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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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23 Responses

  1. TomSims
    TomSims April 1, 2013 at 2:21 pm |

    I work at the bottom of the food chain as an hourly worker and everyone gets paid the same rate of pay.

  2. a lawyer
    a lawyer April 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm |

    think we’ve hit a bit of a wall debate-wise, largely because

    1) Folks know that some sort of pay gap exists;

    2) But folks DON’T generally understand what the pay gap really is. Or how big it is. Or what causes it:

    -How much is the result of employers who directly discriminate, a la Ledbetter?
    -How much the collateral result of other laws like FMLA?
    -How much is the result of socializing women into lower paying jobs? -How much is the result of things that happen to girls/boys pre-college, decades before the pay gap studies even start?
    -How much is the result of differing choices between men and women?

    3) And because we don’t really understand what it is, we don’t agree on how to fix it. Or, in some cases, that there’s anything to “fix:” for example, with respect to the portion of the pay gap that arises from choices made by adult women, should that be “fixed?” Should we override women’s apparently-free choices? If so, should it be “fixed” in the context of employment law?

    4) And on that same subtopic: Is this an economic problem or a moral issue? Would we be better or worse economically and morally if we had a more European model?

    5) And why on earth can’t we just get the goddamn data to answer the question? Why are we still arguing about the effectiveness of the data and having debates about whether “sociology” and “economics” should be compared? This doesn’t seem like rocket surgery. Women are half of the population for chrissakes; surely there is enough money in the budget to figure out what/why/how the wage gap is. Someone should fund a relatively non-partisan study already.

    6) And please, can folks no both sides acknowledge that this is a factual debate? Either women ARE getting paid less for equal work and performance (my money’s on that one) or they are NOT getting paid less. Lying about the question, and ducking the question, don’t help. If you’re talking about unequal work and claiming a equal-work-for-equal-pay issue, you’re being dishonest. If you’re representing pay differentials which approach 10% as “equal” you’re being dishonest.

    Sigh.

    1. ballgame
      ballgame April 4, 2013 at 8:44 am |

      And why on earth can’t we just get the goddamn data to answer the question?

      The CONSAD study is what you’re thinking of, a lawyer. Mainstream feminists tend to ignore it, I suspect because it conclusively demonstrates that equally qualified women make at least 93% to 95% of what men in the same jobs make in America. (It’s entirely possible women make make more than this.) To get to an even finer grain of analysis would require latitudinal and longitudinal employment data which does not exist so it’s impossible to verify statistically whether women have achieved or even surpassed pay parity. The bulk of the nominal pay gap they found was due to women interrupting their careers for extended periods more than men (i.e. they stayed home with the kids).

      Of course, the other questions you pose do not appear to me to be amenable to statistical analysis (i.e. to what extent do women take lower-paying occupations because they’re unjustly socialized to do so vs. taking them because they’re less demanding and risky, or to what extent is being able to stay home with the kids genuinely preferable to fighting the rat race vs. being shunted into a less socially esteemed/monetarily rewarding role because of sexism).

      To preempt the most typical mainstream feminist response to what I’m saying: I don’t deny that women may face discrimination in specific industries, though it seems that men also face discrimination in other specific industries.

      1. EG
        EG April 4, 2013 at 12:03 pm |

        to what extent do women take lower-paying occupations because they’re unjustly socialized to do so vs. taking them because they’re less demanding and risky

        Like being a home health aide?

        1. ballgame
          ballgame April 4, 2013 at 12:39 pm |

          Fact A: Some women are in risky occupations.

          Fact B: Overall, men as a group are 8 times more likely to be killed on the job (per hour worked) than women as a group.

          Fun Fact C: Fact A does not contradict Fact B.

          You don’t have to have majored in statistics to understand this, EG.

      2. EG
        EG April 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm |

        to what extent do women take lower-paying occupations because they’re unjustly socialized to do so vs. taking them because they’re less demanding and risky

        Further, for middle-class college-educated men and women, the pay gap starts within one year of leaving college. Do you really think that those men’s white-collar jobs are so much more demanding and risky than those of their female counterparts?

        Factor in, too, how many traditionally female jobs require master’s degrees: teaching, nursing, social work, and you have also the cost of going into those fields.

        1. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet April 4, 2013 at 2:02 pm |

          Nurses…don’t need master’s degrees. I mean, I’m sure some of them do, especially for the administrative occupations, but most that I know have a BSN.

        2. EG
          EG April 4, 2013 at 2:10 pm |

          Not all do, but I have run across plenty of RNs and NPs in my time.

        3. ballgame
          ballgame April 4, 2013 at 7:16 pm |

          Further, for middle-class college-educated men and women, the pay gap starts within one year of leaving college.

          Well, EG, without an actual cited study, I can’t reply definitively, but I’m guessing you’re talking about middle class grads overall i.e. without taking into account that men and women as groups select majors, occupations, and job line subsets in different proportions. For example, female doctors make less than male doctors … until you compare them apples to apples (taking things like medical field into account). Then it turns out they make the same hourly compensation as male doctors. It’s just that, among other things, male doctors are more likely to gravitate towards specialities that require being on call more often and putting in longer hours.

          Do you really think that those men’s white-collar jobs are so much more demanding and risky than those of their female counterparts?

          Without looking at the study you’re talking about, I can’t say for sure, but, yeah, all white collar jobs are definitely not equal.

      3. Emolee
        Emolee April 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm |

        Why would you assume that women are more likely than men to want a job that is less demanding and risky? Especially if you are discounting socialization?

        1. matlun
          matlun April 4, 2013 at 2:23 pm |

          Why would you assume that women are more likely than men to want a job that is less demanding and risky?

          Assume? That does seem to be the case.

          If we look at “risky”, that is shown by statistics and also by psychological studies. Women are more risk averse than men in general.

          “Demanding” is more subjective, but men are in general willing to work more hours on average.

          “Why” is obviously much, much harder to answer. It is a complex combination of nature and nurture which we may never fully untangle.

        2. Emolee
          Emolee April 4, 2013 at 2:49 pm |

          It may be statistically true that men occupy more risky and demanding jobs than women (I’m taking your word for it- it would not surprise me).

          What I doubt is that this is because women do not *want* these jobs (especially the “demanding” ones). Demanding jobs are often the ones with prestige and a high salary. I think women often want these jobs but are less likely to be *hired* or *promoted* than men.

          There is also the fact that many “women’s jobs” are very demanding, but are unlikely to be considered part of that category. Nursing is a good example.

        3. matlun
          matlun April 5, 2013 at 12:26 pm |

          @Emolee: There are many possible explanations beyond direct discrimination.

          For example, even if women want the jobs, they may be less able to take them than men. Societal pressure and other factors may often make it unworkable to combine with home life.

          When it comes to basic risk aversion, at least some studies seem to show that this is biological. I doubt this would matter that much for the larger statistics, though. I do not think the number of high-paying jobs that are risky in this sense is high enough to significantly affect the statistics (Though I am guessing here).

          And of course: Even when women “do not want” the jobs, there is the discussion about how these choices have been affected by outside pressure and expectations.

          There is also the fact that many “women’s jobs” are very demanding, but are unlikely to be considered part of that category

          I agree 100% with the principle. Typically “women’s jobs” pay less for the same amount of time and effort put in when compared to “men’s jobs”.

        4. Emolee
          Emolee April 5, 2013 at 12:46 pm |

          matlun,
          I hear what you are saying, and I agree that the picture is much more complex than *only* direct discriminaton. I think the different socialization of males and females, as well as disproportionate domestic expectations play big roles, too.

          Which is why my original question was in repsonse to someone who thought (as I understood it) that women not taking risky/demanding jobs as much as men was *an alternative explanation* to socialization:

          to what extent do women take lower-paying occupations because they’re unjustly socialized to do so vs. taking them because they’re less demanding and risky

          I do think direct discrimination happens on a regular basis, though. And it is not always in the simple form of “I won’t hire her/promote her because she’s a woman,” but in the form of, for example, “I don’t think she is the best candidate because the job involves confrontation [with the unspoken/unthought underlying assumption that women are more suited to collaborative work].”

          Also, a large percentage of high-level managers are white men. And studies have proven repeatedly that people tend to hire people who they feel are “like them.” This is not just a gender and race thing, but it often results in gender and racial discrimination.

        5. matlun
          matlun April 5, 2013 at 1:01 pm |

          Ok, then it seems we are largely in agreement.

          And studies have proven repeatedly that people tend to hire people who they feel are “like them.”

          Yes. There is also another effect. When eg hiring a manager you tend to pick someone who fits your picture of a manager. If the typical manager is a white man, a white man may intuitively get valued higher due to this.

  3. matlun
    matlun April 3, 2013 at 5:07 pm |

    Would we be better or worse economically and morally if we had a more European model?

    In context, I am not sure what you mean by this. Europe has a very comparable pay gap.

    Either women ARE getting paid less for equal work and performance (my money’s on that one) or they are NOT

    My bet is that there is no significant difference. In modern capitalist society, greed is king. If hiring women would be significantly more profitable for the corporations, this would be happening.

    The issue with traditionally women dominated careers paying less than traditionally men dominated careers is another issue, and much more productive for analysis IMO.

    1. LMM
      LMM April 4, 2013 at 7:23 am |

      My bet is that there is no significant difference. In modern capitalist society, greed is king. If hiring women would be significantly more profitable for the corporations, this would be happening.

      By those standards, we shouldn’t see racist hiring practices, either! Isn’t modern capitalism great?

      1. matlun
        matlun April 4, 2013 at 8:11 am |

        Sure there are many racist and misogynist employers. But 100% of all employers are not misogynists. And even many who are value the bottom line more.

        If it was possible to lower your total salary cost by 5% or more by hiring women instead of men with no loss in productivity, then this would be noted and acted upon. By someone at least.

        Obviously I am basically guessing here, but I will stand by this theory for now.

        1. EG
          EG April 4, 2013 at 12:04 pm |

          That theory isn’t borne out historically, so why would it be true now?

        2. matlun
          matlun April 4, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

          @EG: I think it has been borne out historically. When employers have been given the option to employ cheaper labor, they take it. See eg child labor or how illegal immigrants are exploited.

        3. EG
          EG April 4, 2013 at 2:12 pm |

          Women were laid off in droves after both WWs, when men came back. And despite the fact that women were cheaper, they were confined to only some occupations and industries post-industrialization.

        4. LMM
          LMM April 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm |

          @matlun: Not for knowledge work, they haven’t. If you’re hiring grunt labor, you go for the cheapest bodies available. If you’re trying to hire someone with expertise, then you start judging them on their merits — and *countless* studies have shown that people think that women are less qualified than men, even when they have identical CVs.

        5. matlun
          matlun April 4, 2013 at 2:38 pm |

          @EG: Good point.

          The post war situation is a good counter example. The social pressures were stronger than economic pressure, which proves this can happen.

          Food for thought.

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