The Myth of the Wage Gap

April 10th, 2009 by Pelle Billing

The standard fact that is repeated when discussing the wage gap between men and women is that women earn 75-80 percent of what men earn, the exact figure depending on what modern country you are discussing.

The implicit assumption when mentioning this statistical wage gap is that women earn less than men because of discrimination: women are paid less than men simply because they are women, and society values women less and has no problems giving women a lower salary even though they are as competent as men.

While this is a seductive explanation for anyone believing that men are intentionally trying to keep women down, it hardly makes sense to a person who has any business experience at all.

Within a market economy, any company looking to survive, needs to turn a yearly profit. Competition is often fierce, and small gains in efficiency can often mean the difference between becoming a winner and a loser in the marketplace.

Under these circumstances, why would a company want to hire a man if it’s cheaper to hire a woman who’s equally competent? It simply does not make any sense, and if women really were paid less for the same performance, we’d quickly see a trend of companies preferring to hire women over men.

A Closer Look

Common sense alone tells us that it is unlikely that women get paid less than men based on gender, all other factors being the same. But what can we learn when taking a closer look at the facts? Are there any other factors than gender discrimination that better explain why men earn more money than women?

The glaring explanation that is somehow overlooked in most gender debates is that men and women make very different choices in the workplace:

  • Men prioritize earning a good salary, whereas women prioritize flexibility, fulfillment, autonomy and safety.
  • Men choose “death careers” such as mining, oil platform work, the army, the police force and firefighting. Women, however, usually choose indoor jobs that are safe and clean.
  • Men choose to work longer hours, thereby sacrificing time with their spouse and children. Women want to work part-time, or at the very least have a flexible work schedule so that they can spend more time at home with their children.
  • Men are ready to travel more, and sacrifice their dreams of a fulfilling job, in order to be able to support a family, or even to become “marriage material” in the first place. Many women can count on not being faced with that choice, since they can expect their future husband to be the primary breadwinner.

US writer Warren Farrell has written about the wage gap in his carefully researched book Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap — and What Women Can Do About It. In the book, he demonstrates that when you control for 25 different variables that have to do with the tendencies listed above, the wage gap disappears entirely.

Other references can be found in this book, and in this blog post.

So, What to Do?

When all is said and done, is the wage gap really a problem? This question needs to be answered in two parts:

From the perspective of wanting a society that’s free of gender discrimination, the wage gap is not an issue. There is no proof that gender is a factor when determining the salary of an employee. Both sexes can be paid a good salary if they are ready to make the necessary sacrifices.

From the perspective of polarized gender roles, men and women still make different lifestyle choices, with women prioritizing being the primary caregiver of the children, and men prioritizing being the primary breadwinner of the family. Women are prepared to give up a high salary in order to have a satisfying family life, while men are prepared to give up part of their family life (and sometimes part of their health!) in order to make good money. 

Personally I don’t believe that it’s a problem that men and women have different gender roles, since no matter how much we change culture, the nature component of nature vs nurture will remain. Many men will likely prefer to continue focusing on their careers, while many women will likely prefer adapting their job to their family life, or even giving up their career temporarily when raising toddlers.

However, overly polarized gender roles do not benefit either sex. Women are quite capable of contributing to the family income by having a part-time or full-time career, and men are quite capable of participating in the raising of children. Each individual needs to think carefully about his or her choices, and the consequences that those choices will bring.

It’s important that women look over their financial future, and find a way to make sure that they are financially compensated for the work they do by being the primary caregiver. Likewise, it’s important for men to demand that their workplaces are as safe as possible (preferably by legal regulation), and that their working hours enable them to have a family life.

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30 Responses to “The Myth of the Wage Gap”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Mom Blogs – Blogs for Moms…

  2. MarkD Says:

    @ Pelle,

    I am very pleased to see this topic broached on your blog, and especially the reference to Warren Farrell’s work. He is a natural ally here.

    But curiously, I have heard many of these same arguements debunking the pay disparity myth from the mouths of very conservative sources like Rush Limbaugh – a figure well known in the U.S. who has a daily audience to his radio talk show of some 20,000,000.

    Of course he has a different agenda in his debunking but does show that sometimes there are areas of agreement among those who don’t have much in common beyond not agreeing with the prevailing “correct” view.

  3. Just a metalhead Says:

    I agree that most of the “wage gap” is due to men and women generally choosing different jobs because of preferences and not because women are discriminated against or, worse, being “oppressed” by men seeking to re-enforce the “patriarchy”. However, there is some allowance for, if not voluntary discrimination, differential treatment between the genders without people realizing it. This manifests in jobs where people negotiate their wages individually, men tend to be more boastful and to be more aggressive in negotiations (not all men of course, for example I’m shy in real life and rather modest), this is expected of them so they are treated better than women who would do the same thing. At the same time, more passive people probably get paid less than aggressive people for the same output because they attribute less credit to themselves for it.

    I’ve heard this argument on feminist sites and I think it makes some sense, though I don’t see it causing vast variations in wages, at most I’d think 10% could be possible between two workers with similar output. And since a lot of jobs actually have guidelines or collective bargaining, I don’t think the global effect is that important. I still think it’s worth noting though.

  4. Pelle Billing Says:

    Mark,

    I am glad you like the subject. And I agree that many different kinds of people criticize feminism, and for very different reasons.

    My own goal is to have the gender discourse be much broader and more inclusive than it currently is, in order to have both sexes thrive and feel free.

    I think the main distinction we need to make is not between different political orientations, but between those who are criticizing feminism from an angry and destructive perspective, and those who criticize feminism because they truly believe that there are better solutions than feminism for evolving the genders. While the former is very understandable as a phase, it’s vital that more and more men around the world reach the latter position.

    We desperately need to be more constructive and inclusive than feminism if we are to have any success in spreading new ideas around gender.

    Great comment Mark.

  5. Pelle Billing Says:

    metalhead,

    I agree that your ability to negotiate might increase your salary. However, as you write, I doubt that this can have a significant influence on what you earn. Companies are simply not interested in paying people more money than the “market rate” for a certain competence.

    I also believe that feminists would need to produce some kind of research demonstrating that women get paid less due to bad negotiation tactics, before we consider this a relevant issue.

    But as you say, it is worth noting, and we always need to stay open-minded and remember that new research and new facts can always emerge.

  6. Desipis Says:

    Pelle,

    Companies may not be interested in paying above “market rate”, but they are very interested in paying below it. Less aggressive negotiators risk being paid well below market rate.

    I do think there have been studies done in this area, for example a quick google search turned up this: http://www.vault.com/nr/newsmain.jsp?nr_page=3&ch_id=402&article_id=7286802&cat_id=1102

    My own analysis of pay rate data suggests to me that there is a small otherwise ‘unexplained’ impact (1%-3%) from this, but nothing like the 75 cents in the dollar as is often stated.

  7. Kristian Says:

    I have few objections here.

    “The implicit assumption when mentioning this statistical wage gap is that women earn less than men because of discrimination: women are paid less than men simply because they are women, and society values women less and has no problems giving women a lower salary even though they are as competent as men.”

    This I think is true. If I am a manager or owner of a company and want to hire a new member of my staff and can choose from two equally merited candidates with opposite sex, it would be rational for me to choose the male candidate. He will probably not be home with ill kids. He will not take as long paternity leave. He will not be pregnant. He is more likely to focus on his career, since he will most probably have a spouse that supports him in his career more than the female candidate has.

    And by making that rational choice I will reinforce the structural oppression that I really do think is occuring. I don’t think it is all about choice from the womens point of view. As you are saying, they are expected to stay at home more.

    There are also psychological reasons for me to hire the male candidate. I will more likely connect personally to the male candidate since we are the same sex. As a man I see man as a norm, something familiar and safe that I can trust and visualise in the position that I’m hiring to, while women is to me more of a gamble.

    Besides, as you have mentioned in earlier posts, according to traditional values and assumptions the workplace is a man’s world. If my deepest identity as a man is as a provider then any woman trying to get in to my world is a threat to my identity as a man. These two last reasons may not be so strong today, but depending on area, a few decades ago it may have been a strong discriminating force.

    And if I hire both the male and the female candidate I will most likely give the most interesting and career beneficial projects to the male employee, since it is more likely that he will focus harder on his career. I will also invite him to golf trips and to my network and sauna club. He will of course later be promoted before the female employee.

    As a conclusion, I will not hire and promote the candidate that is best suitable for the job, I will hire the candidate that I as a man think will be best suitable for the job.

    Kristian

  8. Pelle Billing Says:

    Kristian,

    Very interesting comment. You bring up a range of points, so I’ll structure my response in points too.

    1. If you hire a man instead of a woman simply due to your own psychological reasons or comfort zone, then you are indeed practicing a form of discrimination. As an employer you need to choose the most competent candidate, even if you need to put in a bit of an effort to be able to make that choice rationally.

    2. If you choose a candidate who you think will have more time to put into his or her career, then you are not being discriminatory. However, you cannot judge this based on gender prejudice, you actually need to ask the candidate about how much time they’ll be able to devote to their work.

    3. If you give a male employee benefits because it’s *likely* that he’ll focus more on his career, then you are discriminating the female employee. But if you reward a male employee because he actually is focusing more on his job, then you are not discriminating anyone.

    This is the kind of interesting discussion we can have, once we’ve killed the myth of the wage gap… :)

  9. Kristian Says:

    As you are saying, the wage gap does not seem to occur at equal positions. Here is an article (in Swedish) that supports that: http://www.ne.su.se/ed/pdf/25-1-emm.pdf

    The wage gap rather depends on the fact that men and women tend to work at different positions. But why is it so? You say that women tend to make lifestyle choices that prioritizes family and raising children, I say that they are discriminated because they are expected by everyone to make those choices. Probably it is a combination of both.

    Women tend to not prioritize their carrier because they are not expected to do so and they have to work harder to overcome the barriers that are created from this expectation that is being held of all parts.

    Respons to your respons:
    1. Yes, I agree that this is a sort of discrimination, and that it is a reality. And I even claim that it is rational since the male candidate will probably work more.

    2. “However, you cannot judge this based on gender prejudice…”
    One of the main contribution of the postmodernism and gender studies is that these assumptions and prejudices have been revealed. We are questioning normality, e.g. that the male gender and male qualities are seen as a norm at most workplaces. Male qualities are attributes that we assign to men only.

    “…you actually need to ask the candidate about how much time they’ll be able to devote to their work.”
    At an interview both candidates will of course say that they will focus hard on their carriers. And I’m not allowed to ask about the plans they have about family and getting children. Therefore I will most likely take into consideration statistics that say that women take 81% of the maternity/paternity days.

    3. Agree, but it is hard to peal out how much of my actions that come from unbiased observations and how much that come from my own assumptions. We are not perfect rational beings.

    A fact that I think is beneficial in this case is that diversity is more and more seen as an advantage in project groups and workplaces since flexibility and creativity is valued higher nowadays.

    Kristian

  10. Just a metalhead Says:

    Kristian, I don’t think you’re right when you say that:

    “You say that women tend to make lifestyle choices that prioritizes family and raising children, I say that they are discriminated because they are expected by everyone to make those choices.”

    Being told that you are expected to act in a certain fashion is one thing, being discriminated against because you choose to act in a different fashion is another thing. If just because one is subject to expectations from others and society means that one is discriminated against, then everyone is the victim of discrimination. Both men and women face different sets of expectations, but they face expectations nonetheless which pushes them to fit certain gender roles. The consequences can be real, certain women who might have preferred to give more time to their career can opt to choose a path more towards creating a family, and certain men who would prefer to stay at home and raise their kids will then opt to go to a career they may not like to be able to provide for their family. But I don’t think one can be said to be discriminated against until they are punished by society for stepping outside their roles and for breaking the expectations, whether by refusing to accept that they actually opted out (your example where you choose a man over a woman because you don’t believe that she cares for her career enough) or by directly lashing out against them (saying of a man who loves to spend time with his kids that he must be a pedophile who abuses them).

    Furthermore, I don’t think we can expect to ever become free of expectations. The problem is rationality, let me explain. If you met 2 dogs in your life, and both have bit you, rational thought leads you to extrapolate this and think “if I meet a dog, he will probably bite me”. When you are in a society and see that your teachers are primarily women, that more women opt for giving priority to their families rather than their careers, then rationality leads to the (undesired) conclusion “Women are more likely to be nurturers and to care for their kids and families, if I’m a woman then I am more likely to do the same thing, if I’m a man, then the opposite is true”. This is the rational conclusion, but that is one that is undesirable on a level of equality and equity. There is no way to start from scratch with a society that is equal and then to develop it, so whatever we do we are stuck with this unbalance and have to deal with it, rationality therefore directly leads to expectations being made about men and women, even if we try not to. That’s not even mentionning the possibility that there may be biological factors that have statistical differences between what life men or women are more likely to choose.

    Ultimately, I think what we can actually do is to promote acceptance of individuals breaking out of the expectations of the group they come from and try to teach people to judge individuals and not their group. Teach kids that it’s okay to break expectations and to set new ones by themselves for themselves.

    And as an aside, ark, not post-modernism, it’s meaningless, depending on where you start the analysis of “reality” you can come to a particular conclusion or to a diametrically opposed one. If you look at gender studies, if you start from a feminist point of view you can view sexism against women at the base of everything, but if you bothered to take the opposite point of view and do the same exercise, you come to a conclusion where sexism against men is at the base of everything. A far-fetched example: “men kill their partners more than women do? Well, it’s because they’re told by society they’re only worth what they provide to their women, they are basically slave who work for the benefit of a dominator and, as the oppressed sometimes do, they can lash out at their oppressor.” I disagree completely with this analysis, but it’s one one could do in post-modernism. In the end, post-modern critics of reality often say more about the subjectivity of the critique himself and not about the subjectivity of reality, in other words, you find what you want to find.

  11. Pelle Billing Says:

    metalhead:

    ” In the end, post-modern critics of reality often say more about the subjectivity of the critique himself and not about the subjectivity of reality, in other words, you find what you want to find.”

    Wow, very well put.

    “depending on where you start the analysis of “reality” you can come to a particular conclusion or to a diametrically opposed one.”

    Exactly. But what I’ve been wondering for some time now is why gender issues have only been analyzed from women’s perspectives and not men’s. I wrote about some potential reasons here, but it is still kind of puzzling.

  12. Pelle Billing Says:

    Kristian:
    “You say that women tend to make lifestyle choices that prioritizes family and raising children, I say that they are discriminated because they are expected by everyone to make those choices. Probably it is a combination of both.”

    I don’t agree with your use of the word discrimination. Cultural expectations that nudge people in certain directions are not a form of discrimination. Discrimination only occurs if you are actually denied a job because of your gender, race, age, etc. Maybe you mean that the end result of cultural expectations may be actual discrimination, but we still need to be careful that we don’t use the term discrimination loosely.

    “Women tend to not prioritize their carrier because they are not expected to do so and they have to work harder to overcome the barriers that are created from this expectation that is being held of all parts.”

    How do you know that this is the reason women don’t prioritize their careers? This is a common assumption, but I have yet to see any proof that it is true. OTOH, there are real indications that women are actually choosing certain types of jobs, and choosing to have more free time to spend with their children. In Sweden they asked a large group of women if they would be prepared to share their parental leave with their husbands, if it did not affect their income, and almost 90% said that they did not want to do this.

    “At an interview both candidates will of course say that they will focus hard on their carriers. And I’m not allowed to ask about the plans they have about family and getting children. Therefore I will most likely take into consideration statistics that say that women take 81% of the maternity/paternity days”

    Well, political correctness and feminism have created this scenario. I believe that you should be allowed to ask those questions! Why shouldn’t you be allowed to do so? You need to get all relevant information before you can make a rational choice about who to hire. If you were allowed to ask those questions then you would not need to discriminate anyone due to your own prejudices, since the answers you receive will either negate or confirm your prejudices.

    “A fact that I think is beneficial in this case is that diversity is more and more seen as an advantage in project groups and workplaces since flexibility and creativity is valued higher nowadays.”

    This is indeed progress, but we have to be careful that we don’t create a new set of prejudices. If we assume that it’s always better to have a mixture of men and women, different ages, and different cultural backgrounds – then that may lead to discrimination. Instead of assuming that people have different qualitities because they look different, we need to actually find out what qualities people have, and the decide who the best people for the group are.

  13. Just a metalhead Says:

    “Kristian:
    “You say that women tend to make lifestyle choices that prioritizes family and raising children, I say that they are discriminated because they are expected by everyone to make those choices. Probably it is a combination of both.”

    I don’t agree with your use of the word discrimination. Cultural expectations that nudge people in certain directions are not a form of discrimination. Discrimination only occurs if you are actually denied a job because of your gender, race, age, etc. Maybe you mean that the end result of cultural expectations may be actual discrimination, but we still need to be careful that we don’t use the term discrimination loosely.”

    Eh, funny. You know on one of my first posts I mentionned how I was actually surprised at how much what you said echoed what I thought? The sentence “I don’t agree with your use of the word discrimination.” was actually part of my first draft of my response to Kristian. When I first read your post, I was wondering whether you were quoting me, but then I checked and remembered I had modified the beginning of my post.

  14. Kristian Says:

    I should clarify what I refer to as discrimination. Having cultural expectations is not a discrimination, but it can result in one. And that is what I believe is happening.

    Pelle:

    “How do you know that this is the reason women don’t prioritize their careers? This is a common assumption, but I have yet to see any proof that it is true.”

    We can agree that the following observation is true:
    Men tend to be better in making a career than women at most workplaces. They are more likely to be promoted and advance to managing positions with higher salary.
    This is the result of the following factors:
    a) Men are more focused on their careers and better in achieving results (work harder and/or more results oriented).
    b) Men get advantages such as more access to informal networks, more responsibility and better projects.

    You say that b) is a direct consequence of a). A typical feminist would claim (and many women experience) that a) is a consequence of b). It is of course hard to provide waterproof evidence of which statement is most accurate, which is the cause and which is the effect. I think, however, that I have given examples of economical, psychological and cultural mechanisms that supports the second statement.

    “I believe that you should be allowed to ask those questions! Why shouldn’t you be allowed to do so? You need to get all relevant information before you can make a rational choice about who to hire. If you were allowed to ask those questions then you would not need to discriminate anyone due to your own prejudices, since the answers you receive will either negate or confirm your prejudices.”

    So, if I’m allowed to ask the candidates those questions and both answer that they plan to have a family but the female says that she will probably spend more time away since she is the pregnant one, would it be ok for me to hire the male candidate for that reason? Or would this be discrimination?

    Kristian

  15. Kristian Says:

    Metalhead:

    The point of postmodern critique is to bring forth different perspectives, e.g. the possibility that a) could be a result from b). A modernist view on that problem is that men is more successful in their carriers. Therefore men work harder and better. If you want to be more successful you should work harder and be more man-like, which most women have realized and some have adapted to.

    “In the end, post-modern critics of reality often say more about the subjectivity of the critique himself and not about the subjectivity of reality, in other words, you find what you want to find.”

    Well, yes. And this is what I think postmodernism is all about – to find as many perspectives as possible and giving all perspectives a voice. The fragmented view of reality that appears doesn’t have to be coherent.

    When Pelle states that b) is a consequence of a) I as a feminist would claim that he is making a truth claim in order to claim power and uphold the structure. My job as a postmodernist would then be to bring forth the other possible explanation.

    Kristian

  16. Just a metalhead Says:

    “The point of postmodern critique is to bring forth different perspectives, e.g. the possibility that a) could be a result from b). A modernist view on that problem is that men is more successful in their carriers. Therefore men work harder and better. If you want to be more successful you should work harder and be more man-like, which most women have realized and some have adapted to.”

    The problem is that, as I said, post-modernism says more about the critique’s own subjectivity, so you can’t conclude anything from post-modern critics because in the end everything is subjective. But people don’t use those critics only as a way to pass the time, they actually use them to support certain policies or social changes, and that’s where the problem is. Anything can stand in post-modernism as long as you start from a particular “perspective”, so as a basis for interventions in reality, it is nothing but quicksand, you can’t build anything on it.

    You say that it’s about giving every perspective a voice… that’s wrong. Different perspectives have been argued for ages without using post-modernism. What post-modernism gives is a way for any perspective to justify itself even when they are blatantly erroneous. In an post-modern analysis, facts that contradict the assumptions at the basis of the perspective aren’t proof that there’s something wrong with it and that it has to be modified in consequence, they are only obstacles that have to be deconstructed further so as to fit the perspective. There is no way for different perspectives to converge under such a scheme, so post-modernism actually leads to dogmatism and what we call in French “dialogue de sourds”-”a dialogue of deaf people”, both speak and neither is able to listen to each other as through deconstruction they can avoid having their views challenged.

    You say women have to become man-like to succeed in their careers, the conclusion we’re supposed to see here is that the career world is actually tailor-made for men and women are disadvantaged by it. That’s a regular argument in feminist circles, but let’s do a non-post-modernist rational appraisal of the situation. The traditional male approach to work includes working long hours at the job, earning more experience and showing more dedication to their employer, whereas the traditional women’s approach is one where they work the time needed but leave quickly when their time is done to take care of their family. Remove the “male” and “female” descriptive there and tell me, as an employer, which employee is a better asset for you and for your company? The guy who works 60 hours a week and who won’t go home until his job is done, or the guy who works 40 hours and leaves as soon as he can? Anything else being equal, the first guy is going to be the one who is going to be favored for promotion because he works harder and longer, therefore producing more for the company.

    This isn’t about the workplace being made for men, it is simply the rational conclusion. There are very few men out there who are actually happy of working long hours, they don’t like it but they do it because that’s just better in terms of economic productivity. The often heard feminist argument that the rules of the workplace were done with men in mind and only this explains why hard work is rewarded is outright wrong.

  17. Pelle Billing Says:

    Kristian:

    “b) Men get advantages such as more access to informal networks, more responsibility and better projects.”

    If a company hires a competent woman, then why would they want to keep her away from good projects and informal networks?

    It seems to me that the companies that can use the competence of both their male and female employees will be the companies that ultimately succeed, at the expense of companies who try to give one group of people unwarranted benefits.

    Just like companies cannot afford to pay men (or women) more money than their competence justifies, companies cannot afford to squander or isolate talented individuals simply because they are women (or men).

    What I do think is true is that male dominated workplaces may need some time to adapt if women start getting hired, just like female dominated workplaces may need time to adapt to men getting hired. However, this is not discrimination but simply a temporary phase that cannot be avoided. Only if adaptation does not occur do we have a problem.

    “So, if I’m allowed to ask the candidates those questions and both answer that they plan to have a family but the female says that she will probably spend more time away since she is the pregnant one, would it be ok for me to hire the male candidate for that reason? Or would this be discrimination?”

    If it’s important that the person you hire can work at least full-time in the coming two years, but one candidate plans to take parental leave for at least one year, then it is not discrimination in my opinion to hire the candidate who says that he/she can work the amount of time that you require.

    If you want to be able to take time off to raise one or more children, then you should look for a career where this kind of flexibility isn’t a problem. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

    The good thing is that more and more jobs are becoming increasingly flexible, and that is a good thing for all parents, women and men alike.

  18. Pelle Billing Says:

    metalhead:
    “This isn’t about the workplace being made for men, it is simply the rational conclusion. There are very few men out there who are actually happy of working long hours, they don’t like it but they do it because that’s just better in terms of economic productivity. The often heard feminist argument that the rules of the workplace were done with men in mind and only this explains why hard work is rewarded is outright wrong.”

    Yes, workplaces weren’t organized as to benefit men, they were organized in a way as to use men as well as possible. That is a huge distinction… I don’t think most men want to work 60 hrs a week and never see their wife or children.

    LIke I said above, everyone benefits from having reasonable working hours and some measure of flexibility – men and women alike.

  19. Kristian Says:

    Metalhead,

    That’s quite a straw man you are attacking in you two first paragraphs. Do you deny every new aspect and perspective that comes from postmodern critique!?
    But yes, we are in quicksand. Get used.

    You say that b) is a consequence of a) just because that is rational.
    I say that a) is a consequence of b), because that is rational.

    Now, why is your rationality more rational than mine?

    Pelle,

    “If a company hires a competent woman, then why would they want to keep her away from good projects and informal networks?”

    Because there is internal competition in the company. Not everyone gets promoted, there is shitty work and there is more attractive work to be done. I don’t think that companys are (or have been) a single conscious organism that has a written rational plan for every employee, even if they more and more tend to be (now many are forced to write action plans on gender issues). Many of these things comes from subconscious assumptions from managers and coworkers at different levels.

  20. Pelle Billing Says:

    Kristian:
    ” I don’t think that companys are (or have been) a single conscious organism that has a written rational plan for every employee”

    Still… companies have been very good at paying men and women the same salary for equal work.

    How can we know that women are (nowadays) being denied promotions simply because they are women? Maybe we cannot know (either way), until more research has been done.

  21. Just a metalhead Says:

    “Metalhead,

    That’s quite a straw man you are attacking in you two first paragraphs. Do you deny every new aspect and perspective that comes from postmodern critique!?
    But yes, we are in quicksand. Get used.

    You say that b) is a consequence of a) just because that is rational.
    I say that a) is a consequence of b), because that is rational.

    Now, why is your rationality more rational than mine?”

    I have a clear unfavorable prejudice against anything coming from post-modernism and I’m proud of it. I don’t discard it out of hand, but very few elements coming from post-modernism withstand the test of rationality if you step back from the clear subjective perspective of the one who did the analysis. I do believe that objectivity, or at least diminished subjectivity, is an attainable goal. I demonstrated it by talking about how some say that the workplace was made for the benefits of men only, I took away the “male” and “female” aspects and posed the question in a gender-neutral fashion. If the answer had been different, I might have accepted the conclusion that feminists propose and tried to see how it works, but as it stands, there is no way it can withstand the test.

    As to whose rationality is best, that is not the question. In a discussion like this, you describe the rational steps of your reflection and expose your assumptions so that other people can follow your reasoning. If you made a logical false step or you made an assumption that is unsupported, then hopefully they call you out on it and you refine your reflection, letting it go where it has to, maybe changing your conclusion. That’s the way you achieve consensus about reality (or close enough).

    As to your A) and B), which are you talking about? The ones you posted before with the informal networks and al? I think that both feed each other, neither is a direct consequence of the other. Men tend to work harder, so this helps them get a foot in the door of the informal networks and big responsibility, and when they’ve been given them, they have to work harder to face those bigger responsibilities. If they start letting go, then they start leaving the informal networks and get assigned to other tasks, meaning they get to work even less. I don’t see why one has to be the direct cause of the other. Prejudice may make it harder for women to start a career, but when they are in, the prejudice is much lessened because people know more about her individually. The problem is typically getting the door opened.

  22. Lövet Says:

    Post Modernism or what the current “Academic BS” term is at the moment. It is very popular nowadays to design cause-effect relationships that in themselfs are only statistical correlations. Women’s and men’s salaries may(!) be one of those. It is popular to assign a number of different “analytical conclusions” as to why the salaries vary with sex (yeah i use t h a t! term), marrital status etc.

    For example I recall Swedish media reporting: Getting married reduces womens salaries, based on the fact that married women on avarage earned less than unmarried. Anyone heard of a woman getting a pay cut when she returned after the honeymoon?

    Of course there are a number of reasons for the difference in salaries between men and women, and not a single “universal discriminator”.

    I.e. Kristian and Metalhead: Maybe its neither “A resulting from B” nor “B resulting from A”, but instead A and B resulting from a combination of C, D, E…Z

    Stating the obvious, society is a complex entity. Hence all analysis will be nothing more than (over)simplifications. This also forms the basis for subjective interpretations (call it post modernism or something else).

    All simplifications (approximations) will be based on some assumption or experience, thus lending itself to tweaking “by belief”.

    ————————————————————————————

    Actually there are other equally questionable conclusions beeing drawn in other scientific disciplines. Take for example medicine where obesity is said to

    1) Cause diabetes type II
    2) Cardio-vascular problems

    These conclusions are drawn because “fat people” have a statistically high occurance of those problems.

    Recent studies however may show that the cause effect may(!) instead be:
    insuline resitance -> cardiovascular problems and/OR obesity, i e exactly what
    i describe above: A and B resulting from some previously “unknown” or disregarded C instead of one causing the other.

    Obviously medicine is also a discipline involved with the study of “a complex entity” and as such it is easy and tempting to construct easily explainable cause-effect relationships.

  23. Pelle Billing Says:

    Despis,

    Your comment was held for moderation, sorry that I missed it… Here it is (and you can see it above now too):

    “Companies may not be interested in paying above “market rate”, but they are very interested in paying below it. Less aggressive negotiators risk being paid well below market rate.

    I do think there have been studies done in this area, for example a quick google search turned up this: http://www.vault.com/nr/newsmain.jsp?nr_page=3&ch_id=402&article_id=7286802&cat_id=1102

    My own analysis of pay rate data suggests to me that there is a small otherwise ‘unexplained’ impact (1%-3%) from this, but nothing like the 75 cents in the dollar as is often stated.”

    Great comment.

    I guess will have to see over time if research can show whether this phenomenon has an impact on salaries. According to Warren Farrell’s research women now earn *more* than men, all other factors being equal.

    But it would be very interesting to hear how you arrived at the 1%-3% impact on salaries, if it’s not too much work to explain.

  24. Pelle Billing Says:

    Lövet,

    Yes, complexity is important indeed, and currently all complexity in the gender debate tends to be reduced to the slogans: women are oppressed, women are victims, men are unjustly getting advantages.

    Even considering factors such that women have personal choice and that there are biological sex differences, add new dimensions of complexity to the discussion about wages, and other gender discussions. Another factor that adds complexity is the observation that both gender roles are constricted, and face hardships due to those constrictions.

  25. Bj0rnborg Says:

    Kristian,
    Im sorry about this mish-mash of quotations, but I am not able to log on as often as you guys, but since your statements have evoked many questions I found this to be the best solution. It is not my intention to quote anything out of context.

    “The wage gap rather depends on the fact that men and women tend to work at different positions. But why is it so? You say that women tend to make lifestyle choices that prioritizes family and raising children, I say that they are discriminated because they are expected by everyone to make those choices. Probably it is a combination of both.”

    Why is it that your seem to think that men are NOT discriminated even though they are expected, as you put it, by everyone to make the choices they make? (sacrificing health, love, nearness with their own children etc, for a career and beeing a good provider for the family)

    If I where to choose what I felt was more important; career or a happy, loving life, i would choose the latter. In a theoretical dichotomy setup, I would claim that men are socialised to give up more important values than women, thus if anyone is a victim and discriminated, it would be men. Right?

    “There are also psychological reasons for me to hire the male candidate. I will more likely connect personally to the male candidate since we are the same sex. As a man I see man as a norm, something familiar and safe that I can trust and visualise in the position that I’m hiring to, while women is to me more of a gamble.”

    You are making a few assumptions I do not agree with. And since Ive been part of the employment process a few times, id like to share my experiences:

    Assumptions I do not agree with:
    1. Men automatically connects with other men.
    – This seems very strange to me. Personally I usually connect better with women. From a genderroll-view, men and women complement eachother, whereas men compete with eachother. So while this assumption will be true sometimes, the opposite will probably be true as often. And ofcourse, most of the time, the potential employer will be professional enough not to let any “connectivety” occur in the first place.

    2. When merits are the same, “connectivety” is a/the deciding factor.
    – Quite the contrary, most of the time any avaiable position have a specific profile that is wanted. That means characteristics that suits that particular position aswell as the company as a whole. Just because you like somebody does not mean that that somebody suits the job.

    3. Its a one man show.
    – Who is hired is not a one man decision in most cases. Usually there is a group of relevant employees that discuss the pros and cons of the interesting candidates before a conclusion is reached and a decision made. The influence of any one individual is not great, and the group most often consists of both men and women.

    4. The assumption that only men are hiring.
    – In moste cases the company boss is not involved in the hiring process, but the “empolyee-boss”. Who more often than not is a woman. By your reasoning that would ascertain that it is a female norm that affects the hiring process, but it is my experience and belief that most companes are more profiessional than that.

    Just a metalhead:

    I agree on your critique on the postmodern theory of science. Its a relative viewpoint, and is heavily dependent on the academic honesty of the scientist.

  26. Jim Says:

    Kristian,

    “I should clarify what I refer to as discrimination. Having cultural expectations is not a discrimination, but it can result in one. And that is what I believe is happening.”

    What you should clarify is that what you are referring to as discrimination is not discrimination. Discrimination is something one person does to another, not something one does to oneself to please others. That can be just as bad, but it is not discrimination, and more importantly, it is up to the person who is distorting their behavior to stop it.

    So if a woman earns less because she decides to take time off from work for preganacy or to raise her children, or if after returning to “full-time” work she takes time off form that here and ther (not really full time anymore , is it?) that is her decision alone and she is responsible for it. It is manifestly stupid to ask her boss to make up the difference between her the work she actually accomplishes and what he/she pays her when in all probablity the boss never told her to have that child in the first place.

    And all these pleas will be a lot more convincing when the same people complaining how women are underpaid start complaining how men are cut out of child-rearing – complaining about lack or ineqaulity of paternity leave, start complaining about inequality in who gets child custody and who gets cut of their children’s lives, start complaining about disparities in workplace injuries and deaths.

  27. Sorin Says:

    “There is no proof that gender is a factor when determining the salary of an employee. ”

    What????? Are you serious?

  28. Pelle Billing Says:

    Yes, I’m serious. Did you check out the links in my posts? When you correct for a number of diffferent factors, men and women earn the same money for the same tasks.

    However, if you have research that indicates otherwise, then please let me know.

  29. hopeless_case Says:

    Sorin:

    I take it you are incredulous because you have lots of evidence at your fingertips that you can easily summarize and display.

    Please proceed.

  30. The Myth of the Wage Gap Says:

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