There are far more likely causes. Except for the final bullet, I've documented each of these in previous writings:
  • Even among people who work "full-time," the average woman works seven hours a week less than men.
  • Women are less likely to choose jobs that require in-demand, difficult-to-acquire, and thus highly-paid skills such as physics and software engineering.
  • Women are less likely to do loathsome and/or dangerous jobs that thus pay more such as sewer repair, police work, and rodent control.
  • Women are less likely to move their families to far-flung places to get the promotions needed to rise to top levels. For example, Bentonville, Arkansas is where Wal-Mart is headquartered.
  • Women, on average, are more interested in having kids and in being highly involved parents, even though the evidence does not support quantity of time, net, benefiting the child. In fact, helicopter parenting makes it more likely that a child will feel entitled and who is deprived of sufficient opportunities to gain self efficacy.
And all that time and energy the parent spends on the child makes a less valuable employee: years out of the workforce means you don't keep up with needed skills, you lose valuable contacts, etc. And even when parents are back to work, moms tend to give less attention to their jobs than childless women. Especially when environmentalists tell us that overpopulation is the greatest environmental threat, employers should not be subsidizing people who choose to have children by being forced to pay mothers equal pay for non-equal work.
  • This is anecdotal, based merely on the reportage of my friends, colleagues, and the 3,000+ career coaching clients I've had over the last 25 years, but I believe what I say in this paragraph in every bone in my body. There, of course, are many exceptions but in general, I've found that, on average, women at work, work less hard and are less productive. They are more likely to have "issues," on which they stew unproductively or require other workers to help them "process their feelings." I've more often heard a woman than a man say, "I was so upset I couldn't get my work done." Recent popular books have documented what I've heard from clients, colleagues and friends, that women are more likely than men to sabotage fellow workers of whom they're jealous. On average, women simply work less hard during the work day--more likely to chat, less likely to work drivingly hard. I am well aware that such statements will result in people calling me a sexist even though it's not true--I absolutely do try to judge people on their merits, not their gender. But one of the main benefits I derive from writing a blog is that unlike when I write for the mainstream media, I can say here what I truly believe. And I deeply believe every word of what I've just said.
The fact that women 22-30 (thus likely not to yet have children) are earning 8% more than men is, in my view, yet one more example of men being treated unfairly relative to their merit.

To find more of my writings in which I document the unfair treatment of men relative to their merit, just click on the phrase "men's issues" in this blog's label cloud, located to the right.


Marty Nemko said...

I just saw a client who typifies the anecdotal evidence I cite in this blog post. She's collecting unemployment and would rather not look for work until her final extension runs out a year from now. She dumped her boyfriend because he was not making enough money. The goal she seemed most excited about was saving up enough money for plastic surgery. She walked in in expensive shoes and dressed beautifully. Her most marketable skill is as a collections specialist but says she doesn't want to do that. She said, "That's difficult work. Is there any way I can use my looks and people skills in a job?"

She is NOT nearly unique. While most women, of course, are not like her, many more women than men are and thus, that's one reason why women, on average, earn less than men.

I deeply believe that the gender pay gap is overwhelmingly caused by factors other than anti-woman sexism. In fact, I am convinced that, on average, women are more likely than men to receive favorable treatment because of factors other than merit.

Anonymous said...

I can add one more anecdote: my husband works in the corrections branch of law enforcement. He applied for a position on a team for which he was well qualified, but was passed over in favor of a black woman that did not have his qualifications (but that made the team look more media friendly and diverse).

Don't believe everything you hear about environmental dangers though - it isn't the population size, it's the excessive consumption.

A. Roberts

Anonymous said...

Wow, Dr. Nemko, you have some colorful clients. I haven't met anyone who fits that description.

As a female in the high-tech area (PhD in physics) I have seen both sexes show an equal level of competence and laziness. I've seen males and females who know nothing of the science yet smooze their way to managerial positions and higher. However, they don't last long since it's difficult to manage a smart group of engineers if you don't have the technical expertise to keep up. I've seen females take advantage of a several month-long furlough for maternity leave, leaving co-workers to cover. It makes me wonder why the husband doesn't step up to the plate to cover some of the baby and house duties so Mom gets back to work sooner. I've seen male co-workers spend most of their day surfing the web about non-related work topics. I've seen exceptionally talented female engineers who work their tales off to get a product out the door on time.

My point is that both sexes have their faults. I know, Dr.Nemko, you weren't trying to make full sweeping generalizations, but I just felt women were being represented a little too harshly and with a one-sided perspective. I wanted to offer a different set of experiences. Thank you for that opportunity.

Marty Nemko said...

Most recent Anonymous, it is a mistake to generalize from the rarified atmosphere of PhDs in physics to the general population.
My statements and cited statistics are borne of a far more representative population

I believe it's particularly important that I share a fair-to-male perspective because the mainstream media is so censoring of anything that doesn't portray woman as hero, man as deserving of opprobrium.

Regarding the children issue, at the risk of again being politically incorrect, ON AVERAGE, women are more eager than their husband to have children and to spend a grat deal of time (more than the research indicates is optimal) raising that child. It is perfectly fine for her to have that option but to insist that her employer subsidize her with equal pay for unequal work and/or to blame her husband or live-in boyfriend/girlfriend for not doing 50% of the child rearing in the not-uncommon circumstance in which the man was, overtly or subtly pushed into having children, is unfair to men, to employers, and to the larger society.

Anonymous said...

The media coverage might be shifting towards your perspective, albeit, slowly.

Anonymous said...

I agree that women with young children are often distracted and not as productive as their childless counterparts. The question remains if most women decided not to have children so they could focus on their careers how would that be good for society?

Marty Nemko said...

I believe, net, it would be excellent for society. Women, who, like men, bring so much to the workplace, and in turn improving the quality of our goods and services, and in turn our life. When the fullest range of applicants apply for jobs, you get better qualified workers than the current status quo in which so many very capable women opt out or do a half-baked job at work because they have kids.

Environmentalists believe the greatest threat to the environment is overpopulation, so I'd much rather see those great women in the workforce than creating more babies.

ALP said...

This woman here agrees with everything you've said about women getting distracted at work - and thus working less.

But allow me to employ a tactic I use in interviews - when asked what my negative qualities are...

Negative qualities are usually your GOOD qualities, but they are employed in the wrong proportion, and at the wrong time. Thus my gender's tendency to verbalize and feel, which does prove a distraction at times (I'm big enough to admit I'm guilty, and I've been called one with a stellar work ethic...) in other instances, serve us well.

I have observed that women can be much better at client relations due to better communication/verbal skills - the same tendencies that distracts us. ON AVERAGE, we can be better at reading between the lines of what a client may be saying, trying to explain a difficult concept numerous ways until the client "gets it", and hand-holding nervous clients who may be new to your process. I've seen time and time again my male bosses totally miss the tone, nuance, or the real message the client is trying to send. I've also shook my head many times as my male boss gave a short, vague, confusing response to a complex question - and I had to follow up with my own response that took into account the client's obvious confusion and stress (I was a paralegal - having to work with lawyers can really stress some folks).

A man's tendency to "miss" things can result in having to do more work in the future. And to be fair, you really should address the loss of productivity from the male side due to March Madness (don't get me started on how much time guys take on THAT), the Superbowl, the Stanley Cup...

ST said...

From my small sample of women I've worked with over the years, I have to say a lot of them would just as soon chuck it all and stay home and be a mom. They at least would like to work part time, allowing more time to deal with kid's issues, events, etc.. I totally understand that, given what I've seen them having to deal with.

It may stem from our evolutionary past where the child bearer has a need to want to stay home in the nest, while men in general need to get out and hunt.

Some of it, though, is the man wanting the wife to work so there's extra income for all their toys. The women can't be completely blameless, either, they want all the results of their shopping to be affordable.

As far as where I work, there are many female managers up to the senior executive level. Even at staff level at a certain job, everyone's paid around the same (within a grade, which has a large range). So, there's definitely not a wage gap if you're willing to put in the full time hours.

Marty Nemko said...

ALP, thank you for your excellent comment. It's nuanced. ;-)

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