AS233: The Gender Wage Gap

In the spirit of Equal Pay Day which happened recently, I’ve got Miss Bea Haven from Promoting Secular Feminism on to talk about gender inequality in income. Is the 79 cents figure a myth? well… sort of but also sort of not… You’d better listen to see what I mean!

If you enjoyed Miss Bea, check her out over at Promoting Secular Feminism, the podcast!

20 thoughts on “AS233: The Gender Wage Gap”

  1. Im looking forward to this episode (as I will listen to it tomorrow at work but would you also consider inviting someone from http://www.feministcurrent.com ? I think they are what many would call radical feminists (mainly for their stance on porn and prostitution) but I enjoy listeting to their podcast as it provokes what I already think.

      1. “You might be surprised at how radical the feminism is over at PSF, then, too. Check it out!”

        I found the term “the penis gallery” offensive. Just referring to people as “the peanut gallery” is dismissive, Using the term “the penis gallery” is sexist as it dismisses men as having nothing of value to add to the discussion.

      2. I actually listen to your podcast :o) And of course I do enjoy it :o)

        I found it at the same time (as FC) when I was looking for a podcast about feminism (I miss godless bitches who always had topics related to feminism) because I do wonder about many topics feminists (generally humanists) care and arent mentioned anywhere on podcasts I listen to (mostly focused on atheism/scepticism or even lgbtq – Callie with her Gaytheist Manifesto)..

        And I wanted to put that “radical” into quotation marks.

        1. Sweet! Glad you’re enjoying our show! I’m so thankful that I was invited to be a part of Atheistically Speaking, to. Did you hear at the end of this episode about how his guest before me was in the same cast, in a touring show in Egypt of all places, as my best friend from high school? Crazy small world sometimes.

          And yes, I miss me some Godless Bitches. I loved that show.

  2. First of all I have a problem with the term “wage gap”. I agree absolutely that there is a job gap, where men disproportionately occupy the jobs that pay more, but wage gap implies that women are paid less for the same jobs, which just isn’t true.
    Now the job gap may be a problem but the way to fix that isn’t to force employers to higher less qualified women, but to encourage women to enter fields that pay more.
    Just recently Microsoft, and Facebook announced that have no gender pay gap. In other words men and women are paid equally for the same jobs, but they were criticized because men disproportionately fill jobs that pay more.
    How could it be otherwise unless they hired less qualified women over men?
    For example lets assume for arguments sake that 75% of STEM graduate are men, and 25% women. That means the among the top 100 graduates 75 will be men. If Microsoft is hiring top level graduates for their highest paying jobs 75 of them are going to be men, unless they intentionally higher less qualified women. If would be ridiculous for them to do that in the highly competitive stem field, and they shouldn’t be criticized for not doing that.
    In conclusion again yes, the job gap is a real thing, but it’s based on the jobs, and fields women chose to enter, not on discrimination.

    1. I wanted to add that I’m not saying there is zero discrimination. The financial advisor role is good example. Financial advisors for the most part are self employed, or paid based on commissions. So yeah people might be less trusting of women handling their finances.

      The fact that Asian women buck the trend supports my argument above. They are graduating higher in their class, and entering higher paying fields, so obviously they are being paid more. If the problem was discrimination against women, Asian women would not be paid higher than white men.

    2. “but wage gap implies that women are paid less for the same jobs, which just isn’t true.”

      All the research on the topic I’ve seen suggests that it is true, as the adjusted wage gap (which accounts for career choice, hours worked, qualifications, years in position, etc) still gives a difference of around 5-8% (see: http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/sites/default/files/ef_files/pubdocs/2010/18/en/2/EF1018EN.pdf).

      “Now the job gap may be a problem but the way to fix that isn’t to force employers to higher less qualified women, but to encourage women to enter fields that pay more.”

      I don’t think anyone would ever suggest hiring less qualified people for a job. Normally what they suggest is something like an affirmative action program, where employers are encouraged to cast a wider net when searching for applicants, and to reduce bias in hiring, so that equally or more qualified women have a chance of getting the job.

      The problem is obviously that currently women even with the exact same CV and qualifications as a male job applicant will be significantly less likely to get an interview. And based simply on being female (with all other factors and variables kept the same) they’re viewed as less competent and considered for a lower starting pay before they even get an interview (http://www.pnas.org/content/109/41/16474.abstract).

      So it’s definitely a good idea to try to convince women to enter fields with better pay, but part of the problem requires us to remove a number of obstacles first, including hostile work environments, glass ceilings, early education sexist biases (e.g. discouraging them from engaging with maths), and employer biases that prevent equally/more qualified women from getting positions.

      1. “All the research on the topic I’ve seen suggests that it is true, as the adjusted wage gap (which accounts for career choice, hours worked, qualifications, years in position, etc) still gives a difference of around 5-8%”

        Yes I agree there are some minor differences. As I acknowledged when commenting on jobs like financial advisor in another comment. I should have made it clearer that I meant untrue in the overblown 20%+ sense that is misused to imply significant, and widespread discrimination.

        “I don’t think anyone would ever suggest hiring less qualified people for a job. Normally what they suggest is something like an affirmative action program.”

        You don’t get out much if you don’t realize they amount to the same thing in a practical sense. I may or may have mentioned this before, but I served as a district, and regional manager of the largest convenience store chain in the country for a dozen years, and EEOD compliance was a significant concern. The only measure by which you can prove you “cast a wider net”, beyond advertising the fact that you are an equal opportunity employer, is by hiring a certain percentage of women and minorities. In fact casting a wider net ensures you will have even more less qualified applicants, and make it appear you are being even more discriminatory when you don’t hire a woman, or a minority, and obviously results in more pressure to do so.

        1. “Yes I agree there are some minor differences. As I acknowledged when commenting on jobs like financial advisor in another comment. I should have made it clearer that I meant untrue in the overblown 20%+ sense that is misused to imply significant, and widespread discrimination.”

          Okay, I’m glad you accept that employers are discriminating against female employees or applicants at a high rate and paying them less for the same job.

          On the 23% figure though, it’s not usually used as an example of ‘discrimination’ (in the direct sense) but rather as an example of inequality and sexism – which is undeniably is a good measure of.

          “You don’t get out much if you don’t realize they amount to the same thing in a practical sense.”

          The evidence suggests otherwise (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-a-darity-jr/why-were-wrong-about-affirmative-action_b_5613026.html).

          “The only measure by which you can prove you “cast a wider net”, beyond advertising the fact that you are an equal opportunity employer, is by hiring a certain percentage of women and minorities.”

          No it’s not, you do so by demonstrating that your search and advertisement methods were done in ways that enabled most qualified people to apply. Inevitably you’ll get a certain percentage of women and minorities who are the most qualified anyway, so if you end up with no women or minorities then people will have excellent reason to suspect something fishy is going on.

      2. Yeah, I definitely think you are spot on, particularly about getting an interview in the first place. The research I’ve seen has suggested that women are far less likely to get an interview, and people with “ethnic” sounding names less likely than people with “white” sounding names, though some of that research may be a bit outdated since the last time I looked into it.

        Wasn’t there a similar study done about book publishing with similar results?

        1. “Yeah, I definitely think you are spot on, particularly about getting an interview in the first place.”

          Again drawing on my experience in the convenience store industry, and something I suspect is even more problematic in STEM field for example is this. Imagine if you do an excellent job encouraging minorities, and women to apply, so much so that for example you have 100 women, and 100 men applying for a job. Now again given the disproportionate number of men graduating in STEM fields, more men than women among those 100 are going to have graduated higher in their class (all things being equal). So what happens if you hire 10 people, and 8 of the 10 most qualified are men, and you hire 8 men and 2 women. What you have just dione is opened yourself up to a possible discrimination lawsuit. Even if you win the suit having to fight it will be costly. To avoid that your best bet is to hire less qualified women, and hire 5 of each.
          So whether you say affirmative action is a program designed to encourage employers to cast a wider net, and not a hiring quota system it still results in hiring less qualified applicants to avoid discrimination accusations.

          1. “So what happens if you hire 10 people, and 8 of the 10 most qualified are men, and you hire 8 men and 2 women. What you have just dione is opened yourself up to a possible discrimination lawsuit. Even if you win the suit having to fight it will be costly. To avoid that your best bet is to hire less qualified women, and hire 5 of each.”

            This doesn’t follow – increasing diversity has nothing to do with making numbers equal. If that’s the way the numbers fall then you won’t have a problem, the fact that 20% of your employees are women almost guarantees any potential lawsuit will fall immediately flat on its face, especially if you have evidence that more of those men were more qualified and graduated higher in their class.

            It’s also not a particularly strong argument against affirmative action. The idea seems to be that we should ignore the discrimination against women and not attempt to enact any law to prevent it in case someone files a frivolous lawsuit against an innocent person. Why not apply that to all laws?

        2. Yep, you’re right about there being a similar problem with racial minorities as well which is why I think a lot of people are wrong for trying to rationalise these effects away as being about “women’s choices” and not discrimination or sexism. In isolation they sort of maybe make sense (if we don’t read the research of course) but when we consider the fact that the same thing happens to black people and other minorities, with the same trends, same effects, same outcomes, etc then it becomes much harder to justify.

          What do all those groups have in common if not discrimination of some kind?

          As for the book publishing thing, it sounds familiar but I can’t recall anything offhand. I know that many authors choose male names to avoid problems, and there have been informal tests of this (like here: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/writing-under-a-male-name-makes-you-eight-times-more-likely-to-get-published-one-female-author-finds-10443351.html) which seem to support the idea.

          I know that there is a publishing problem in academia, with papers written by women being more likely to be rejected and less cited, which disappears when you adjust for the name. There was also a case recently where a peer-reviewer suggested that they’d take the scientific research he was reviewing more seriously if the authors first consulted with a male colleague or, even better, included one as an author to the paper (http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/05/plos-one-ousts-reviewer-editor-after-sexist-peer-review-storm).

  3. As far as maternity/paternity leave I oppose the enforcement of such things by the government full stop. We have no shortage of people, and shouldn’t be encouraging people to have babies, particularly people who cant afford to take time off from work to have them. Having a baby is a luxury, if you can’t afford it, don’t do it.

  4. Great episode, Thomas – my only complaint was that it felt too short, I wanted to hear you guys talk more!

    I thought the point about Asian American women was interesting, and it was good that you pointed out that it wasn’t the slam dunk that Hoff Sommers seems to think it is, but I think it might be important to point out that whilst Asian American women tend to do better than other groups of women, they still face a wage gap. I’m not sure if you said that or not, so apologies if you said it and I missed it.

    I imagine some of the difference there would be caused by perhaps cultural differences in terms of early education and encouragement towards math-based subjects and the general factors behind the myth of the “model minority” (e.g. a lot of people from these groups tend to do better because they’re from families rich enough to set up a new life in a new country so they have a head start economically compared to the averages of other groups).

    As for your general question on how people feel about Equal Pay Day – I’d say it’s a good thing. It’s possible that some people might be put off because they think the 78c figure is a “myth” or not relevant to equal pay, but that just makes it an educational opportunity! We can show them the science behind it to show that it doesn’t become a “myth” just because it’s not composed entirely of direct discrimination, and talk about all the problems inherent to it which causes the divide (e.g. gender stereotypes, maternity leave, discrimination of women trying to negotiate, etc).

    We have to be careful not to fall into the trap of believing that only the adjusted wage gap is relevant, as the unadjusted wage gap (the raw difference between the two) is still a valid measure of inequality used in science.

  5. The median income of women working full time is 77 cents to the dollar of a man working full time and the premise of the podcast is that this is a bad thing. So far so good, but what is the cause of the gender pay gap? From your podcast, the premise seems to be that women are treated unfairly in the workplace, but after listening Bea Haven in Promoting Secular Feminism’s (PSM) recent podcast, the cause seems to be the social construction of gender in society. Specifically, women have been socialized to be “caregivers” making them less competitive in the workplace. These are very different potential causes that would require different solutions.

    When you talk about the women’s soccer team, I hear the unfairness argument. Fairness is a pretty persuasive, and the solution is to enforce the laws on the books such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Equal pay for equal work is the law; however, the law regularly goes unmentioned in discussions concerning income inequality. I think most people would agree that equal pay for jobs requiring “equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions” as the law states is a fair standard to define income equality.

    On the other hand, when referring to the FMLA, the implication is that equal pay for equal work is now an out dated standard. For example the FMLA, a very liberal statute when passed in 1993, entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. The key with the FLMA is “unpaid.” Are equal pay advocates proposing that this leave be paid? If that is the proposed solution to the problem, then it needs to be clearly stated. In other words, are equal pay advocates proposing that even if an employee stays home for up to 12 weeks “to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition,” then should the employee get paid for that time just as someone who came to work during that time? This position is arguably less persuasive than fairness, but it has merit and would require considerable effort to convince people.

    The third argument put forth by PSM is that society socializes girls to specific gender roles such as care giver that makes them less competitive for wages in the work force. This social construction of gender beginning with assigned roles at birth is the cause of future disadvantages in income. The solution is social reengineering, and even in todays more open society has to be considered a fringe argument.

    What is missing from the podcast is an explanation of the cause and possible solutions to the gender pay gap. Maybe I am mistaken in my descriptions above, maybe all are part of the problem, but if the reasons for the problem can’t be explained clearly, how can a solution be achieved?

    1. I think a lot had to do with limitations of time. I honestly just wanted to talk about one very small segment of the gender wage gap argument: the 77(or 78c) argument, and why it oversimplifies the vast amounts of problems behind the modern American working landscape. From the sound of it, you understand a lot more of the complexities and problems behind trying to close the wage gap (or decrease occupational gender segregation, and etc.) in order to create further equality between all genders. My point, and I hope I made this at some point in the show, was that you can’t just believe what you hear about this topic, and it’s worth doing your own research on it.

      Experts can barely agree on what the source of the problems are, let alone the solutions. At this point we only have enough research on this topic to speculate on many of the complexities involved with this issue.

      Sorry I’m not more help, but hey-glad to know you’re not dismissing that there is a problem outright, like a lot of other folks out there.

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