Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 9.30

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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5 Comments

  1. Yet another report about women being “underpaid” in a particular job that doesn’t have enough data associated with it. There are many other factors than outright wage that need to be considered.

    Let me be clear: I’m not saying that if you include non-wage factors (benefits, time off, etc.) there isn’t a gap. What I’m saying is that until you consider the whole compensation picture, you can’t understand the nature and scale of the gap, and it leads to silly wage-only equality policies.

    ARGH.

  2. That’s a reasonable complaint which begs an interesting question: What will be the criteria for women having “made it”? Is it reasonable to expect 50% (or more) of women to be in management positions? Especially when around 60% of women are in the labour force at all versus 70%+ of men (link). If what autotroph is saying is true (I’ve never heard that argued before), why are the compensation schemes different (perhaps a different form of discrimination, or perhaps by the workers’ choice), and at what point may women be said to have achieved “equality” (vis a vis “sameness”)

  3. @timmyson: at management level, compensation is almost always negotiated as a balance between wages, benefits, and non-wage compensation.

    I would suspect that on a pure-wage basis, women who can negotiate their compensation will always tend to fall at least a little shy of men’s wages. This is based entirely on personal experience — the women I know tend to value vacation time, flexible schedules, benefits (especially healthcare), and long-term earning potential (e.g. profit sharing/stock options/etc.) over pure wage.

    I would say that women have “made it” when two key criteria are met.

    First, that the number of women in management correlates appropriately with the number of women in general employment for that field, absent any affirmative-action program[1]. In other words, if 40% of an IT department is female, I’d expect approximately 40% female managers. This is hard, because you really need to control for education level and the like as well, but it’s not a bad rule of thumb.

    Second, that total compensation (and there are industry-accepted ways to calculate that) is equivalent on average between men and women in the same role when controlled for common factors like education and experience.

    The reality is that — probably in large part due to cultural factors — women and men are likely to value different types of compensation. As a result, you can’t really figure out what actions to take until you look at all those forms. And I’m not saying the gap is smaller than reported, either — it might just as well be bigger once all compensation is considered. The point is, we don’t really know. More research is needed. ;-)

    Companies can’t be on the hook for all of this, either; if the lack of women in management is the result of an overall education/experience disparity in the field, it’s somewhat unfair to hold the employers accountable for this (though it would be nice if they helped out) — we have to look to overall institutionalized prejudice (e.g. in education) as well.

    [1]: I’m not necessarily opposed to affirmative action, but if it’s necessary to achieve parity, that’s evidence that there’s still a great deal of cultural sexism within the organization.

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