Wage gap – not just the individual woman’s fault

I have been looking at the book reviews for Warren Farrell’s “Why Men Earn More” , when a found this link, posted by a critic of the book:

http://blogs.hbr.org/research/2010/04/the-pay-gap-and-delusions-of-p.html

It says that the wage gap continues to exist, even if you control for a lot of factors. The executives of the companies researched were dismayed at the results, especially since they “poured massive resources into erasing these discrepancies over the past decade”. There have been many studies on the wage gap, and some of them say it disappears when you control for self-inflicted factors that the earner could avoid. Some others say the wage gap is still there. I’m not sure what to believe, but I can believe this: whether you are hired or not, can depend on factors that have nothing to do with your skills. Physically attractive and tall people are treated better than less attractive and shorter people, in many, many ways. From “Survival of the Prettiest” by Nancy Etcoff:

“Good-looking men are more likely to get hired, at a higher salary, and to be promoted faster than unattractive men”

“Good-looking women, like good-looking men, are more likely to be hired and to receive higher salaries. But this is not always true. A few studies show that good-looking women actually fare worse than plainer women and that good looks in a woman can “backfire”. In one study, good-looking women were less likely to be made a partner in a law firm, in another they were less likely to be hired for managerial positions.”

“When people are asked to approach a stranger and stop when they no longer feel comfortable, they will stop about two feet away from a tall person (22,7 inches to be exact), but less than a foot (9,8 inches) from a short person. Very attractive people of any size are given big personal territories”

People don’t treat other people like blank slates that can be filled with their character and skills, as they get to know them better. So which bias could account for the wage gap? The article says this:

1)      “Research shows we tend to like people like ourselves. Men will feel a connection to men, and because men dominate the leadership realm, their stereotypical leadership qualities will trickle down.”

So since most company-starters are men, they hire other men.

2)      Another bias I can think of may come from women’s tendency to have more sick days, and also maternity leave. All these gender differences in behavior no doubt color the perception employers have about the individual women.

This really isn’t fair for any individual woman, especially a hard-working smart one, one that is prepared to do everything Warren Farrell recommends in his book. So, what to do about it?

One could, of course, make a bunch of laws, forcing the companies (which some innovative people made with their own effort, btw) to hire more women and pay them the same for equal work (something which is hard to define). I think it’s morally wrong, and an attack on freedom, and according to the article, it’s not even working.

So what would work against these biases?

1)      First, more women would have to start their own companies. If employers like to hire people like themselves, more women would be hired and favored in other ways.

2)      Women as a group would need to start behaving as men, as a group. Then a woman acting like a man (following all bullet points in Warren Farrell’s book) would be expected, rather than surprising, and she would be more likely to be treated like a man.

I believe that even the most hard-working, smart, risk-taking women may not reach wealth equal to that of their male equivalents, because bias number 2 is bringing them down. Until all women start acting like men, they will lag.

That is not to say that women are bringing women down. We can’t force women to act like men, nor is it desirable on a large scale. A “manly” woman is gonna act manly, and less manly women will do their own thing, nothing to do about that, it’s their life.

Rather, the success of an individual woman depends on the performance of all other women, because their performance affects everyone’s perception of her. And a woman won’t hire her because there aren’t enough females bothering to become employers.

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4 Responses to Wage gap – not just the individual woman’s fault

  1. Clarence says:

    I will assume you are only talking US companies and workers here, as you really can’t compare across countries that have different labor laws and usually far more social support for working mothers/fathers than the US. Plus, to my knowledge Farrell’s book only deals with US companies and workers.

    Assuming that, it surprises me that it’s not mentioned in any of your links, but if equal pay for equal work is taken literally, it is illegal to discriminate on pay based on sex and has been since 1964. In other words, a “tech one” position in some hypothetical US company HAS to start a man and a woman out at the exact same salary and HAS to apply the same promotion process to both.IF there is a difference in most non-managerial jobs it is a fairly straightforward lawsuit.
    Now, that being said, your link appears to be talking about managerial and contractual positions.
    These positions (which tend to be the only ones feminists are ever worried about, forget dog catcher parity or garbage collector parity) have a signficant “bargaining” component in their compensation and are more likely to require work beyond the standard 40 hour work week or at strange/odd hours. Only women who don’t want families (or have someone to care for the kids like a maid or househubby) need apply, and the woman or man should be used to negotiating on their own behalf. I’ve seen studies that show that women, on average, tend not to be as good or comfortable with negotiating pay as men, and I’m convinced that if this disparity could be corrected most of the remaining pay gap between “group man” and “group woman” would be eliminated, with the largest remaining slice being more related the greater life flexibility that women tend to want.

    • emmatheemo says:

      Thanks for your thoughts. I still haven’t read Farrell’s book, and hoping to do it in the future. All I know is that people are treated differently for things like height, posture and looks, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it applied to other things too, if your job gives you the opportunity to haggle for more pay.

  2. Gunnar says:

    I think Farrells book show that women who do in fact make the same choices men make make the same as men or even more. A study which was linked to on genusnytt showed that women who get to the top get there on average two or so years faster than men. Someone came up with the term glass elevator as a description of what happens when women are promoted faster than because of a belief that they need that help because it is fair. I can believe that happens a lot as I know people who have worked places (mostly state organizations) where they have hired women for top positions even though everyone agrees one or more men was more qualified because it was “time for a woman” in that position. This article shows that in the Norwegian state department women have been promoted faster than men presumably because of a belief that it is fair:

    http://www.minervanett.no/for-fa-kvinnelige-ambassadorer/

    Pelle Billing and Pär Ström have numbers about the wage gap in sweden in their books which shows there is no discrimination of women in terms of wages.

    “Research shows we tend to like people like ourselves. Men will feel a connection to men, and because men dominate the leadership realm, their stereotypical leadership qualities will trickle down.”

    So since most company-starters are men, they hire other men.

    2) Another bias I can think of may come from women’s tendency to have more sick days, and also maternity leave. All these gender differences in behavior no doubt color the perception employers have about the individual women.

    This really isn’t fair for any individual woman, especially a hard-working smart one, one that is prepared to do everything Warren Farrell recommends in his book. So, what to do about it?”

    I disagree with this. I believe men adapt the job to the task at hand, whatever the cost, and women try to adapt the job to fit their desires for comfort and enjoyment rather than adapt to the requirement. I think there was SOME room to adapt job culture and leadership styles to women but I think for the most part it was not and women should adapt to the male job culture because it is shaped by the reality of the requirements to get stuff done. The way women have managed to adapt work culture to their desires has made the current work culture highly adapted to their needs. Too much IMO. All the sensitivity training stuff would be a prime example.

    Also, if a man starts a company and he believes in a masculine leadership style it is not fair to require him to adapt to a style more fitting women even though they might be disadvantaged by that. HE has risked his money, years of his life, incredible hard work and huge parts of his future potential on the company. It might as many companies fail at some point in the future at witch point he looses everything. To require him to adapt the way he prefers to lead his company so that women will experience tiny reductions in salary is not fair either.

    I like your blog:)

    • emmatheemo says:

      Thanks for the links 🙂

      I don’t really disagree that women, like men, should adapt to the job, if they want to rise high. I was just predicting (perhaps wrongly, I must look into it more), that a woman, even one willing to adapt all the way, might face discrimination because hirers expect a woman to be like other women – not willing to adapt so much. It’s not fair for her, but it’s fair for the employer to lead his company as he sees fit. His right to govern his own company trumps her right to be judged fairly. Even if the employer’s judging style is irrational and based on people’s hair color, it’s still correct.

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