Letter: The gender gap

Re: “Supporting Our Women to Continue Progress” (Oct. 23): Natalie Kotkin makes a very strong case for leadership development in young women, and certainly college can be an excellent ground for growth. We would add only that while it’s true more college women are networking and breaking into roles considered traditionally male, academe is not immune to the pernicious effects of the wage gap; female college and university teachers earn, on average, more than 25 percent less than those who are male. And the National Committee on Pay Equity estimates that over a lifetime (47 years of full-time work) the wage gap deprives women lost wages equivalent to $700,000 for a high school graduate, $1.2 million for a college graduate and $2 million for a professional school graduate.

Teresa Younger

Oct. 26

The writer is the Executive Director of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.

Comments

  • Statman

    Perhaps women compete more heavily in less rigorous, less lucrative disciplines. That women crowd into the “soft” sciences in preference to the hard is not simply anecdotal or observational. There may be many reasons for this (to include discriminatory pressures), but that does obviate predictable outcomes.

    In the law of supply and demand, perhaps future academes (also known as current students) should cast their lot in more lucrative areas. “College and university teachers” are not fungible: a Nobel prize-winning physicist is going to earn more than your run-of-the-mill Women’s Studies professor (and it is a fact that men win a higher proportion of Nobels in the sciences).

    Law, medicine, engineering, hard sciences, computer science: where do men congregate? And how many candidates are there for a given slot?

    Humanities, women’s studies, literature, sociology: where do women congregate? And how many candidates are there for a given slot.

    Supply. Demand. Fairly simple, really.

  • Statman addendum

    From a feminist website, some reasons (and rebuttals) for so-called “unequal pay.”

    * Women get paid less for the same jobs, sometimes despite better qualifications and experience, often because THE DON’T ASK FOR MORE [emphasis mine; responsibility, individual; potential cause, ego.]

    * Women are less likely to apply for higher-paid positions but tend to more qualified when they do [responsibility, individual; cause, ego.]

    * Women tend to do many lower-paid jobs because they echo the feminine private roles; e.g. care and support roles and few men will do them [individual; ego, i.e., women “settle” for less, also known as “drive.”]

    * Women are more often in publicly funded jobs in NGOs, etc. [or perhaps, by analogy, public universities?], which pay minimum wage rates and awards.

    Yalies of all sexes, genders, and orientations: take due notice and govern yourselves accordingly; the future is in YOUR hands, not the hands of someone else.

  • to #2

    Your first point is a catch-22 for women. By asking for more, they are seen as overly aggressive/masculine/bitchy and are punished as such. By not asking for more, they are underpaid, and thus also punished.

    Sorry, but ‘bootstraps!!!’ is not a viable response to widespread discrimination.

  • Statman

    #3: Helpless, are we? Oh me, oh my. That you even worry about such perceptions as being “overly aggressive” speaks to the ego gap.

    Interesting, all in-house HR professionals–and most headhunters–I have ever dealt with have been women. Indeed, in most large companies (and government agencies) HR is dominated by women.

    Are you saying that women discriminate against women (or at least in favor of men) in salary negotiations?

    Here’s a question: if discrimination is so rampant, why don’t more women start their own businesses? (Risk versus reward: I would argue that women are more rational, giving full weight to the chance of failure, whereas men–irrationally–believe that they will inevitably succeed. Interestingly, eventually and after enough failures, they often do!)

    Lastly, if you are truly interested in something other than headline stats, here are a couple of interesting resources:
    http://web.econ.uic.edu/espe2007/paper/D21.pdf

    http://www.menstuff.org/issues/byissue/paygap.html

    I am not saying that there is zero wage gap, nor am I saying that any gap that does exist is not influenced by stereotyping and/or discrimination (even the subtle kind), but the real gap is indeed smaller than headlines would lead one to believe and, yes, it is an individual’s responsibility (and not the role of government) to ensure maximum pay.

    The role of government is to enforce employment laws–and lawsuits have proven effective in diminishing actual discrimination. But crying “equal pay for equal work,” and equating, e.g., a North Sea crab fisher with an office worker, or a literature professor with a nuclear physicist (not that this letter does so directly) is just not going to cut it.

    [snip]
    I deleted the last paragraph: you would not have believed how much I pay my female assistant for her relatively riskless office job. Also: she does *not* want my role (i.e., she is satisfied with her station, whereas I, by nature, seek more). Not to draw trends from a single data point, but why not explore this question: do women, at a higher rate than men, reach some point where “enough is enough?” Do they find that the pay, comfort, benefits of their job satisfies their needs? (I can guarantee you that this is not the case among the professional men that I know; enough is _never_ enough–just ask my wife and daughters, some of whom number among your classmates.)

  • ROFLCOPTER

    The number one cause of unequal pay is women leaving the work force for maternity leave. If you control for that variable, pay evens out to within a few cents on the dollar.

  • #3 again

    “#3: Helpless, are we? Oh me, oh my. That you even worry about such perceptions as being “overly aggressive” speaks to the ego gap.”

    Funny thing there — I’m actually *male*. Always have been. I drew that conclusion based in part on personal observation of how prominent women are treated in competitive situations; Clinton’s campaign for the Dem. nomination is a pretty good example. But thanks for the condescension anyway.

    “Are you saying that women discriminate against women (or at least in favor of men) in salary negotiations?”

    I’m saying if I put you in a room and give you an electric shock every time you reach for the cookies, you’ll stop reaching for the cookies. By the time women are in a position to be able to demand higher pay, they’ve largely been broken of the habit.

    “Here’s a question: if discrimination is so rampant, why don’t more women start their own businesses?”

    The bar is set higher. From the Journal of Small Business Management by Kolveried, Shane, and Westhead: ‘Female venture initiators have more trouble getting access to capital (Hisrich and O’Brien 1981, Collerette and Aubry 1990) perhaps because of a lack of confidence shown by banks, suppliers, and clients (Schwartz 1975, Lee-Gosselin and Grise 1990). They find it more difficult to get business training (Hisrich and Brush 1984; Knight and Gilbertson, forthcoming; Lee-Gosselin and Grise 1990) and have more trouble attracting qualified labor (Knight and Gilbertson, forthcoming). ‘

    “it is an individual’s responsibility (and not the role of government) to ensure maximum pay.”

    Again, ‘bootstraps!!!’ is not an acceptable response to institutionalized discrimination.

    “crying “equal pay for equal work,” and equating, e.g., a North Sea crab fisher with an office worker, or a literature professor with a nuclear physicist (not that this letter does so directly) is just not going to cut it.”

    You do realize that people who do equal pay studies *have* passed Statistics 101 and know how to control for these variables, right? The pay gap is a very specific problem in which women are paid less than men for the same jobs in the same fields with the same levels of experience and education. A strawman argument about flawed methodologies is just not going to cut it.

  • Statman

    Yes, “bootstraps,” because no one is going to do it for you.

    Why not put your money where your mouth is and create jobs for women (as does, e.g., my big, bad company).

    As another aside: I know some very talented women who, just recently, started their own firm specifically to exploit the “women & minorities” contract preferences. I do not fault their rational economic behavior.

    Lastly, when you write “I’m saying if I put you in a room and give you an electric shock every time you reach for the cookies, you’ll stop reaching for the cookies.” And THAT, dear readers, is the thinking that separates the beta males from the achievers.

    If I want the cookie badly enough, the shocks are relatively inconsequential.

  • #3 again

    1) You do realize that ‘pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps’ was originally a phrase intended to convey futility, yes? Try it sometime. It doesn’t work. Similarly, hard work alone is not a sufficient condition for success.

    2) I have no interest in business at all nor do I care about the size or ‘badness’ of your company.

    3) ‘Rational economic behavior’ does not constitute a moral justification for sexist or otherwise discriminatory behavior.

    4) You’re taking the analogy too strictly — perhaps I should have used flogging as an example instead? — but it’s interesting to see how your language shifted between posts from condescension to a more aggressive assertion of dominance. Yes, yes, I’m quite impressed with your ‘manliness’ and your ‘big bad company’. Wooo.

    But you missed the point; the example was a reference to basic behavioral studies and how punishments can influence behavior long after the punishment itself; this also holds true for social behaviors. It’s not a complicated idea.

    Also, I don’t think you know what a beta male *is* — maybe less chest-pounding and more thinking next time, hm?

  • Egalitarian

    One of my colleagues recently received, in the absence of any financial need, a very large scholarship. I was not allowed to even apply for this scholarship because I’m male, even though I’m just as qualified as she is. So much for equal pay for equal work.

    To #2: I grew up in an environment where most of my peers hated me, not because of my gender or race but just because they decided that they had a problem with me for whatever reason, even though I had never wronged them in any way. And let me be crystal clear: I’m not just talking about harsh words but about repeated instances of physical harrassment over the course of years. Guess what? No one would have ever thought of accepting it as an excuse for a lack of performance. Guess what else? I still managed to make it through and do well enough to get it here because I didn’t let it stop me from doing a good job.

    If you’ve been treated unfairly by someone and want to sue that person to have the problem fixed and/or recover damages, I fully support you. If the law doesn’t provide the adequate tools to do so, I’m for amending the law. (For the record, I supported the Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.) But it’s wrong to say that the fact certain people won’t like you prevents you from standing up to protect your own rights.