Let's debate equal pay for women

The current GD thread on the Equal Rights Amendment – – reminded me that the feminist movement of the 1970s seems to have one most of its main goals, such as abortion rights and generally opening up all career paths to women. There’s still the “old boys’ network” and the “glass ceiling,” but I bet most women wish they were successful enough to have to worry about such things. Women can now do almost anything except military service in a combat capacity. But one thing they haven’t won is equal pay. At least, according to the National Organization for Women (http://www.now.org/issues/economic/factsheet.html):

But what I don’t hear them saying here is that women are being paid less than men for the same kind of work in the same kind of jobs. Rather, they seem to be complaining that women predominate in lower-paying job categories and that they suffer financially as a result. But that could be a result of cultural traditions – e.g., more women than men are still drawn to the profession of nursing, and nurses earn less than doctors. When I went to law school the campus also had a social work school – and almost all the students were female, and I don’t think they went into it for the money. What can the law do about that? Anything?

Sorry, here’s the link to the ERA thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=270530

Other factors include the fact that women more often than men are those who spend more time out of the workplace for maternity leave and don’t accumulate seniority (and move up the pay scale) while they are out, and that a lot more women than men opt to take lower paying part time jobs in order to spend more time with their families.

I think it would be interesting to find out how much of the discrepancy is between people with the same seniority in the same jobs working the same number of hours, and how much results from personal choice.

IMHO, the major reason women receive lower pay than men on average is because on average a woman is perceived as a less valuable employee. The reason for this is simple - the perception that a woman will stay in a career only long enough to get married and have a child, at which point she will either leave the field completely or expect some kind of preferential treatment in terms of workload or hours.

To a certain extent there is a basis for this kind of thinking. I’ve seen plenty of hard-working women in consulting, law, finance and “industry” all off a sudden go from working 70 hour weeks to spending half the workday picking out weding shit once they get the ring. And in all fairness, should a woman receive the same pay as a man who bills more hours and works longer because he doesn’t take maternity leave?

Ok, but the question is: “Is this perception even close to reality.” NOW trys to portray (although I notice as BrainGlutton did that they do not come out and actually say) that a woman working doing the same exact work is paid less than a man doing it. There are many reasons why women might not do the exact same work as men. And this might have many other outcomes, BTW. Some of the most heavily male professions are also the most deadly, as an example.

I don’t acknowledge good points from people who I tend to disagree with often enough. Allow me to take the opportunity to do so now with the OP on his OP.

Seems to be said pretty clearly by the statements “Women are still not receiving equal pay for equal work, let alone equal pay for comparable work” and “A full-time working woman currently receives only 73 cents to every dollar received by a man.” Where do you get that the pay being compared is not for the same job?

I think you misunderstood the material that you quoted: First, “Fifty-five percent of all women work in female-dominated jobs” does NOT mean “female-dominated jobs pay less than male-dominated jobs.” Second, the job category is irrelevant: women get paid less than men to do the exact same job. So…

…also completely misses the point. Using your example, what the study is saying is that male nurses make more than female nurses, even though there are more female nurses.

If we’re talking about just maternity leave here, and not women who drop out of the workforce until their children start school, I don’t think your example is valid. Granted, I’ve only been working for 11 years, but I have known a LOT of pregnant co-workers: most only take 2-3 months of maternity leave, which is hardly long enough to affect their chances for promotion.

:eek: I hardly know where to start…

[li]The women you witness slacking aren’t slacking because they’re women, or even because they’re engaged: it’s because they are slackers. Trust me, for every woman who turns her office into wedding central there is at least one who gets engaged and married without compromising her productivity.[/li][li]Planning a wedding is genuinely time-consuming, but a) the distraction is temporary (i.e. it ends when the wedding is over), and b) from what I understand, many men don’t want anything to do with the planning, so without any help from her ‘partner’ the woman is left with an awful lot to organize.[/li][li]Do you seriously think it’s ok to reduce the take-home pay of ALL women just because a percentage of them will take 2-3 months off – once, maybe twice in a career – to have a child?[/li][/ul]

It doesn’t matter. All it takes is for some bigwig to see the one slacker or to notice a trend of women leaving after two years to raise a family and the perception becomes reality.

Temporary or not, it is a distraction. Is it any more or less valid if I took a leave of absense to write a novel or something?

That is what we call a stereotype.


I didn’t say it was or was not ok. I am just stating my opinion as to the kind of thinking that leads to women continuing to receive lower pay for equivalent work.

I believe it is part of a larger problem of companies not taking into account that people do have and are entitled to lives outside of work. I don’t think that it is right for women to be penalized for getting married or pregnent any more than I think anyone should be penalized for using their vacation time or reasonible sick days. People get sick, pregnent, or just need time off.

Yes, statements. Proof strangely not there.

Prove that women get paid less than men when they work exactly the same hours, produce exactly the same results, and have exactly the same seniority.

So they say. Where’s their raw data and their research methodology?

I think I did not express that clearly. I am referring not just to maternity leave, but to those who ‘put the career on hold until tot starts first grade’ also.

That also depends on the industry you’re in and whether or not a short term project that gets completed by others while you are out of work for whatever reason is finished in your absence and that performance leads to bonus, stock option, and promotion.

This does not entitle anyone, male or female, to use their scheduled work hours when they should be doing work to plan a wedding. If there’s actual slack time available, that’s one thing, but ignoring the Inbox while picking the invitations? Not cool whether the ignorer is male or female.

Is there any objective proof whatsoever that this is really the case? NOW makes a lot of ‘statements’ and does a lot of ‘studies’ which are generally pretty heavy on the statement and light on the study.

Well, it does and it doesn’t. From the NOW factsheet:

I.e., they’re comparing female workers to make managers.

No mention what kind of work they’re doing, only that they’re “full-time.”

Same hours, education, union status, age, region – nothing about whether they’re doing the same work.

Now, this supports your conclusion, “male nurses earn more than female nurses.” But it still seems to me that what NOW is really complaining about is that traditionally female-dominated occupations produce lower incomes than male-dominated occupations. Now, if they think that should be changed I’m willing to listen – but is it a problem legislation alone could solve? Also, I don’t see them addressing the question of why male nurses make more – isn’t that kind of discrimination illegal, unless it’s actually based on some non-gender-related factors?

Sounds impressive but I’d still like to see some more details here – i.e., a study showing that waitresses earn less than waiters in the same kinds of restaurants, or that actresses earn less than actors, or that female bus drivers earn less than male bus drivers, etc.

I’ve always felt that Men should get paid more because traditionaly men have to SPEND more than women.

Like say for instance if you’re a single man and you want to have any kind of dating life. Well, guess who generaly pays for the night out.

Or if you’re a divorced guy like me, there’s is the whole child support thing. Now don’t get me wrong, men absolutely should pay child support. But I think 21 perccent of your income is a bit steep. Like my ex-wife for example she basicaly doesn’t work because she pays for ALL her living expenses with my child support. This just isn’t right.

The basic problem with this, however, is that pay is not dependant on what you need, but what you produce.

The problem with this is you are not factoring in the extra money women typically spend on clothes, makeup, and general beuty supplies. Would you really rather they didn’t?
Nitpicks, really, I guess.

No debate. Human are humans, and should be judged on performance alone, not gender, color, “race,” ethnicity, nationality, blood-type, disability status, veteran status or any other discriminatory category.

Performance. Do the job, do it well, or walk (with reasonable accomodations if necessary).

What do you mean, “No debate”? The debate here is whether working women are being judged (and compensated) on performance alone, not gender, and, if not, what can (or cannot) be done about that.

I don’t have much to add except that I have never seen a study on this topic that uses good methodology, does direct comparisions by specific job, and factors in data such as breaks in career for whatever reason. I have looked for them and it seems like they just aren’t there. There are probably studies published in research journals that the public never hears about that run contrary to NOW’s claims and don’t make for good news stories. You would probably need to spend hours in a research university library doing searches for that stuff.

I know that NOW worded it pretty poorly, but they’re actually comparing woman managers to men managers.

Their figures, as you can learn from looking at the bottom of the article that ytou linked to, are drawn from a study called A New Look Through the Glass Ceiling: Where are the Women? The Status of Women in Management in Ten Selected Industries, with data produced by the US General Accounting Office and analyzed by the staffs of two Democratic congressional representatives.

The report can be read here (warning: pdf)

Some of the findings include:

Now, i should point out that these figures do not even take into account the under-representation of women in these jobs. The report itself also makes some important points about levels of education, job descriptions, and hiring practices that are worth reading, and that i’m too tired to recpitulate here.

The report is only 17pp. long. I recommend reading it.

The problem is we don’t really have any accurate studies.

I’d say that in some cases, you have a male worker and a female worker, both have the exact same job in the exact same company, the male is paid more. Reason? An “old boys” network.

BUT I tend to think the cases of that happening are miniscule, but that is just a feeling, I have no idea, and no one else does either because I’ve never seen an accurate report.

For me, here is the problem with most of these reports. They either just make the carpet statement, “the average income for men is XXX, and the average income for women is XXX.” That is completely meaningless because that would ignore the fact that women as a whole tend more towards lower paying jobs in the service industry.

Others, like the studies I’ve seen here, say things like, “In xxx industry there is an xxx gap between male and female workers.”

The problem is, categorizing an industry is pretty sweeping.

Like already mentioned, a nurse and a doctor are both in the medical industry. A doctor makes more money because they are much more highly trained and have much more valuable jobs, and they are pretty much in high demand everywhere in the country.

In the education field, more women work at the elementary level. In most jurisdictions elementary school teachers make the least, High School teachers make a bit more, and college professors make leaps and bounds more. And in education, more males in the education field are in higher education or secondary education than they are in elementary education where the pay is lower.

Not that the question was directed at me, but yes. Fancy clothes and makeup don’t impress me.

Excellent way to address the problem! Complain that there are no accurate studies, and then do nothing but add rampant speculation to the debate.

And the reasons that women end up in lower-paying jobs are? You see, this is one of the problems that such studies seek to illuminate. It’s not only a question of equal pay for equal work (although that’s an important goal), but there’s also the important question of why the gender division of labor in our society occurs the way it does.

And again, your assertions beg the question: why is it that women in these industries tend to occupy the types of jobs that pay the least? Is it really just a matter of personal choice? Is it an imbalance that is just a hangover from earlier days of discrimination, and that is now being remedied? Or is it the result of ongoing discrimination?

These are crucial questions, and pretending that gender differences in the workplace are simply incidental does nothing but obscure and trivialize some extremely complex and important issues.

I fail to see how speculation (admitted speculation) is anymore harmful than rude sarcasm.

Studies aren’t holy grails, in any area you see multi-conflicting studies produced by hundreds of think tanks, researchers, et cetra.

The big problem I have is the solutions that most people would advocate are ludicrous and socialist.

One solution people might advocate is more equalization of income. That is bullshit because a doctor just simply deserves more pay than a nurse. The level of dedication, intelligence, work, and time it takes to become a doctor is far above that required to become a nurse.

Another solution is “steering” girls from a young age towards the higher paying jobs.

I don’t think we should steer our children towards any jobs, let them pick and choose and decide for themselves. God forbid people end up doing something that makes them happy if it doesn’t satisfy societal conceptions of “financial success.”

Ultimately I say we should address problems like women being paid less for the exact same job. But if a woman decides she wants to spend more time at home, decides she wants a less intense job, or just decides she wants a job that is in say education, let her decide that. I don’t believe women are frail and ignorant creatures that need big brother telling them what job is more financially acceptable.

If women want to be teachers let them, maybe that is just a career that for psychological reasons more women have an innate desire to pursue. I see no harm in them doing so.

Too much emphasis is put on financial success being the key to happiness.

In the same job, with the same qualifications and the same seniority- women make about the same as men (within the margin of error).

Now, most of the women in my job earn less than me. That’s because they have less seniority and we get raises for number of years in (up to 18 or so). Can we agree that’s fair?

I know tow freinds- they are both teacher- both hired at the same time (roughly). But he gets paid more. Of course- he has a Masters degree- she “only” has a BA. Can we agree that’s fair?

Another freind of mine has better qualifications than I do, but still she gets paid less- why? becuase she went on Permanent Part Time, and only works 24 hours a week( so she can stay home more with her kids). Her BASE salary is higher than mine- but she earns less- because she works a lot less. Can we agree that’s fair?

If you just take these three scenarios and multiply then by thousands, you’ll get a figure that shows that women earn less than men- in the same jobs doing the same work. But in all three cases- there is a reason for it- and it isn’t because the females are discriminated against becuase they are women. :dubious: And, i think we have agreed that all three cases are “fair”.

In Government jobs it is exactly equal pay for equal work (considering seniority and qualifications). A large portion of workers are government workers- so other than in the cases above, we can be pretty sure there isn’t much discrimination going on.

I have no doubt that in a few small select groups- CEO’s of BIG companies for example- there is a “good old boy” network, and there is a “glass ceiling”. However, how many more government workers are there compared to CEO’s of multi-billion $$ corps? The "good old boys’ there can’t possibly have any effect on the statistical norm.

So- I say “BUNK!” Women mostly earn less than men because of normal real-world factors such as seniority, education, and choices. When you factor in everything- a woman in a normal type job will earn precisely the same as a man.