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Allison Martell writes about feminism and economics at Economic Woman, and is part of Feministe's 2008 Project Guest Blogger.
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40 Responses

  1. dananddanica
    dananddanica July 17, 2008 at 5:13 am |

    I have a question regarding the wage gap debate. Why is it that the number, whether it be 59% back in the day or 80% now, is used a lot of times to say “a woman only earns 80% of what a man does for the same work in the same job” when this isn’t what the numbers mean? If I’m wrong on that please let me know, I’ve only gotten through a few of the links posted here but have had a chance to read a fair bit about it in the past. The number means the average womans income is 80% of that of the average man correct? If so I just dont get why it is often spun in a different way, the problem is bad enough as it is no?

    ” First, don’t assume that women who work part time or are returning from a few years at home are paid less because they actually are less valuable than their male coworkers”

    How are you defining valuable? Most of my family are low-end wage earners. If you take off a few years and come back, you will make less than someone who never left, your value to the organization is less on paper. Of course we all know people are different and bring different things to the table but if we are talking about groups, a wal-mart, wal-greens, kroger, etc. worker is worth less as a part-timer or having have missed a few years no? How else to measure it, as far as what an employer will pay an employee at least?

    “Even after accounting for key factors that affect earnings, our model could not explain all of the differences in earnings between men and women.”

    This is written a bit weirdly for me. I will try and find the links to some articles I’ve read before but basically there is the 20% gap and then all the other factors listed in the census study are put in and while they couldnt get to 100% accounting for all the factors, it did take quite a chunk out of the remaining 20% gap. The way that sentence reads, at least to me, is even with trying to account for all the other factors women only earn 80%. Out of the list the ones that seem the most complicated, and interesting, to me is that women work fewer hours per years and have fewer years of experience. If you take the 80% but normalize it for hours worked, the wage gap shrinks. There are tons of studies and pretty much common wisom that shows that women do more than their share of housework and childrearing but as much as these things can be measured, on average men work more hours out of the home to nearly equalize the more hours women work in the home. Ill try to find the links for those too.

    Amazing post and lots of good reading. This is a topic that touches on so many parts of feminism and of course there are numbers to play with, woohoo! Thank you- Dan&Danica

  2. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 17, 2008 at 8:40 am |

    Frankly, as a tradeswoman, I’d like to see a study on the wage gap for women in the trades—I think it would make for some pretty interesting reading. See, all journeylevel tradespeople of any given trade earn the same rate per hour. Where the gap comes in is in opportunities for employment (who gets laid off vs. who stays when a job starts coming to a close) and opportunities for advancement (who gets to be a foreman, general foreman, superindendent, or project manager).

    I think it would illustrate the problem quite neatly, as the journey-scale eliminates a lot of variables. Add to that the availability of apprenticeship test scores and journeylevel classes, and yeah, I’ll bet it would provide for some interesting food for thought (since one of the tropes is “but women choose differnt types of work”—so, let’s compare women who did choose an overwhelmingly male career with the men who chose that career—did the women achieve parity?).

  3. ballgame
    ballgame July 17, 2008 at 9:15 am |

    I agree with the many excellent points that dananddanica raise.

    I am strongly in favor of equal pay for equal work, and equally in favor of regulations that would make it easier for men and women to care for dependents, whether they be children or ailing mates or parents.

    But I find the way that some feminists discuss the pay gap to be simplistic and one-sided to the point of disingenuousness. Pay is not the only important aspect of work, after all … there is also the question of working conditions. While it’s been said that it takes till April for women to ‘catch up’ to the earnings of men from the previous year, it would take till June for them to ‘catch up’ to the number of non-fatal injuries and illnesses that men suffered at work during the previous year … and it would take women working till 2015 to catch up to the number of workplace fatalities that men suffered in 2007.

    Will there be a simultaneous effort to equalize the overall rate of workplace illness, injury, and death between the genders along with the effort to equalize pay?

  4. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil July 17, 2008 at 9:33 am |

    Will there be a simultaneous effort to equalize the overall rate of workplace illness, injury, and death between the genders along with the effort to equalize pay?

    Geez, the trolls are out in force these days.

    But actually, economists frequently look at the fact that some jobs are inherently riskier than others (working construction vs. folding shirts at the Gap, say), and that the riskier jobs pay more. I believe it’s called a risk premium. I am sure that’s part of what that GAO looked at.

    Which is not to say that we shouldn’t work for safer working conditions for all workers. Amazing that we could actually do both. And not throw women under the bus at the same time.

  5. Irishgirl
    Irishgirl July 17, 2008 at 10:46 am |

    The pay gap is a problem even if the women don’t intend to have children. It hurts to type this, but that is a problem to which feminism has contributed. Most women have at least one child. An employer has the issue of whether the woman will take a year off in maternity leave, possibly several times in her career. In that case they will have to find a worker willing to work for an insultingly short period of time to cover for that. Add in thing like flexi time (which can require hiring an extra worker where only one was needed previously) and it can become an unnecessary burden to hire mothers. Then there is the fact that employers aren’t allowed to ask whether a woman plans to have children. Why would they risk hiring a woman? Realistically, it is the woman who will end up doing the childcare. That’s how it is and it’s not the employer’s fault or responsibility. They are there to make money. At the very least, women should be given the opportunity to explain their status. Otherwise, employers won’t want the risk of hiring or promoting them, and I can’t honestly say I blame them.

  6. Lisa
    Lisa July 17, 2008 at 11:37 am |

    Dananddanica, if you read the report linked, they do take occupation into account. The “average” comes in because, for example, any given woman may not earn less than some randomly selected man in the same job (and there are even some jobs where women earn more than men), but when you look at the overall picture, women earn less than men in the same positions.

  7. Farhat
    Farhat July 17, 2008 at 11:45 am |

    I’d agree with Irishgirl. If government is serious about women not being discriminated for maternity leaves than it should reasonably compensate a business for a woman they hired taking a maternity leave. Otherwise, businesses which “cheat”, as in not hire women, have an advantage over those who do. More importantly, this will often lead to businesses moving to countries where this is not an issue. One of my cousins interviewed with a US multinational in India and was explicitly asked to sign a contract that she would not pursue a family, as in get pregnant, for 3 years. And hers was a accountant kind of position, not modeling or something, doing the same thing in the US would be near impossible in the US.

  8. Miriam Heddy
    Miriam Heddy July 17, 2008 at 11:51 am |

    Irishgirl writes: An employer has the issue of whether the woman will take a year off in maternity leave, possibly several times in her career.

    I don’t know where you work, but where I do, I get no paid leave for maternity. When I had my third child, I used my accrued vacation time and sick leave to stay out 6 weeks. I could have stayed out for nine weeks longer, but it would have been unpaid leave, which I could not afford.

    As for it being “an unnecessary burden to hire mothers,” I think that’s the strangest argument I can imagine. According to the 1998 US Census figures, 81.6 percent of married women of childbearing age (defined by the census as 15 and 44 years old) had children. That means that 81.6 percent of married *men* had children. And that’s a pretty significant percentage of the population, no?

    I mean, really, how can *most* of the people be considered a “burden” on the system? How can we not see this as the system itself being flawed? If it seems a “risk” to hire women because they *might* become mothers, how might the workplace be changed so as to reflect the actual lives of working men and women?

  9. Kaija
    Kaija July 17, 2008 at 11:53 am |

    Here’s a great series (10 parts!) that rigorously addresses many of the arguments/misinformation/theories about the wage gap using pretty reputable information/data as well as references as to where that info/date/study came from ). I like data and I like citations…I like to be able to look it up, read it myself, and draw my own critical conclusions.

    http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/category/21/the-wage-gap-series/

    The top piece in this link debunks the “men get paid more b/c they take on the dangerous jobs” myth. The most dangerous jobs are lower level work like agriculture jobs if you look at the government data. One of my fav quotes is the fact that the construction worker up on a girder 25 floors up is LESS likely to be injured/killed than a work on the ground driving a pickup truck…if you look at the actual statistics/risk data.

    This collection of analyses is long, but rich in detail and critical thinking. I especially was struck by the part in Part 9 that gave the results of a Nature (very prestigious and respected scientific journal) study that did a quantitative and thorough study of how women in science get less credit for their work, showing that indeed, the most accomplished women had to be > 2 times as productive as the men to be considered as accomplished as the least accomplished men.

  10. Acta Non Verba
    Acta Non Verba July 17, 2008 at 11:58 am |

    dananddanica stole the post I wanted to make. I had the exact same thought reading this. I was always taught in school that “women make less money than men for the same jobs.” That is not only illegal under state and federal law, it’s just not true. What is true is that women earn on average less.

    Is this a potential problem that needs to be addressed? Sure. But it does no good for those of us who favor equal treatment of women to spin things in misleading ways.

    Lisa: “occupation” is incredibly broad. Take for instance lawyers. Even in the same law firm, the average will be skewed – not because women make less in the same positions, but because the majority of high-earning partners and senior associates are males. Also, bonuses are tied to hours worked – women tend to work less hours (again – this itself might be a problem; not denying that).
    Or take teachers – historically more males received PhDs and thus got paid more (although I wouldn’t be surprised if, as younger teachers come in, this reverses sense women are surpassing men in education now) for the same “occupation” sense many schools give higher salaries to advanced degrees.

  11. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers July 17, 2008 at 1:57 pm |

    Why would they risk hiring a woman? Realistically, it is the woman who will end up doing the childcare. That’s how it is and it’s not the employer’s fault or responsibility. They are there to make money.

    As long as it is understood by management that women will probably take time off to have kids, and that’s okay, we’ll just pay them less, but if a MAN wants to take time off to take care of his kids he’s not a committed worker and we’d better fire his ass… then it *is* the employer’s fault or responsibility.

    As long as the employer assumes that all workers will be equally okay with working unplanned overtime, and that if a woman objects to unplanned overtime on the grounds that she has to pick up her kids from daycare, that’s okay, we’ll just stick some man or some woman without kids with the job even if they don’t want it either, instead of operating on a business model that says you work the hours you work and that’s it… then it is the employer’s fault or responsibility.

    Everybody has plans. Unplanned overtime drives a truck through *everyone’s* home life. But men, and women without children, rarely have an excuse to avoid it that employers will accept. How about, don’t run your business in such a way that anyone ever has to work mandatory unplanned overtime? What a concept!

    Flextime. If you have clients on the West Coast and you live on the East Coast letting some workers come in at noon would be a damn good idea! If a worker will lose two hours a day commuting, but could do their job from home, I bet you could get more productive work out of them if you let them work from home two or three days a week. Given how much longer it takes to get to work or leave work when it’s rush hour, and this stresses everyone out, how about flextime for everyone, not just for the women with kids? *I* liked flextime before I had kids because I don’t wake up in the morning very easily. Come on, night people, how many of you would be thrilled with a 10-6:30 work schedule even if you don’t have and never plan to have kids? But no, if flextime is a benefit for mothers, then of course employers can throw mothers under the bus for demanding it.

    Most of the things that mothers *need* to function in the workplace are good ideas for *all* workers, but most men, and most non-mother women, don’t feel comfortable asking for these things. Mothers are compelled to. Instead of letting your employer mistreat mothers for asking for stuff that, face it, you want too, how about having the courage to stand up and say “Well, I don’t have kids, but I need flextime because I have a long commute?” “Well, I think our company could remain much more productive if we let any worker with a sniffle work from home during cold and flu season so they don’t give it to the rest of us?” “Well, I’m not a woman and I didn’t give birth, but the woman who did needs me to get up at 4 am to feed the baby so she can recover from the birth, so how about you give me two months of paternal leave?”

    Jobs do not need to interfere with your home life. People in many, many jobs can be just as productive if they work from home, have flextime, and are not forced into mandatory overtime. Yes, there are jobs this does not apply to, but there are many, many jobs it does, and if the people who literally *can* do their jobs with flexible hours or from home are allowed to, regardless of whether they are a mother or not, there will be an impact on our culture that will make life better for everyone *and* improve the working conditions of mothers. How much better would your 8:30 am commute be if 1/3rd of the people driving it were either working from home today or were coming in at 9:30 instead?

  12. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 17, 2008 at 1:58 pm |

    Hmm….wonder why some people think of “maternity leave” as being majically different from any other form of medical leave….or, why people assume that over the course of say, half a career (roughly the time of fertility for women) that women will spend more time off from work than men, hm? Especially considering that women with access to birth control are having fewer and fewer children than ever before.

    Or let me break it down to you. I’ve spent the past twenty years in the construction industry. I gave birth to one child, and took FMLA leave (or rather, attempted to take FMLA leave—I wrote a little bit about that on this blog; I was terminated for requesting FMLA leave—I won my case with the help of the Dept. of Labor, and the contractor was fined—but my layoff was allowed to stand). A comparison of the past twenty years would clearly demonstrate that I spent significantly less time off from work due to requested leave than my male counterparts with similar work experience/time/age. Mostly, that’s due to them feeling comfortable enough to take vacations of a week or longer, or take a day or so here and there to go Harley riding, fishing, hunting, etc. I know those vacations are a luxury I can’t afford, since I deal with (many times) hostile employers who live in a different space/time continuum, where a day spent by a man on a motorcycle is less time than the two hours I had to take off to take my daughter to the doctor.

    More importantly, this will often lead to businesses moving to countries where this is not an issue. One of my cousins interviewed with a US multinational in India and was explicitly asked to sign a contract that she would not pursue a family, as in get pregnant, for 3 years.

    And gee, were the men interviewing for that same position asked to sign a contract stating that they would not pursue a family, as in impregnate a woman? No?

    Because the U.S. and India (and many other nations) have something in common: their economies rely heavily on the unpaid labor of women. It is taken for granted that any man with a child has a wife or girlfriend to carry the freight of the labor devoted to raising their children.

    I mean, really, how can *most* of the people be considered a “burden” on the system? Thank you, Miriam! If the system isn’t working for the majority of people, it isn’t a functional system. Considering that the system is human-created, doesn’t it make sense to create a new system that is functional?

    The bottom line isn’t financial. Financial considerations are only part. The bottom line is human survival, which encompasses environmental, social, health, safety and other concerns. The system we have is not working, and it is effectively keeping much of the population from their full contribution. that’s dysfunctional.

  13. sailorman
    sailorman July 17, 2008 at 5:28 pm |

    First, don’t assume that women who work part time or are returning from a few years at home are paid less because they actually are less valuable than their male coworkers. It could just be a different sort of sexism – in all sorts of contexts, women are held to higher standards than men.

    Well, it COULD, in theory. But I think the burden would be on you to demonstrate that. The stuff you discuss is pretty universal across gender: people who work part time or who are returning from years of not working are paid less because they are considered to be less valuable that other people who have worked full time or without a gap. (or, often in the case of part time workers, because they are competing against a proportionately larger group of people who also want to work part time. Most good jobs are full time. Good part time jobs are very hard to come by, and the competition is stiff. And, of course, part time workers are, on an hourly basis, often more expensive for the employer as a result of benefits etc, which makes them worth less than a FTE even if they have the same production level/hour)

    It hits worse on women for a variety of reasons, but the underlying assumption is still sound.
    ————

    La Lubu says:
    July 17th, 2008 at 1:58 pm – Edit

    Hmm….wonder why some people think of “maternity leave” as being magically different from any other form of medical leave

    Because (in most cases) folks choose whether or not to have a child, or at least whether or not to actually bring a child to term. Most other medical conditions are not in that category.

    ————-

    Now, in my opinion is the workplace sexist? Hell, yeah. I know lots of employment lawyers, and I hear some nasty shit. I know of lots myself. This is a bad thing.

    But here’s my beef: the workplace is sexist. And we KNOW it’s sexist. We know that men and women get treated differently in a social sense; we know that they get to have different levels of aggression found “acceptable,” and so on. We know that they get stuck with different child care responsibilities or expectations; we know that if Joe and Jane are in a meeting where someone has to take notes while someone else speaks, Joe will probably speak.

    These things all suck.

    So why, then, do we focus on things that are not so obvious? Why do I see people writing treatises on how part time employees who tackle 2 years off are just as worthy of getting paid the same as a FTE up in the field? That is not true.

    And you know what else tweaks me? This is a supply/demand situation. There is no objectivity here about value as an employee; belief in worth CREATES worth. There is nothing that makes me worth my rate except that my clients think I’m worth it. If an employer does not want red haired men working for her, then they ARE WORTH LESS to that employer. If an employer does not want an employee who isn’t up to date in the field, that employee IS WORTH LESS to her. If she doesn’t want to hire someone who she believes will leave soon after being trained, based on her belief, then that employee IS WORTH LESS to her.

    Now, you can make it illegal to have those preferences, in which case the employer will simply to her best to circumvent the laws. You can try to compensate for those preferences in other ways: that’s right up my alley, I love that kind of work. You can work on the obvious sexism in so many ways.

    But telling the employer that her preferences are wrong is a strategy doomed to failure. You have no control over her at all. The trick is to change her preferences, not fight them.

  14. octogalore
    octogalore July 17, 2008 at 6:30 pm |

    “Hmm….wonder why some people think of “maternity leave” as being magically different from any other form of medical leave….or, why people assume that over the course of say, half a career (roughly the time of fertility for women) that women will spend more time off from work than men, hm?”

    I agree, to me it doesn’t make sense that this happens, but it does happen. But what makes maternity leave different is that there is another human being at the end of it, who needs somebody’s time, and the person usually choosing/chosen, where there is a man and a woman, is the latter. You and I (I took 2 months off with my one child) are not the norm.

    I agree that a system that is systematically biased against a significant proportion of potential/existing workers isn’t functional. But I don’t think we will change that from the outside. Women need to spend the time at work that similarly situated men do, and if we do that in the right proportions, we’ll have the platform to push through changes that work better for us.

    The bottom line IS financial. Not for you, me, women, people, but for corporations it is. So we can’t get rosy eyed and expect perfect humanitarian decisions to come down from on high. They haven’t to date and they’ll continue not to. We have to make it happen, and with the choice of pulling on heartstrings or purse strings, guess my pick?

  15. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 17, 2008 at 6:33 pm |

    Because (in most cases) folks choose whether or not to have a child, or at least whether or not to actually bring a child to term. Most other medical conditions are not in that category.

    Ah, I see. So, twelve weeks of leave because of maternity is a longer period of time than twelve weeks of leave for back surgery, cancer, or any other medical condition.

    Come on. Twelve weeks is twelve weeks. That amount of time isn’t going to cause a worker to be less productive upon return. It isn’t going to cause a worker to lose valuable skills or fall behind in the latest technology or practices. Sheesh. And as for difficulty in finding qualified replacement staff for the interim period, might I suggest the practice of my industry—union hiring halls? If someone quits, is injured, enduring a long-term illness, etc., all an employer has to do is “call the hall”. Skilled help is sent out the next day.

    There is no objectivity here about value as an employee; belief in worth CREATES worth

    Come again? I agree that there is very little objectivity exercised by most employers when it comes to valuing people. But belief in worth does not create worth, and belief in worthlessness does not, in fact, make a potential employee worthless. An employer’s belief that women do not belong in the electrical trade does not reduce my skills, abilities, or years of experience. There are objective measurements of abilities; that more employers don’t, well, employ those standards shouldn’t be our gauge of “worth”.

    And there is nothing wrong with telling employers that bigotry is wrong, nor with enacting laws to prohibit bigoted practices. Fuck the “market forces” argument. “The market” didn’t create sexist workplace practices. “The market” isn’t a mysterious, nebulous force—it is created by human beings. The civil rights movement didn’t waste time appealing to the “market” by reminding bigots how much money they were losing by not serving African Americans at the lunch counter—bigotry is by nature irrational.

  16. Arnold Layne
    Arnold Layne July 17, 2008 at 6:50 pm |

    One oft overlooked factor that falls under the negotiation heading is the variance of wages among men themselves for the same position. At my last two positions, I made more even than my own bosses because of the pedigree of my degrees, which means I made substantially more than those workers at my level who were supposedly doing the same job.. I single-handedly skewed the average pay for men at that position high.

    What about the few innovative women engineers I met along the way (as opposed to the work-a-day types common to both genders)? All of them were sucked up into management or headhunted into other career paths. They didn’t stay in the field long enough for their higher salaries to boost the average wage of women overall. My experience is anecdotal of course, but generally speaking, the female achievers moved up or out to new pastures while the male achievers chose to stay put with greater compensation packages.

  17. ballgame
    ballgame July 17, 2008 at 6:54 pm |

    Which is not to say that we shouldn’t work for safer working conditions for all workers. Amazing that we could actually do both.

    Well, FashionablyEvil, you just called me a “troll” — and implied that I wanted to throw “women under the bus” — for suggesting we adopt that exact approach (i.e. “simultaneously” looking at both wage and death/injury disparities). I won’t press you on whether this means that you, also, are a “troll” or whether you simply misspoke when you made your accusations.

    Kaija: I did not claim in my original comment that “men get paid more b/c they take on the dangerous jobs”. I only pointed out that there is a disparity in overall earnings, and a disparity in overall health risk, when you compare the way employment affects each gender, and if the goal it to treat each gender fairly, it isn’t legitimate to focus on one of those issues and ignore the other.

    As for Amp’s “wage series,” I have not read the entire series. I have, however, read the “risk premium” post you specifically refer to. Ampersand is an intelligent blogger, but the “risk premium” segment appears to have serious logical problems. Even if an occupation pays less overall than other occupations, it still has a “risk premium” if it pays more than the workers in the risky occupation could get with a different job. Amp appears to have simply compared the pay scale and associated risk of an occupation category and concluded that if it has lower pay and high risk, it must not have a “risk premium”, which would be a profoundly flawed conclusion.

    Even if Amp’s conclusion were correct, though, it still throws a monkey wrench into the presumption among some feminists that the workplace is only sexist against women, as here you have a significant part of the workforce which is not just in the lowest pay bracket, but is also confronted with a risk of injury and death vastly higher than the rest of the workforce, and yet it is overwhelmingly male.

  18. sailorman
    sailorman July 17, 2008 at 7:23 pm |

    the presumption among some feminists that the workplace is only sexist against women

    …?

    Most feminists I’ve met are well aware that the workplace is heavily biased against the poor and disempowered, such as those who are forced to work in high risk jobs for little pay.

    That’s certainly discrimination, but it’s probably not SEXIST discrimination.

  19. Elena Perez
    Elena Perez July 17, 2008 at 7:34 pm |

    I just linked to this in a post on the California NOW blog: http://www.canow.org/canoworg/2008/07/it-seems-like-e.html

  20. ballgame
    ballgame July 17, 2008 at 7:50 pm |

    Because when women are adversely affected, gender is emphasized, but when men are adversely affected, gender is erased?

  21. sailorman
    sailorman July 17, 2008 at 8:09 pm |

    Well, a lot of the things that affect women are the secondary effects. Like getting paid less for having taken time off: That’s a rational link which is not inherently sexist…. but because women get stuck doing the kidcare, the effect lands mostly on women. So the effect is sexist even if the employer is acting in a neutral fashion. (aah… one of my favorite legal topics. Facially neutral policies can produce discriminatory effects.)

    But women also get a shitload of primary effects and discrimination which is primarily based on their gender. That’s an IRrational link which IS inherently sexist. See my above comments regarding workplace issues.

    Men get some secondary effects, in that society may put pressure on them to be wage earners, etc., which may help coerce them to take riskier jobs, etc. In that respect they are similar to women.

    But men have very few negative primary effects in the workplace as a whole. (can you name some? I’m sure there are some, but I’m drawing a blank.)

    So it’s not that men are erased, it’s just they they aren’t largely subject to the type of discrimination I am talking about.

  22. octogalore
    octogalore July 17, 2008 at 8:20 pm |

    LaLubu: “And there is nothing wrong with telling employers that bigotry is wrong, nor with enacting laws to prohibit bigoted practices. …The civil rights movement didn’t waste time appealing to the “market” by reminding bigots how much money they were losing by not serving African Americans at the lunch counter—bigotry is by nature irrational.”

    We have employment discrimination laws, but to change their operation to ensure equal result does often require a bottom line analysis. Law firms didn’t start really taking diversity (women, minorities) seriously until clients started firing them for not doing it. That had to do with two things: (1) clients realized they were losing money by not having certain perspectives weighing into cases and deals; and (2) the clients who got to do this were more likely to have women and/or minorities (or both) at top levels saying: do this, or lose our business.

    Both of these examples have to do with pulling on pursestrings and not heart strings. Nobody ever won a bet on employers leading with the latter. We should certainly use those arguments, but we need to back them up with more ammo.

  23. dananddanica
    dananddanica July 17, 2008 at 8:59 pm |

    Home from work and have finally read through all the links. Haven’t had a chance to read through Amp’s stuff yet but I am familiar with some of it and read quite a bit of his work.

    Fascinating read. Some of it conflicts with other things I have read so that will be fun to work through. Having read through the comments, I see a little of what I usually see when this comes up, talking about the corporate lifestyle and demands. While that is an important part of it I still primarily focus on the wal-mart people, part-time workers and seasonal workers. How does paid maternity leave (or semi-paid/unpaid leave past a certain point) affect people in these types of jobs? A persons value does drops if they leave for a few months/years and even in countries where theoretically the father could take nearly as much parental leave as the mother, they dont, not even close. Our scandinavian friends are much more progressive than us but even they are stll having the same problem, just on a different level.

    Lisa- I have read the report but what I was getting at, and some other posters pointed out, was the stat being misrepresented to make the larger case. I dont get that. A shockingly high number (to me) of people I converse with about the wage gap take the stat to mean that a specific woman will make 56..64.72..79 cent on the dollar for the exact same job a specific man does. I dont get this and I dont get why it is never corrected (wait for nat’l wage gap day and check the posts on all the usual blogs).

    It is an interesting conundrum and I’m not sure of the fix and when we get down to it, how exactly any remedy would be administered. All federal? Mix of federal/state? How much does one have to have worked to qualify? A lot of those types of questions remain unanswered here in the states, ideals are great but I’m a details guy and am very interested in how this would be carried out.

    Another factor behind the wage gap, applying to both the corporate world and paid by the hour types at wal-mart is time. The work world is still very sexist, primarily towards women but also towards men , but in the world of law say, the majority of partners are men, in the corporate world the majority of executve officers are men (fortune 500 companies). This is because of all the bullshit in the past that still is working on us today but it is changing, in 20 years the wage gap will shrink even more due to this. See young urban professionals, especially black women vs black men, and the wage gap goes away or even comes back with the advantage to women. Also a lot of stats show that a single childless woman around my age (28) does better than her male peers wage-wise. It seems to come down to stamping out the remaning sexist structures but also about time away for children and I really dont know how to fix that.

    La lubu- Good question. I dont know why they are seen as so different. Perhaps it is the choice thing mentioned about but also perhaps its the difference in what happens after this medical leave. Taking 6 months off for having a child and taking 6 months off after some kind of surgery or injury are pretty much the same but once those 6 months are up, the one with the child is going to work less hours on average and have another thing demanding their time. Should that be what we want to happen? Is that better? To my mind yes but it does make it different than a 6-month convalescence and return to work full time.

    I work for the gov’t and we have flex time, parental leave (6 weeks for women, 2 weeks for male) and a host of other things. That being said, parents, especially single parents, are caught in a trap of daycares not being open when our work starts, having to leave work, etc that results in them a lot of times not earning the credit, comp, or overtime i do, less in promotions and so on. The thing is, should it not be that way? Should they “get” all that I do and a wage to reflect that? Even in a better world will full time flexible daycare and every other benefit imaginable, they will still in the end work less hours and I think perhaps this will still fall on women harder, if for no other reason than how fucked up family court is in this day and age and a lack of a large shared parenting movement in this country.

    Again thank you for the post, I thoroughly enjoyed reading through it and the links.

  24. dananddanica
    dananddanica July 17, 2008 at 9:06 pm |

    sailorman,
    Perhaps if we broaden our view we will see that in japan there are some very negative primary effects of being male in that workplace culture. As far as here in the states, and I’m not quite sure how to say this, initally to me without giving it any deep thought it seems that a lot of the things that negatively effect men because of their gender are carry-overs from the larger culture. I’d put the suck it up, dont say a word and take it, working injured and really the putting work above all else and damn you if you dont as a primary negative effect and one that ive bought pretty much bought hook line and sinker. There are others of thinking of but cant quite elucidate at the moment, will get back to you.

  25. dananddanica
    dananddanica July 17, 2008 at 9:16 pm |

    Alara,
    How would that play out? In what world could mandatory overtime go away? Whether you work in a just in time auto parts production plant, as a farmhand, as a gov’t work etc there will always, always be times where you have to work either more than you intended or different hours than you intended. How would we ever get to a place where the entire country is on fixed 8 (maybe 10-12? hour days? In what industries is that feasible? Medical? No not really, gov’t workers such as myself who have a pretty awesome flextime schedule? no. pizza delivery guy? nope. I just dont see it, how would it work? Hire twice or more the people you actually need so that no one has to work more than their scheduled hours (for those who have scheduled hour)? It seems only at least semi-professional jobs could do this, not a lot of help to our wal-mart peeps and the majority of folks who work for small busineses. I like the idea but just cant see how it would even work for even 10% of full time workers.

  26. ballgame
    ballgame July 17, 2008 at 9:57 pm |

    sailorman, I understand your points conceptually. There may be some legitimacy to approaching the issues from that angle. But there are a number of assumptions built into what you’re saying for which a proper foundation has not been fully established.

    “[W]omen get stuck doing the kidcare…”

    To what extent are women ‘stuck’ doing this and to what extent is it their preference? How many men get stuck doing dirty and dangerous work when they’d really much rather be staying home, and being a dad, if they had to choose one or the other?

    “[W]omen also get a shitload of primary effects and discrimination which is primarily based on their gender.”

    I don’t know how much a ‘shitload’ is, sailorman. I have no doubt that there are some situations where women experience extreme sexism, but it’s not clear if workplace sexism against women is as predominant as some feminists allege, or to what extent it contributes to the pay gap. Warren Farrell cited an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine that found male and female doctors make the same hourly wage, once you take specialty and hours into account, for example. I wonder how often similar results would be found if such comprehensive studies were done in other fields. I’ve read Echidne’s posts about the pay gap, and to her credit she concedes that much of the research isn’t nearly as rigorous as she’d like. (FTR, I do think there is a pay gap, I’m just skeptical about how big it really is if you take all relevant factors into account.)

    “[M]en have very few negative primary effects in the workplace as a whole. (Can you name some?)”

    I don’t know. Male military personnel in Iraq were four times more likely to be killed than female military personnel … dying seems pretty primary to me. Male primary school teachers, dental hygienists, and nurses apparently suffer significant discrimination either getting hired or in the workplace.

  27. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 18, 2008 at 7:49 am |

    Both of these examples have to do with pulling on pursestrings and not heart strings.

    Well, I’m about the last person you’ll find accusing Business of having a heart to which strings can be pulled, LOL! I’m just mystified as to why it isn’t obvious that there’s a helluva lot more money to be made when there are more people with more disposable income in their pockets, y’know?

    From where I stand, I don’t see women choosing to leave the workforce for extended periods of time. That’s atypical where I live, especially in my income bracket. I also think that there is a disconnect between employers (who are in one demographic) and employees (typically in another demographic) regarding children and childcare practices. This adds to the pre-existing sexist assumptions about “proper” childcare. I was astounded to find that certain contractors assume that once a woman has a child, that she’ll leave the trade! I mean—what?—we’re going to raise our children on air and sunshine instead of paychecks? We’re all married to millionaires? They’re speaking from their experience, and we’re speaking from ours. There’s class barriers, as well as sexist barriers to overcome.

    My argument isn’t ignoring the bottom (financial) line. I just don’t feel I have to internalize that outlook for myself. After all, if it was all about the “bottom line” on the accounting books, wouldn’t it be cheaper to forget about job safety? If a worker dies on the job, just haul the body off and call the hall for another one? Because that’s exactly what we had in the electrical industry before the IBEW was formed. I’m a worker. If an employer has to accept a lower profit because of job safety practices, that’s fine by me. That’s because I feel my life and health are worth more than a bank statement—even my own bank statement, y’know? To me, arguments to the bottom line are one means to an end—but not the only means to an end. My end is a better life for the average worker.

    But I don’t think that would be the case when it comes to say, a national childcare initiative (y’know, like we had the Federal highway program). Any cost would be easily offest by the numbers of people able to work as a result thereof. More disposable income and more job security translate into more money circulating in the economy. Considering childcare, like we already do for schools, as a necessary part of the larger economic landscape is a path forward. Our schoolday and school year (remember, the easiest form of instituting childcare that would accommodate the greatest number of workers at the least cost is extending the schoolday—as every other industrial or postindustrial nation already has many years ago) was designed for a nation of farmworkers. We are no longer that nation, nor have we been for generations. Isn’t it time to adjust? Isn’t it time to recognize that the benefits exceed the cost?

  28. Cathexis
    Cathexis July 18, 2008 at 3:26 pm |

    dananddanica: I can give you an example of suppressed wages.

    In one company I worked in, my department was dominated by females. The grade and pay in our department were low, compared to other departments.

    I worked for several exceptional women, there, gaining experiential chops and learning a lot. They tried and tried for YEARS to get a grade/pay-level raise for their positions (which was one full grade level lower than their peers, in other departments). In fact, they were one full grade level below the company “Management” grade (first- and second-line, respectively) — despite being first- and second-line managers!

    BTW, grade levels controled salaries.

    After several years, I was promoted to Management in that department — the first male to reach that position, in the department — ever! Surprisingly, it was at that exact time that the company decided to re-evaluate grade levels for THIS department and give the department’s managers the same grade levels every other manager in the company had.

    Coincidence? I doubt it. The entire episode left a bitter taste in my mouth.

  29. dananddanica
    dananddanica July 18, 2008 at 6:39 pm |

    la lubu, I totally get what youre saying and it makes sense to me I just dont know if spending the money will in the end generate more money. On the surface it seems that it would but as I dont fully understand how the system would be implimented i cant make up my mind one way or the other. The costs and approach to national childcare initiative would be very different than the highway system and the highway system of course had the benefit of being beneficial in a very, very tangible way. As far as it being cheaper to ignore safety regulations and hire a new person when the old one is killed, well we still have that if many of the reports out of the meatpacking industry are to be completely believed (i believe them) but a major difference between back in the day and now when it comes to that is not just safety standards but a plethora of benefits, incentives, and penalties that make a human life worth more than it used to be. I cannot remember how many horror stories my grandparents and great grandparents told me about their working conditions.

    With that I see what youre getting at with adding another benefit that would in the end increase productivity I’m just not entirely sure how it would be done and if the results would truly pay off in the current world economic scheme. One of the only things that provides what we do have today, for us and many other nations in the world, is our ridiculously high levels of productivity and an environment in which corporations and small businesses can thrive, oftentimes at the expense of the individual worker. Would the costs of a childcare initiative damage our output enough to hurt our “bottom line” and decrease other benefits or would it make the bottom line swell? I dont know but I dont find it simplistic once I move beyond the idea phase and look at implementation, especially for the people in my life who, in an economic sense, dont produce that much. Would it increase the number of people who are a net-loss for taxpayers? Would this be offset by better raised children and more people on the side of a net-plus for the taxpayer? Again perhaps but im just not sure.
    Forgive me if I’m not making a ton of sense, trying to wrap my mind around it and take what I would like to see happen and trying to mix it all the possible outcomes.

    cathexis- that does suck and no doubt will be repeated even nowadays and years into the future. I dont have anything analagous to that other than having a hate for how things were when I was a teen and working in a lobster shack, making a fifth of what the young women up front made while slaving in the back, the bias worked the other way then but i quickly came to realize how limited that was when I turned 18 and my back became “worth” more than their looks, gender, and people skills for lack of a better way to put it. Many of then, my friends, got jobs in college waitressing or some other service job and the like while i worked in the mills and factories that wouldnt hire them and then I was the one making a lot more money, could any of them have done the specific job I did? No (not to say no woman could but none of them) but there were tons of jobs that they could have had in my work environmentthat paid much better than anything in the service industry yet they were shut out only based on gender the same way I was when working in the lobster shack only they were shut out for life. I know its not the corporate world but I’ve never been in the truly corporate world, I now work as a gs grade gov’t civilian and that isnt much like the “real” corporate world from what I’ve seen. Such a complicated issue.

    ps. i dont want to seem cold in my analysis of people as net-loss or net-plus to the taxpayer as I dont think theres truly a way to measure that, or people in general. Its just that when confronting/arguing/debating my more republican type friends, it does little good to appeal to the human dimension and if I can make solid points on the “numbers” and such they are much more likely to come around to thinking of the human cost once their concerns about the financial costs/burdens are alleviated.

    pps. la lubu: how do you envision this being enacted? Federally? Fed/state mix? Costs? Requirements? Eligbility? etc

  30. Arnold Layne
    Arnold Layne July 18, 2008 at 7:32 pm |

    “I dont think theres truly a way to measure that, or people in general.”

    The EPA evaluates the worth of a human life to “weigh the costs versus the lifesaving benefits” of proposed legislation. I would think such a cost-benefits analysis as you propose would be child’s play.

  31. Ampersand
    Ampersand July 18, 2008 at 11:45 pm |

    Ballgame writes:

    “Even if an occupation pays less overall than other occupations, it still has a “risk premium” if it pays more than the workers in the risky occupation could get with a different job.”

    I don’t think you understand what a wage premium is. If the employer has to pay more in order to find workers who possess trait “A,” then there’s an “A” premium. If the employer doesn’t have to pay more to get workers with those traits, then there is no “A” premium.

    So if you say there’s a risk premium, that means that employers need to pay more to find employees willing to take physically dangerous jobs, versus what they’d pay if the job had similar requirements but wasn’t risky. But the evidence suggests that this isn’t the case.

    It’s true that men in dangerous jobs are probably working the highest-paying job they could find (given the limitations of skills, transport, discrimination, network, etc). But that’s also true of most people working low-paying jobs, regardless of danger. Economically, danger just isn’t a significant factor in determining pay.

    Look, I’m a wedding coordinator, which means I work nights and weekends. I could, in theory, switch to a lower-paying job which has more regular hours (day shift at mcdonalds, frex). That fact alone does not prove I’m being paid a “nights and weekends premium.” Similarly, that Joe could in theory switch from a $9 an hour job to a less risky $8 an hour job does not prove that Joe is being paid a danger premium.

    “Amp appears to have simply compared the pay scale and associated risk of an occupation category and concluded that if it has lower pay and high risk, it must not have a “risk premium”, which would be a profoundly flawed conclusion.”

    With all due respect, Ballgame, I don’t think you understood my post; what you describe is a small portion of the argument, not my entire argument. I linked to several economic studies which also concluded that there is no danger premium for workers in dangerous jobs. Those studies mostly used fairly sophisticated regression analysis to come to their conclusions — not the simplistic procedure you describe.

  32. Ampersand
    Ampersand July 18, 2008 at 11:58 pm |

    I do agree with Ballgame about one thing; sexism does harm those men who are injured or killed because they’re in risky occupations. It’s a lethal overlap of several kinds of oppression — sexism, but also racism, class, and conditions for migrant workers — that leads to the huge disparity by sex in workplace injuries and deaths.

    However, linking the two as Ballgame has done here, doesn’t seem useful to me. I’ve never gone to a blog discussing male workplace deaths and said “it’s disingenuous for you to discuss workplace deaths. Workplace safety is not the only important aspect of work, after all … there is also the question of wages.” I don’t think saying that sort of thing would occur to most feminists.

    If this post had argued that workplace segregation was always and in every way better for women than for men, then I think Ballgame’s comment would have been on-topic, and would have pointed out a genuine flaw. But of course, that’s not what the post said. As it was, Ballgame’s comment seems like a “it’s wrong to ever have a discussion that’s not centered on male experiences” argument.

  33. Ampersand
    Ampersand July 19, 2008 at 12:00 am |

    In the first sentence of the final paragraph of my previous comment, I should have said “worse,” not “better.” As in,

    “If this post had argued that workpalce segregation was always worse for women than for men, then I think Ballgame’s comment would have been on-topic.”

    It’s kind of amazing how often I type exactly the opposite of what I mean. :-p

  34. Ampersand
    Ampersand July 19, 2008 at 12:52 am |

    Thanks for the great post, Allison!

    What’s the source of that additional 20 per cent gap? I’d say it’s some part straightforward sexism – unequal pay for equal work – paired with workplace atmospheres that discourage women from excelling.

    I think that there’s also the matter of workplace segregation.

    There’s a classic study, which I described on my blog:

    Male and female job applicants, chosen for similar characteristics, and trained to act in similar ways, applied in pairs for waiter positions in restaurants in Philadelphia. The applicants used fictional resumes that had been designed to show equal qualifications for a waiter position.

    The results? 85% of the job offers from high-price restaurants (where wages are correspondingly high) were made to male job applicants. In contrast, 80% of the job offers from low-price, low-wage restaurants were made to women. This is clear evidence of sex discrimination in employment – evidence which might explain how it is that waitresses in the United States are paid only 75% of what waiters make.

    So even when the issue isn’t exactly unequal pay for equal work — and you could argue that it takes more skill to be a waiter at a four-star restaurant than at a Denny’s (not everyone would agree) — employers sometimes resist hiring women for higher-paying jobs, and men for lower-paying jobs, even if the applicants are equally qualified.

    There’s one more thing I think you could have added to your post, which is a discussion of what the wage gap actually means. Usually, it’s just a measurement of what full-time, year-round workers get paid in money. And as you point out in your post, there are things we can look at that make the pay gap seem smaller, like years in workforce, or hours worked per week. But what about ways that we underestimate the pay gap?

    Here’s a biggie: the wage gap measures money, but not benefits. For a lot of people, benefits — especially health care — are a big portion of what they get paid. If we included benefits, then the gap would be larger.

  35. ballgame
    ballgame July 19, 2008 at 1:54 pm |

    Amp, thanks for the respectful way you’re responding to my comments. You’ve said a lot, and I have a lot to say in return, so, in no particular order:

    I do agree with Ballgame about one thing; sexism does harm those men who are injured or killed because they’re in risky occupations. It’s a lethal overlap of several kinds of oppression — sexism, but also racism, class, and conditions for migrant workers — that leads to the huge disparity by sex in workplace injuries and deaths.

    However, linking the two as Ballgame has done here, doesn’t seem useful to me.

    I agree with you that are multiple reasons for the existence of unsafe jobs. I disagree with you about the utility of linking working conditions to the discussion of wages, though, and frankly your statement doesn’t seem consistent with your later comment about including benefits in the discussion, as having a safe working environment would seem to me to be a pretty important benefit.

  36. ballgame
    ballgame July 19, 2008 at 2:00 pm |

    Amp, let me point out that your post which you linked to did not provide direct evidence that the employers aren’t paying more for workers to take on risky jobs. In order to do that, you would have had to provide pay rates from employers who had safe working conditions vs. pay rates from employers who did not have safe working conditions in the same occupation and holding other important variables constant. You didn’t do that. You just compared the pay rates of safe and unsafe occupations, and suggested that since many safe occupations paid more than unsafe ones, there mustn’t be a ‘risk premium’. Because there are other variables aside from risk that would be associated with someone’s occupation — job qualifications being one of the most important — it could easily be the case that the correlation between risk and pay is obscured. The evidence you present, therefore, is weak at best.

    I linked to several economic studies which also concluded that there is no danger premium for workers in dangerous jobs. Those studies mostly used fairly sophisticated regression analysis to come to their conclusions — not the simplistic procedure you describe.

    Well, Amp, in your own post you also said, “Several academic studies have found a significant connection between risk and higher wages.” So, the “other studies” evidence you present in your post is, in your own words, mixed. It’s true that you take issue with the studies you disagree with, which is your right. However, until a reader rigorously analyses all of the studies you reference, it would be impossible to assess whether your conclusions about these studies are accurate or inaccurate. (BTW, I think it’s to your credit that you do acknowledge the existence of studies which contradict your point of view.)

    I will say, though, that the fact that the other studies you agree with use “fairly sophisticated regression analysis to come to their conclusions” is not in itself a particularly compelling argument. In my professional life I have seen people misuse highly sophisticated mathematical techniques in the fields of finance, statistics, and demographics and produce bad analysis because they misunderstand the conceptual relationship between the numbers and the real world.

  37. ballgame
    ballgame July 19, 2008 at 2:37 pm |

    I don’t think you understand what a wage premium is. If the employer has to pay more in order to find workers who possess trait “A,” then there’s an “A” premium. If the employer doesn’t have to pay more to get workers with those traits, then there is no “A” premium.

    So if you say there’s a risk premium, that means that employers need to pay more to find employees willing to take physically dangerous jobs, versus what they’d pay if the job had similar requirements but wasn’t risky. But the evidence suggests that this isn’t the case.

    With all due respect, Amp, I did not misunderstand you. You are simply wrong in terms of how the ‘risk premium’ (as you’re defining it) bears on the question of the relative wages of men and women.

    When it comes to the wage gap & risk, the ultimate question is NOT “Is there a risk premium in American wages?” The ultimate question is, “How does the disproportionate killing and maiming of men on the job bear on the question of whether the genders are being paid fairly?”

    One important difference between those two questions is that you seem to have some technical definition of ‘risk premium': namely, does an employer pay more because it’s a risky job? As noted, you haven’t made the case that they don’t, but to me the far more important question is, is an employee paid more because they’re taking on a risky job? If that doesn’t fulfill some technical definition of ‘risk premium,’ then let’s call it something else, like, say, a ‘risk bonus’.

    So, does a ‘risk bonus’ exist? How does its presence (or absence) bear on the question of the extent to which each gender is fairly compensated?

    A risk bonus exists if an employee earns more for taking on a risky job than he could if he were to take on an available non-risky one. A risk bonus also exists if someone is even simply employed at a risky job when no other employment is available. (“Availability” here would be from the employee’s perspective and would therefore depend on his or her qualifications and the jobs considered open to people of his or her gender.)

    It seems very likely that a risk bonus exists, but I don’t know for certain if it does. I’m certainly not aware of any study that shows that it doesn’t exist. If it does exist, then it contributes to higher aggregate male earnings and therefore constitutes a part of the aggregate pay gap between men and women.

    If it doesn’t, then something extremely odd is going on which is not adequately explained by simplistic notions of anti-female discrimination. Men are being maimed and killed on the job at vastly higher numbers than women, and they aren’t even being compensated for it by getting higher wages than women. That suggests that sexism plays out differently in different economic sectors — in some cases adversely affecting males — and any political advocacy should take that into account.

  38. durga_is_my_homey
    durga_is_my_homey July 21, 2008 at 3:38 am |

    That suggests that sexism plays out differently in different economic sectors — in some cases adversely affecting males — and any political advocacy should take that into account.

    Sexism? I haven’t seen an argument to show sexism at play here. A gender issue? Certainly! But calling this “sexism” is like calling a club for men that refuses to allow homosexual men ‘sexist’ instead of ‘homophobic’. The ‘-ism’ demonstrated is classism. It’s hierarchical.

  39. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers July 21, 2008 at 9:40 am |

    Teaching and nursing are significantly more dangerous than working in a cubicle, but male programmers make umpteen zillion more dollars than female teachers and nurses, despite having equivalent education (and for all the mandatory overtime programmers have to put in, it doesn’t come near the double shifts nurses have to pull). And while both female programmers, and male teachers/nurses, do exist, so do female firefighters; they’re just rare. So I call bullshit on the risk premium.

    Men do take risky jobs more often. This is not entirely because women don’t want the jobs; this is in part because environments that are largely male, uneducated and blue-collar are actively hostile to women and do their best to force them out. When 1/3rd of all servicewomen report that their *own side* has raped or tried to rape them, you have a serious problem, and there have been many cases of female firefighters or cops who actually get injured or killed because the men won’t back them up. Men who bitch about the fact that women don’t take the risky jobs, because men are expendable, need to consider the fact that men actively work to keep women out of risky jobs, and because the jobs are risky, just the fact that you cannot depend on your co-workers to keep you safe drastically increases the risk. So these jobs are *more* risky for women than for men because of the behavior of the men already doing them.

  40. Amp’s Gender Gap & Risk Post | Feminist Critics

    [...] the role of unsafe working conditions in the pay gap between men and women. His response to me on this thread at Feministe (where his original post had been referenced favorably) prompted me to give his original post [...]

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