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A day late and 23 cents short.
April 9, 2014 8:31 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday was Equal Pay Day. President Obama signed an Executive Order to prevent discrimination and address the gender pay gap. According to The National Women's Law Center, "In 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, a woman was typically paid 59 cents for every dollar paid to her male counterpart — a 41-cent wage gap. In 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, women working full time, year round were typically paid just 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. Although women have narrowed the gap by 18 cents over the past five decades, the wage gap today stands at 23 cents."

More links:

Union Membership is Critical for Women’s Wage Equality: "Women’s union membership was unchanged between 2012 and 2013 after dropping sharply the year before—which is a relief for women seeking better wages and equal pay. The wage gap among union members is half the size of the wage gap among non-union workers and female union members earn over $200 per week more than women who are not represented by unions—a larger union premium than men receive."

Raising the Minimum Wage Promotes Equal Opportunity for Women, People of Color: "Women and people of color are disproportionately represented in minimum wage work, and an increase in the federal minimum wage could make a huge difference in the lives of these workers and their families. It could mean lifting families out of poverty, providing more stable base incomes for low-wage workers, and taking steps to close the wage gap."

The '77 Cents on the Dollar' Myth About Women's Pay: "But every "full-time" worker, as the BLS notes, is not the same: Men were almost twice as likely as women to work more than 40 hours a week, and women almost twice as likely to work only 35 to 39 hours per week. Once that is taken into consideration, the pay gap begins to shrink. Women who worked a 40-hour week earned 88% of male earnings. Then there is the issue of marriage and children. The BLS reports that single women who have never married earned 96% of men's earnings in 2012."

The Heritage Foundation: "Today is “Equal Pay Day” for those who believe that The Man is keeping women down. Convincing people that injustice is taking place is a great way to push your policy agenda—and that’s where “Equal Pay Day” comes from. It’s the left’s claim that women in America are paid only about 77 cents on the dollar compared to men.

Gender Equality Isn’t a Myth. But the Wage Gap Is: "The problem with the 77 percent statistic, calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau, is that it doesn’t compare the salaries of women and men in the same profession. Instead, it lumps all professions together. So, if high school teachers make less than congressmen (talk about something that ought to be fixed!), and there are more women who are teachers and more men in the U.S. Congress, then yes, the numbers will show that men make more than women. But if you compare the salary of a congresswoman to a congressman, guess what? They make the same."

Debate Analysis: Women's Pay Statistics Misleading: "A 2009 study commissioned by the Department of Labor found that after controlling for occupation, experience, and other choices, women earn 95 percent as much as men do. In 2005, June O’Neil, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office, found that “There is no gender gap in wages among men and women with similar family roles.” Different choices—not discrimination—account for different employment and wage outcomes."

Here’s Why We Know The Gender Wage Gap Really Does Exist: "But conservatives have recently argued that the pay gap is a myth because various factors like education, job choice, and career paths can explain some of that 23 percent gap. It’s true that the gap represents many factors. Yet even when they are all taken into consideration, here’s why we know there is still an unfair difference between what women and men make:"

Why the GOP is wrong about the pay gap: "Not all of the pay gap can be explained by women’s choices, and many of those choices are made under discriminatory constraints."

On Equal Pay Day, key facts about the gender pay gap: "the gender pay gap persists. Why is this? In our survey, women were more likely to say they had taken career interruptions to care for their family. And research has shown that these types of interruptions can have an impact on long-term earnings. Roughly four-in-ten mothers say they have taken a significant amount of time off from work (39%) or reduced their work hours (42%) to care for a child or other family member. Roughly a quarter (27%) say they have quit work altogether to take care of these familial responsibilities."
posted by MisantropicPainforest (92 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 

I think one of the weird off-shoots included in these discussions is the desire to make wages and pay transparent. That way we'd all know what our co-workers make, and we'd be able to advocate for more money if we see that our co-workers are better compensated than we are.

It's a brain-bender for sure. Should salaries be subjective? Should they be objective?

Do I deserve more money because of my years of experience, or my expertise with specific programs?

It's certainly a lot to think about.

Basically, I think I'm mostly worried about people knowing that I get paid X to do a couple of spreadsheets and dick around on Metafilter all day.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:40 AM on April 9 [15 favorites]


"In the aggregate, of course there's a pay gap! But if you only use the metrics I like, women and men make the same amount. Liberals!"
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:43 AM on April 9 [8 favorites]


via Twitter: The Senate voted against debating equal pay legislation on a 53-44 vote.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:45 AM on April 9


Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One Year after College Graduation, a report released by the AAUW in 2012, which "explores the earnings difference between female and male college graduates who are working full time one year after graduation." The PDF .
posted by rtha at 8:47 AM on April 9 [4 favorites]


Doh! Even the White House has a gender-pay gap

The Obama administration is quick to point out that its pay disparity is only an overall number, and that women and men in the same or comparable jobs at the White House do make the same pay.

But the White House won't extend the same courtesy to everyone else this week when it will undoubtedly trumpet that 77-cents-on-the-dollar statistic. So the Obama administration's hypocrisy isn't in the way it treats and paid women staffers, but in the way it treats the statistics.


Do as I say......
posted by otto42 at 8:48 AM on April 9 [4 favorites]


From the Executive Order link:
"The President is signing an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to discuss their compensation. The Executive Order does not compel workers to discuss pay, nor does it require employers to publish or otherwise disseminate pay data – but it does provide a critical tool to encourage pay transparency, so workers have a potential way of discovering violations of equal pay laws and are able to seek appropriate remedies."
Sweet.
"In addition, the President is signing a Presidential Memorandum instructing the Secretary of Labor to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit to the Department of Labor summary data on compensation paid to their employees, including data by sex and race. The Department of Labor will use the data to encourage compliance with equal pay laws and to target enforcement more effectively by focusing efforts where there are discrepancies and reducing burdens on other employers."
Excellent.
the Obama Administration is:

Combating pay discrimination. The President made the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first bill he signed into law, which extended the time period in which claimants can bring pay discrimination claims and enabled countless victims of pay discrimination to seek redress where they otherwise could not.

Created a National Equal Pay Task Force. In 2010, the President created the National Equal Pay Task Force to crack down on violations of equal pay laws. Under this Administration, the government has strengthened enforcement, recovered substantial monetary recoveries, and made critical investments in education and outreach for both employers and employees.

Promoting the Paycheck Fairness Act. The President continues to call on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, commonsense legislation that would give women additional tools to fight pay discrimination.

Encouraging State Paid Leave Initiatives. In addition, the President’s Budget provides support for States that are considering establishing paid leave programs, as California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have done.

Leveraging Technology to Close the Pay Gap. DOL, in conjunction with the Equal Pay Task Force, launched the “Equal Pay App Challenge” and invited software developers to create applications that provide greater access to pay data, deploy interactive tools for early career coaching or online mentoring, or disseminate data to help inform pay negotiations. The winning teams created tools that (1) provide easy access to U.S. wage estimates by city, state and job title, empowering employees or applicants for employment with reliable and specific compensation information to support informed salary negotiations; and (2) supply users with current wage data and interview, resume and negotiation tools, as well as connect users to relevant social networks.

Expanding the EITC for Childless Workers. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a proven tool to increase and reward work among low-income families with children. However, childless workers – including noncustodial parents – can receive only up to $500 and must be at least 25 years old, so the credit does little to encourage work, particularly during the crucial years at the beginning of a young person’s career. The President has proposed doubling the maximum credit to $1,000, raising the income eligibility standard so the credit is available to a full-time minimum wage worker, and lowering the age limit from 25 to 21. The proposed expansion would be fully paid for within his budget and would benefit 13.5 million workers, including 6.1 million women.
Looks good to me. It's no secret that American society has long discriminated against women. I love all these tools to help work toward equality.
posted by cashman at 8:49 AM on April 9 [6 favorites]


But if you compare the salary of a congresswoman to a congressman, guess what? They make the same.

Except that the Speaker of the House, President Pro Tem of the Senate and Majority and Minority Leaders make more. Oh, gee, five of those six just happen to be men.
posted by Etrigan at 8:51 AM on April 9 [6 favorites]


This recent Planet Money podcast kind of made me wonder if this is a factor too: Why Women Don't Ask for More Money:

"When the women [in the experiment] negotiated for themselves, they asked for an average of $7,000 less than the men. But when they negotiated on behalf of a friend, they asked for just as much money as the men."
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:54 AM on April 9 [6 favorites]


I like the variety of links in this post because they illustrate how hard it is to get people to acknowledge systemic inequalities. It's only unfair that Peggy earns less than Bob if her boss--probably some stereotype of a sexist pig in a 1970s mustache--chose to pay her less; it's not unfair if Peggy earns less because her profession is undervalued due to it being dominated by women, or because there is no accommodation for childbirth and because she is expected to do more childcare than her husband. It's all individual responsibility, like as long as people can make choices within an unfair system the unfairness in the system doesn't exist.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:56 AM on April 9 [55 favorites]


This recent Planet Money podcast kind of made me wonder if this is a factor too: Why Women Don't Ask for More Money:

"When the women [in the experiment] negotiated for themselves, they asked for an average of $7,000 less than the men. But when they negotiated on behalf of a friend, they asked for just as much money as the men."


I was fascinated by that as well. I negotiate a lot, and I often wonder if I'm leaving money on the table. But the flip side of that is that while negotiating for someone else, if they say no, or take the offer away, it's not you who is suffering, is it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:59 AM on April 9 [4 favorites]


Typical desk job: A male starts the same time as female. Same work. Both get the same average pay increase 1% per year. Female employee leaves job to raise family. Male has 2 additional years working years same job. Female comes back to the same company, same job. What should she be paid now? Does a pay gap exist for the service he has and she doesn't?
posted by brent at 9:00 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Typical desk job: A male starts the same time as female. Same work. Both get the same average pay increase 1% per year. Female employee leaves job to raise family. Male has 2 additional years working years same job. Female comes back to the same company, same job. What should she be paid now? Does a pay gap exist for the service he has and she doesn't?

As noted not only in TFA, but in TFP, less than half of women say they've taken time off work to raise a family. So your "typical" desk job is, in fact, slightly less than typical. And even if you take that into account, it doesn't account for the entire gap. Do you think it's possible that economists might have put more thought into this than the couple of minutes it took you to posit this "typical" situation?
posted by Etrigan at 9:05 AM on April 9 [44 favorites]


Salary databases have just been ridiculously valuable, and I would like to see them used everywhere at all times -- take that disparity of information out of the equation.
posted by aramaic at 9:06 AM on April 9 [3 favorites]


So even after reducing the variables as much as they possibly can the gap is still 5%?

I guess 5% is inconsequential to some people on the right but that's a year's raise.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:06 AM on April 9 [5 favorites]


but that's a year's raise.

Hah. If only.
posted by ghharr at 9:14 AM on April 9 [14 favorites]


Etrigan, you're assuming much more agenda behind brent's questions than is obvious (to me). The existence of experts that have studied a topic shouldn't be a reason to shut down (apparently good-faith) discussion.
posted by Mapes at 9:18 AM on April 9 [10 favorites]


Meanwhile, the GOP can't understand why women, Blacks, Hispanics, etc. don't like their policies and candidates.
posted by tommasz at 9:19 AM on April 9


It's obviously the woman who is going to take two years off to raise dat family. Obviously.
posted by prefpara at 9:19 AM on April 9 [6 favorites]



Typical desk job: A male starts the same time as female. Same work. Both get the same average pay increase 1% per year. Female employee leaves job to raise family. Male has 2 additional years working years same job. Female comes back to the same company, same job. What should she be paid now? Does a pay gap exist for the service he has and she doesn't?

It's more subtle than that.

As a woman in a male dominated industry for 25 years, I've seen a fair bit of justification for why women are paid less than men for the same job.

Part of it is that many older women (such as myself) have accepted the disparity for so long that we don't push as hard to equalize our pay. I got into sales so that I would be paid what I'm worth in commissions, because it was so frustrating.

It used to be that in career path and salary discussions at evaluation times, managers would tell women, "If you took a ceritifcation or got an MBA or X or Y or Z, I could justify a raise in pay, or a promotion." Because it was so weird for a woman to just be paid what her male counterpart was paid without some sort of justification or building a business case.

If a man and a woman started with the same company twenty years ago, on the same day, the disparity will widen over time. So if I'm typically getting a 2% increase, and the man is getting a 4% increase annually as small as it sounds, it's huge. If the starting salary is $20,000, the man is now earning $43,822 per year, and the woman is earning $29,719. That's a difference of $14,103 or 32%!

The way it's usually explained is that the man may get into commissioned sales and the woman may go into HR (most female directors in companies are in HR and Marketing.) The differences are not only in titles, but in departments. Some have higher salaries than others. So it's not really a discrepancy, because hey, sales pays more than HR!

This is institutionalized. Why is it that Customer Service Representatives at AT&T are paid less than Installers? If you're thinking anything other than, women are typically CSRs and men are typically techs, you don't appreciate the problem.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:21 AM on April 9 [41 favorites]


Typical desk job: A male starts the same time as female. Same work.

In the AAUW report I linked to, first-year-out-of-college grads are still paid differently depending on their gender even when they majored in the same thing and went to work in the same field. No one had yet taken any family leave of any kind and then returned.
posted by rtha at 9:28 AM on April 9 [17 favorites]


IIRC, the 23¢ figure is (primarily) for white women. It's even worse for women of color.

A raise in the minimum wage would do a great deal (though not enough), since women are disproportionately represented in minimum wage jobs.
posted by Eideteker at 9:32 AM on April 9 [5 favorites]


This is simple to solve. Cut the male workers salaries by 23%. Pay is equal and the businesses are happy.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:37 AM on April 9 [4 favorites]


Etrigan, you're assuming much more agenda behind brent's questions than is obvious (to me). The existence of experts that have studied a topic shouldn't be a reason to shut down (apparently good-faith) discussion.

At best, I'm assuming that brent's questions betray a lack of having read even the post, much less the links. And those "apparently good-faith" questions get quote-asked-unquote in every discussion of this topic, inevitably by people who flat-out refuse to believe that women are really discriminated against, and if they can just present simple -- emphasis on simple -- mathematical explanations, then they can ignore the reams of much more complex analysis that they didn't bother to read.
posted by Etrigan at 9:40 AM on April 9 [18 favorites]


Typical desk job: A male starts the same time as female. Same work. Both get the same average pay increase 1% per year. Female employee leaves job to raise family. Male has 2 additional years working years same job. Female comes back to the same company, same job. What should she be paid now? Does a pay gap exist for the service he has and she doesn't?

Leaving aside all the ways this is not even remotely typical, I don't think that saying "Women are more likely to end up in places where their labor is entirely uncompensated" is a good defense against a gender-based pay gap.
posted by KathrynT at 9:40 AM on April 9 [12 favorites]


...and then, after she returns to work, her husband takes two years off himself to be the primary caregiver for their common family!

Problem solved, you're welcome.
posted by prefpara at 9:45 AM on April 9 [13 favorites]


Yes it is possible, and only is a part of the gap (Think Progress has 10% of the difference as work experience). My "typical" job example is no where in reference to a wage gap, other than a gap has occurred without specifics of real world. Yes I read the posts and links. Is this how Washington is running a business and limits salary negotiations? How about person A: staying in one job for 30 years (1% bump a year) vs person B who took every head hunters' call for every new job switch for a 2% increase and leaving for a new company every 2 years, going from private practice, to public, to switching fields, coming back, founding a company, the negotiation for a new title in a start up, leaving a bankrupt firm, and goes into Gov't work. Is it possible a salary gap will exist between A and B? Steady and stable just doing the job, but reported a smaller salary, but really liked the company, work, benefits with only a little pay increase. Now B is richer, and happy to leave, but certainly has a salary difference for the efforts to get more for their work. Does your work or value in finding extra pay or benefits matter when a quick Washington fix titled "Everyone gets paid the same" even if you work in New York, Omaha, Tampa, Las Vegas, Seattle or insert job location____?
posted by brent at 9:50 AM on April 9


So even after reducing the variables as much as they possibly can the gap is still 5%?

No, depending on how you crunch the numbers it's reportedly around 2%. That's for a single, childless man vs a single, childless woman with the same educational background working in the same field, based on BLS data, as reported by the WSJ.

Presumably that difference is largely due to the results of salary negotiations/offers, since they've eliminated most of the other places where it could creep in.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:57 AM on April 9


Yesterday, I went down the radio dial while driving and happened to hear Rush Limbaugh speak on this.

[pause for hissing]

He declared that it was all a big myth, that there IS no gender pay gap, because there is no such thing as unequal pay for equal work.

His logic? If women did the same work as men did and were paid less, _no men would be employed_. Corporations would only hire women, pay them less and watch their profits soar!

At that point, I saw jets of white fire shooting from my eye sockets, and woke up back at my apartment with no memory of the trip.
posted by delfin at 10:01 AM on April 9 [17 favorites]


In 2005, June O’Neil, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office, found that “There is no gender gap in wages among men and women with similar family roles.” Different choices—not discrimination—account for different employment and wage outcomes.

Similar family roles like...parent?

After the child has been born and weaned, there's really nothing inherently female-body-specific requiring the woman to be the one to relinquish or dial back her job to devote more time to childcare. There are certainly lots of reasons for her to choose to...such as, she's typically the one making the lower salary anyway.

It's just silly to couch the disparities in nothing but "choices" and not acknowledge that those choices are pre-loaded with sexism.

Could more men please stand up and denounce the idea that fathers have less responsibility or inherent ability to handle childcare, cooking, and cleaning? Like, call it out every time you hear it. Yes, this involves taking some risks at your job. This is the only way to change the "normal."
posted by desuetude at 10:03 AM on April 9 [11 favorites]


Another interesting link: There is no gender gap in tech salaries

"The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics show that when measured hourly, not annually, the pay gap between men and women is 14% not 23%."

"A longitudinal study of female engineers in the 1980s showed a wage penalty of “essentially zero” for younger cohorts"

Check out her rebuttal to critics, interesting things in there, too.
posted by bashos_frog at 10:04 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Corporations would only hire women, pay them less and watch their profits soar!

This is sorta true, in the sense that there's a weird kernel of truth there. Companies have certain roles where they seem to prefer women, or where the pay and job role is structured in such a way that mostly only women will take the job. I do a lot of work in callcenters and there are some big inbound places where the CSRs appear to be like 90% women (at least on casual observation of the work floor). The companies are, I am sure, trying to pay as little in compensation as possible and probably don't especially care whether they have men or women working the phones, but it works out cheaper that way.

Obviously there are other issues besides salary when you're talking about "pink collar" customer service type jobs though. It could be that men don't last in those positions for various reasons, or get evaluated poorly. Also the places that have all-female callcenters almost always have sausagefest IT departments.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:12 AM on April 9 [3 favorites]


Game Developer Magazine has an annual salary survey. In programming and engineering, women tend to make just slightly more (probably trying to retain them in a more hostile environment). Art and QA fall in right around the 23% mark, but management is at 31% and audio is a whopping 65% gap for some reason.

A couple years ago, my supervisor and the studio head were joking about hiring more women because they're cheaper. (This was during a several month dry spell of trying to hire anyone experienced and competent in the DC area.)
posted by Foosnark at 10:12 AM on April 9


>"In the aggregate, of course there's a pay gap! But if you only use the metrics I like, women and men make the same amount. Liberals!"

It's not like that. It's about using available data to create a meaningful counterfactual model. This is why liberal and conservative social scientists who study causal inference and methodology realize this LARGE wage gap is bogus.

It's not about just measuring

(1) Wage Gap == [Y=(Salary|Sex=M)-Y'=(Salary|Sex=W)]

It's about measuring

(2) Wage Gap== [Y=(Salary|Sex=M,Occupation=z,Education=q,Experience=j,children=f) - Y'=Salary|Sex=W,Occupation=z,Education=q,Experience=j,children=f)]


It's cheap and rhetorically flowery to say something like "Oh sure you only get a result that says men and women are very similar in earnings when you use **Your Metrics**. As though it were some entirely subjective issue where the conniving folks were just throwing random variables into a model to confirm their own bias. But if you'd prefer to engage at the scientific levle, would you like to tell me why you think the first model is better specified than the second?
posted by jjmoney at 10:16 AM on April 9 [4 favorites]


brent - I think you're misunderstanding the wage gap term as it is being used in this discussion.

It means if a man and a woman, with all factors being same except gender, both took the same education and career paths and made the same choices, the man would make more than the woman.
posted by sio42 at 10:19 AM on April 9


But if you'd prefer to engage at the scientific levle, would you like to tell me why you think the first model is better specified than the second?

Because domestic work, i.e. caring for and raising children, is still work. If women are disproportionately in low-wage jobs, including jobs where the wage is literally zero, it's dumb to pretend that doesn't exist.
posted by KathrynT at 10:21 AM on April 9 [13 favorites]


would you like to tell me why you think the first model is better specified than the second?

Adjusting for occupation, education, experience, children, etc, ignores the idea that there might by systemic inequality in access to certain occupations, degrees of education, chances for experiences, likelihood of having kids, etc. It conflates two causes of wage inequality (paying identical-but-for-gender individuals different amounts of money for the same job vs. systemic inequality driving women into lower-paying jobs) and concludes that because one cause may be less large than previously argued, the other must not exist at all.

Is it helpful to adjust for all of that? Yes, in that it helps us understand why a wage gap exists. Does it disprove the idea of a wage gap? No, it does not, because it mis-states the nature of the problem.
posted by cjelli at 10:22 AM on April 9 [8 favorites]


Differences in pay due to negotiating: Previously on Metafilter (it went as badly as you would expect)
posted by hydropsyche at 10:23 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Wage Gap== [Y=(Salary|Sex=M,Occupation=z,Education=q,Experience=j,children=f) - Y'=Salary|Sex=W,Occupation=z,Education=q,Experience=j,children=f)]


I'd surely love to apply this for each set of {z, q, j, f, ...} out there. But I can't. It is impractical as a calculation, and even one dataset is an anecdata-set.

And I still have this sneaking suspicion that averaging over {z, q, j, f, ...}, women hit a glass ceiling, where consistently, the outcome is that women are paid less than men for so many complicated reasons.

Over all those sets of {z, q, j, f, ...}, after all, there are vanishingly few where women are paid so much more than men where the average turns out to be ... even close to zero; even when women are more educated, for instance, or more experienced.

The overall gap is then measured by the approximation:

Wage Gap = AverageOverPopulation(Y) - AverageOverPopulation(Y')
posted by Dashy at 10:34 AM on April 9


Wage Gap== [Y=(Salary|Sex=M,Occupation=z,Education=q,Experience=j,children=f) - Y'=Salary|Sex=W,Occupation=z,Education=q,Experience=j,children=f)]

How's this old comment of mine work for you? I controlled for occupation, education, industry, age (as a proxy for experience) and location and found a 19.5% pay gap for computer science workers in the software industry.

I think that there is value in looking at controlling for specific factors, because they can help us identify what parts of the problem can be solved by what -- equal pay legislation can help with some aspects of the pay gap, but doesn't do much against systemic undervaluation of female-dominated occupations, or the effects from the barbaric lack of maternity leave, etc. And of these two examples, the latter is one that can be helped with regulations other than direct pay gap; the former cannot. Knowing the terrain can guide us to the battles that need to be fought.

I also think it's notable that no matter who does what convolutions and transformations and considerations, nobody is saying that women are being paid more than men, or even that they are equal -- we're arguing over how unfair the world is, and the naysayers are arguing that the world is only a little unfair, with a remarkably triumphant bellow.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:49 AM on April 9 [13 favorites]


His logic? If women did the same work as men did and were paid less, _no men would be employed_. Corporations would only hire women, pay them less and watch their profits soar!

I... must ask about this, and you can call me an idiot ignoramus for it. But that was the first random thought that came to my mind as well. I understand institutionalised sexism, so I guess what I was wondering is something like, why don't market forces push things in that direction? Isn't there plenty of this kind of exploitation in general? Why doesn't it seem to work in this case?

I ask this in all of my ignorant sincerity, because I'm mostly out of the loop on this issue. If any of the OP's link has an explanation, can you point me to it, that would be good too. It's just that currently the OP is a bit overwhelming for my schedule.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:50 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


I... must ask about this, and you can call me an idiot ignoramus for it. But that was the first random thought that came to my mind as well. I understand institutionalised sexism, so I guess what I was wondering is something like, why don't market forces push things in that direction? Isn't there plenty of this kind of exploitation in general? Why doesn't it seem to work in this case?

Because the concept of a self-correcting market force is largely a myth, a mask for preexisting societal prejudice.
posted by kafziel at 10:59 AM on April 9 [22 favorites]


why don't market forces push things in that direction? Isn't there plenty of this kind of exploitation in general? Why doesn't it seem to work in this case?

Because bias is even more vigorous than capitalism. The market is not an unstoppable force, and not everyone is a completely enlightened rational actor.
posted by KathrynT at 11:00 AM on April 9 [17 favorites]


Another interesting link: There is no gender gap in tech salaries

A cheerfully misleading article (and especially headline). She trumpets seven occupations where salaries are equal from a report with 12 occupations (really occupation groups)- and is incorrect about that, only six have equal salaries, the seventh has no data to test one way or the other. Of course, that leaves five occupations where women do experience a significant salary gap - and in a study designed to remove most of the confounding variables, like experience, education and children. These happen to be five of the top six occupations for women in the study, by the way - 57% of the women worked in an occupation that did have a gender gap.

You could report on a bus crash with three survivors as "three people have an interesting bus ride", and that is technically correct, but it sure seems to be missing the point.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:02 AM on April 9 [20 favorites]


I stayed home with our child for a year after she was born. I am absolutely terrified to tell potential employers that I quit my job to be a stay-at-home parent, and of the applications where I've indicated this as a reason I left my previous job, I have not received a single call-back. For men, taking time off to raise children is apparently seen as a fatal lack of commitment to work. The thing is, it's seen in pretty much the same way for women as well. Yes, everyone understands on an intellectual level that SOMEONE must raise our children, but they don't want anyone they are thinking about hiring to actually do that work.

Because, as noted above, it is work. I think the people who look down on being a homemaker don't understand this. It's far harder to deal with an infant, clean, cook, wash, etc. than it is to move papers around your desk in a nice air-conditioned office.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:10 AM on April 9 [29 favorites]


The first assumption is that market forces are the only force at play. Its entirely possible market forces do push things in that direction, but not enough to entirely remove the other forces at work. I've never bought into the idea of a totally rational marketplace.

Second of all, consider jobs that eventually became dominated by women. When this happens historically, the job itself becomes seen as an inferrior occupation. In cases when market forces did cause a field to become filled with more women the societal response was to no longer value that occupation.
posted by Green With You at 11:12 AM on April 9 [13 favorites]


When this happens historically, the job itself becomes seen as an inferrior occupation.

. . . and then wages go down.
posted by KathrynT at 11:18 AM on April 9 [12 favorites]


cashman: ""The President is signing an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to discuss their compensation. The Executive Order does not compel workers to discuss pay, nor does it require employers to publish or otherwise disseminate pay data – but it does provide a critical tool to encourage pay transparency, so workers have a potential way of discovering violations of equal pay laws and are able to seek appropriate remedies.""

I worked for a Government Contractor, and I wouldn't have ever even dreamed of discussing my compensation, or really any other employment issue with anybody, including my boss (at any time other than my review). My manager didn't even accurately know what I made.

That would have been an automatic pink slip for anybody; regardless of gender. You'd be hard pressed to find an industry that cares less about the development and retention of its workers.

Worse still? When you're a contractor, you rarely actually work with your coworkers. In my case, I worked alone at my client's site, virtually 100% of the time. When one of my coworkers/clients began verbally berating me on a daily basis, I literally had no recourse -- my company's HR was powerless to do anything, and the company wouldn't jeopardize our relationship with our client by reporting the issue to them.

I can't imagine what it would be like to be a contractor on an overtly-sexist client site.

When I quit, my manager was flabbergasted that I was quitting because of the pay. Turns out, the bosses had told him that my salary was approximately double of what it actually was.

Even outside of sexism issues, this is a big deal. Being unable to discuss or disclose compensation is one of the shittiest things about American business culture.
posted by schmod at 11:19 AM on April 9 [8 favorites]


Yes, everyone understands on an intellectual level that SOMEONE must raise our children, but they don't want anyone they are thinking about hiring to actually do that work.

Short term thinking in a nutshell. It's the same way with training/experience. Every employer wants to hire knowledgeable and experienced people, but a significant portion of them don't want to spend any money to create such employees, and entry-level is 3 years experience.

Because, as noted above, [parenting] is work. I think the people who look down on being a homemaker don't understand this. It's far harder to deal with an infant, clean, cook, wash, etc. than it is to move papers around your desk in a nice air-conditioned office.

However, to be realistic, it's not the same kind of work as a lot of other jobs, which may require or value skills and knowledge that will decay if all you do is homemaking for an extended time. Those skills may need to be deliberately maintained to return to the workforce at the exact same level.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:29 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


So it's not really a discrepancy, because hey, sales pays more than HR

As well it should. Any company will want its best and brightest in the spots where they can generate the most revenue for the company.
posted by jpe at 11:33 AM on April 9


However, to be fair, it's not the same kind of work as a lot of other jobs, which may require or value skills and knowledge that will decay if all you do is homemaking for an extended time.

But that's true of all jobs. Any time you spend developing any skills is going to be time you don't spend retaining other skills. Hell, if you take time off from parenting to pursue other work, you'll find yourself struggling to catch up when you're left alone with 3 kids under 10 for the weekend! 1adam12's primary job skills didn't decay any more when "all he was doing" was homemaking than they would have if "all he was doing" was scuba diving or mountain climbing or running for office or taking photographs of lizards in Guyana.
posted by KathrynT at 11:33 AM on April 9 [8 favorites]


I stayed home with our child for a year after she was born. I am absolutely terrified to tell potential employers that I quit my job to be a stay-at-home parent, and of the applications where I've indicated this as a reason I left my previous job, I have not received a single call-back. For men, taking time off to raise children is apparently seen as a fatal lack of commitment to work. The thing is, it's seen in pretty much the same way for women as well. Yes, everyone understands on an intellectual level that SOMEONE must raise our children, but they don't want anyone they are thinking about hiring to actually do that work.

This is very interesting to me. My husband recently went back to work after taking THREE years off to stay at home with our son, and he has been putting the stay-at-home-parenting explanation on his job applications because we figure that a huge gap without an explanation would look way worse. And he has gotten quite a few callbacks. He is in a blue-collar industry though. I wonder if there is more bias against parenting (especially for men) in white-collar industries.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:35 AM on April 9


Thanks, all. My own thought was also that Limbaugh just drones on about pure markets sans anything social (I'm no market cultist, in fact almost precisely the opposite).
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:43 AM on April 9


I gather the USA doesn't even have a mandated paid maternity leave, and that mothers are only allowed something like 3 months off unpaid. It seems like some American women could easily be leaving work and getting stuck having to start from entry-level all over again after. I guess some companies might offer better mat leave, but you guys seriously need better maternity leave legislation. It would probably help immensely.
posted by Hoopo at 11:48 AM on April 9 [4 favorites]


Being unable to discuss or disclose compensation is one of the shittiest things about American business culture.

I've started trying to give actual numbers about what I'm making in the (relatively few) conversations I have with friends and co-workers about this stuff, and it's hard as hell because I get worried that I'm coming off as crass or bragging or, worse, as seeming like I'm trying to brag while still making less than anyone else in the conversation, but I really do think it's important to fight against the pseudo-aristocratic attitude that talking about your salary anywhere but during salary negotiations is gauche. Individual employees are already at a major disadvantage in most situations, and it's sure not like my employer's HR department assiduously shields itself from any information about what other companies are paying their employees to even the playing field.
posted by Copronymus at 11:49 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Hoopo that is exactly right. Mat leave here sucks. You usually have to use up all your vac and sick time before you can using your UNpaid mat leave. So if you or your kid gets sick right when you come back, well more unpaid leave.

I'm pretty sure there have been some threads recently about this, what with all of the healthcare stuff going as well.
posted by sio42 at 11:56 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


So if you or your kid gets sick right when you come back

As someone with a little one in her first year of daycare, LOL "if"
posted by Hoopo at 11:58 AM on April 9 [3 favorites]


I guess some companies might offer better mat leave, but you guys seriously need better maternity leave legislation.

The U.S. needs better leave legislation generally, and by "better" I mean "any."
posted by Etrigan at 12:01 PM on April 9 [8 favorites]


You usually have to use up all your vac and sick time before you can using your UNpaid mat leave.

And let's say you have complications in your pregnancy and have to go on leave before the baby is born? You can wind up out of options before the kid is a month old. Or in some cases before they're even born.
posted by KathrynT at 12:01 PM on April 9


He is in a blue-collar industry though. I wonder if there is more bias against parenting (especially for men) in white-collar industries.

I think it depends a lot on the perceived perishability of the skills needed for the job. In some tech fields, there is the (incorrect, IMO, but that doesn't matter) perception that someone who hasn't been involved in a few years is basically ready for the glue factory, and that they're better off hiring someone with more "current" skills (particularly if they're willing to accept a lower salary). I'd imagine that maybe in skilled trades that's not as much the case, and that overall years of experience would even preference a candidate despite a recent gap.

The problem in high-tech fields, especially software, really peaked in the 90s/early-00s and seems to be slowly improving, but it's still an issue particularly in companies with dedicated HR departments that do hiring or initial applicant screens. They frequently have an idea that they need to recruit "hotshot" "rockstars" and not regular humans. It's weird and counterproductive.

I'd also argue that the distinction between "white" and "blue" collar jobs is basically evaporating in any sense except that one means you're less likely to die of a pulmonary embolism when you finally throw a clot from the DVT that you've been working on by sitting in a desk chair all day. Working in a cube farm is the shirt-with-your-name-on-it of the 21st century.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:02 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


The problem in high-tech fields, especially software, really peaked in the 90s/early-00s and seems to be slowly improving, but it's still an issue particularly in companies with dedicated HR departments that do hiring or initial applicant screens. They frequently have an idea that they need to recruit "hotshot" "rockstars" and not regular humans. It's weird and counterproductive.


In my experience it isn't the dedicated HR that's the issue on the hotshot front, it's the software interviews which weed out for almost must have currant skills to even be considered. The number of times I've seen someone shotdown who has done X for 5 years but not in the past 2 is pretty high and isn't coming from HR.

Tech sector wise though, one of the nice/sad things about it is that often humane maternity leave and other policies are in place. Nice to have but sad because they're viewed as some crazy perk by a lot of people when really they should be de rigueur.
posted by Carillon at 12:15 PM on April 9


Why do I get the feeling corporations and businesses will see this and think, "Wait, why don't we just gradually stop giving men more raises until there in parity with women? We'll save money AND be seen as advocates for gender equality. WIN WIN!"
posted by FJT at 12:43 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


I'll just leave this here. As ever, Ms. Ainsley Hayes:

Sam Seaborn: [speaking about the Equal Rights Amendment] How can you have an objection to something that says...
Ainsley Hayes: Because it's humiliating. A new amendment we vote on declaring that I am equal under the law to a man, I am mortified to discover there's reason to believe I wasn't before. I am a citizen of this country, I am not a special subset in need of your protection. I do not have to have my rights handed down to me by a bunch of old, white, men. The same Article 14 that protects you, protects me, and I went to law school just to make sure.
posted by gsh at 1:14 PM on April 9 [4 favorites]


Further elaborating on the fun ideas for businesses "simply" correcting the wage gaps: instead of being completely enlightened rational actors, people often hire people like themselves, thus maintaining a systematic bias, even if it's an unconscious decision/selection. It's an issue of comfort, going with what you know.

And who would want to work for the company that stopped giving men raises until there was pay parity? Men would bail from that company and go somewhere that still offered raises as usual. Instead, try a reversal of the raise trend (give women 4% increases and men 2% increases).


I think one of the weird off-shoots included in these discussions is the desire to make wages and pay transparent. That way we'd all know what our co-workers make, and we'd be able to advocate for more money if we see that our co-workers are better compensated than we are.

Government wages are already transparent (warning: shady ads may look like the search form you're expecting to see, you'll have to click around a bit), but some/many governments don't offer the same annual raises as can be expected in the private sector, so your disparate salary is at its peak when you first join, unless there's a cost of living adjustment. (Not bitter about wages, just saying this is a thing.) (OK, maybe a little bitter.)
posted by filthy light thief at 1:14 PM on April 9


When the women [in the experiment] negotiated for themselves, they asked for an average of $7,000 less than the men

This is something I've never really understood. Under what circumstances are people, men OR women, negotiating about salaries, at all? I have literally never done this and I have no idea when or how I would. The salary is determined by the job title; if you want more money you have to get a higher-level position. So where does negotiation come into it?
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:40 PM on April 9


When you get offered the job. You ask for more money. They offer you $42K, you ask for $45K. They offer you $22.60 per hour, you ask for $24. Etc.
posted by KathrynT at 1:48 PM on April 9


They respond by saying "sorry, that's just what we pay for this position, but, hey, look at all of our professional development opportunities, if you're as good as you say you are you can move up to a better-paying position soon enough". Is this just an industry-specific thing? I can't imagine how it could work for a company to make up a different salary, on demand, for each employee.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:52 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Well, what industry are you in? I negotiated the salary for my last three jobs in software QA, and my husband negotiated the rate for his last couple jobs in technical writing. That's all private industry though; public employees will have a lot less movement. OTOH, the voice recording work I do, the rate is the rate, period, and if I don't like it I don't have to do it.
posted by KathrynT at 1:55 PM on April 9


In my experience, the job has a salary in a range. You have to have wiggle room in order to entice some highly desired candidate, but also to not cap out on someone who is good but needs some growing. This is in publishing/web stuff/editorial.
posted by rtha at 1:56 PM on April 9


Applied statistics are hard! So is social science.
posted by zscore at 1:56 PM on April 9


In my experience, the job has a salary in a range.

That, yes. It's not that companies are making up "a different salary" for everyone employee; they're negotiating where a given employee will fall within the band of salaries available for a type of position, with a stated floor and either an implicit or explicit cap.
posted by cjelli at 1:58 PM on April 9


Applied statistics are hard! So is social science.
posted by zscore


Eponysterical.***
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:12 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine how it could work for a company to make up a different salary, on demand, for each employee

At my place of employment (which employs a very wide range of professions) HR has a big spreadsheet with every job title on it and a mid/med/max salary range. If the hiring manager wants to hire someone, the recruiter will come up with a salary offer. I think they do it by taking the minimum for the position and then adding some amount for every year of relevant experience. If the person they want to hire rejects that offer, they can offer them more (within the range) but HR cautions them not to pay new people in a way that will result in unequal pay/experience ratios compared to existing employees with the same title in the same department.

Though all that goes out the window for positions in middle management and above, I think.
posted by ghharr at 2:13 PM on April 9


In my own experience as a software developer, there is a fixed range but if you ask for more and they want you badly enough, you just get offered a different, "better" title. For example in my previous job, I applied for a developer position but was hired as a system architect. In my current job, the salaries are higher across the board, so I am a regular software engineer.
posted by rada at 2:15 PM on April 9


I'm a government employee, and for us, there's really not much negotiation that can happen. Your job class has a specific salary range with "rungs" on the "ladder" and most people are started on the bottom rung and after a few years everyone maxes out at the top rung and they're all making the same salary. There's a specific amount of vacation accrual too, generally you get a tiny bit more per month for every year of service until you max out on that, too. Though a few years ago a woman was hired into management here and somehow managed to negotiate for more vacation than a new hire was entitled to, and we were all *stunned* when we found out about it. But I work for a municipal government. I think the bigger the government entity, the less wiggle room there is.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:03 PM on April 9


I can't imagine how it could work for a company to make up a different salary, on demand, for each employee

We do it here on MetaFilter. I'm not privy to the actual numbers, mathowie deals with that part. At a small, privately run business the boss can basically pay what they want and unless people get together to be all "How much are you making?" sometimes people don't even know that all the women are getting paid less. If the boss doesn't make gender equity a personal priority this sort of shit can creep in, it's noxious.
posted by jessamyn at 3:21 PM on April 9


I can't imagine how it could work for a company to make up a different salary, on demand, for each employee

Just to throw my own experience in here, I'm a computer programmer, and I've rejected the first offer - and gotten a better offer immediately afterward - twice in my 15-year career. I'm currently working as a contractor, and when I was considering this position, my recruiter took me out to lunch and offered me $x / hour. I said that that was interesting but I wasn't sure I could commit. We talked a bit more about the job, and she came back with $x+2 / hour. This was 2.5 years ago. I had to do literally nothing at all for a few minutes, and so far it's gotten me about $10,000. (And another $16 today!)

On a side note, at the same time I was doing that, a female coworker in a similar but not identical position talked to a few different recruiters, and wound up at $x+6 / hour.
posted by Hatashran at 4:52 PM on April 9


I was raised to never speak about money, and it was a significant problem early in my career. Until I found out that the contracting company was billing the client more than 3x the rate they paid me. I became an independent contractor that day. Which means I've priced myself too high for some gigs to get them, but the gigs I get are things I want to do for people who want to pay me to do them. And even with all my years of experience and portfolio of doom, recruiters will still offer jobs that pay less in real buying power than I got 20 years ago, and significantly less than when they pitch the job to my male friend in the same business. They seem to think a woman in tech who had the bad form to age up to almost 50 should be grateful to get job offers at all.
posted by dejah420 at 5:31 PM on April 9


The best solution to the "women take time off for family" canard is to guarantee parental leave to both parents, and many countries (and some companies in the US) do. Of course, the birth mother will probably take her leave around childbirth, but the other parent should be able to take the same amount of leave at any time, either to help the mother immediately after birth or to take over so she can return to work.

Guaranteeing parental leave for both parents eliminates the argument for businesses to pay women less or hire less women because they "might" get pregnant.
posted by heathkit at 5:39 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Ruthless Bunny: " Why is it that Customer Service Representatives at AT&T are paid less than Installers? If you're thinking anything other than, women are typically CSRs and men are typically techs, you don't appreciate the problem."

I've done both these jobs though not for AT&T and installer is a significantly more dangerous (if only because of the required driving) jobs.
posted by Mitheral at 5:44 PM on April 9


via Twitter: The Senate voted against debating equal pay legislation on a 53-44 vote.

Senate Republicans Unanimously Block Equal Pay Bill
posted by homunculus at 5:46 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Mitheral is right; the main point is true but the example of installers vs customer service reps isnt a great one.
posted by Justinian at 5:50 PM on April 9


Because the concept of a self-correcting market force is largely a myth, a mask for preexisting societal prejudice.
Other than hitting the right buzzwords, what distinguishes this argument from "Sure, companies could be hiring all-women at above-competitive wages and turning 11% of their payroll into profit, they just don't want to"?
posted by roystgnr at 7:05 PM on April 9


The BLS reports that single women who have never married earned 96% of men's earnings in 2012.

Ugh so pretty much you have to choose a family/relationship or a career to not even make the same as men who are probably married and have children but have someone else caring for them.

Why does our society hate women so much?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:11 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Guaranteeing parental leave for both parents eliminates the argument for businesses to pay women less or hire less women because they "might" get pregnant.

Not if men are much less likely to actually use that leave than women, or use much less of it. I'm not sure if that's necessarily the case, but the existence of the policy wouldn't necessarily produce the results you want by itself.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:26 PM on April 9


"Ask Harvard economist Claudia Goldin how to close the pay gap between men and women, and chances are you’ll soon be talking about pharmacies." TL;DR -- pharmacists are "highly educated but largely interchangeable" so paying 2 half-timers is not much different from paying 1 full-timer. So having a child isn't the "career killer" it may be in other fields.

I also think that knowing what other people make is a huge factor -- as soon as graduation time rolls around, every single new pharmacy grad knows exactly what Walgreens and CVS are offering. So there is no mystery what anybody is getting paid - pretty much the same at all big chain stores, and about 15% less if you choose to work in a hospital, bc hospital pharmacists don't have to deal with people screaming at them about their insurance.

Also, pharmacy is the only job I can think of where pay, responsibility, and prestige (well, sorta) have actually increased while women have flooded into the profession.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:35 PM on April 9


[One comment deleted. This is a post about equal pay; please don't complain that people are talking about equal pay instead of another topic you'd rather talk about. ]
posted by taz at 10:44 PM on April 9


Vacation, sick time, and other leave like maternity is something that needs to be law. And not only do the benefits themselves need to be spelled out--and preferably the same amount of the leave for everyone, regardless of title--but taking them needs to be mandatory.

I have been in positions and have friends in positions which in theory have great vacation and other time-off benefits, but if you actually try to use them, that's a cardinal sin, showing a lack of dedication and verve, or something like that.
posted by maxwelton at 12:01 AM on April 10 [5 favorites]


If this was an executive order couldn't he have done this, like, five years ago?
posted by moorooka at 4:22 AM on April 10


If this was an executive order couldn't he have done this, like, five years ago?

Most Presidents only Executively Order things after having tried to do them via Congress, which is the way things should be done, because then the next President can't just sign the Take Back All The Shit The Last Guy Just Did Order.

But yeah, there's definitely an element of "Hey, look, Obama and the Democrats like women and the Republicans don't want women to earn as much as men, and maybe you could remember that in November, hint hint?" to all this. Look for that to increase over the next six months as a get-out-the-Democratic-vote measure.
posted by Etrigan at 4:29 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Democracy at work!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:39 AM on April 10


Hoopo: "I gather the USA doesn't even have a mandated paid maternity leave, and that mothers are only allowed something like 3 months off unpaid. It seems like some American women could easily be leaving work and getting stuck having to start from entry-level all over again after."

Starting from entry-level work all over again isn't even a viable option -- you're "overqualified" and will never get a callback. They don't want to deal with having employees at that level who will feel entitled (due to their experience) to raise reasonable questions/concerns about their assigned tasks.
posted by desuetude at 10:16 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


"Overqualified" is more about pay and stability than attitude -- you can almost certainly get someone who will be sufficient for less money, plus the less-experienced person is less likely to get hired by someone else at a more appropriate level and leave after a few months.
posted by Etrigan at 10:20 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


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