Economic Woman

Econometrics, gender, equity and more.

Posts Tagged ‘gender gap

More on negotiation, the wage gap, and self-help nonsense

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During my long hiatus, I received an email about negotiation and the wage gap (emphasis mine):

I attended a session last week in which the basic premise was, “A woman earns 77 cents for every dollar a man makes and here’s how to fix that”.  The presenter then went on to discuss negotiating a young woman’s first salary out of college since that forms the basis for all subsequent salaries.  OK, that makes sense in context. However, when I asked what other factors contributed to the disparity, the presenter basically said that there weren’t any except women not valuing themselves enough to negotiate good salaries.

That didn’t make sense to me, so I did a bit of Googling and kept seeing the same statement without a lot of critical analysis.  Your blog was one of the few that seemed to take it on and one post I noticed said you would have more to say.  However, I didn’t spot anything after that.  Do you know of any articles, blog posts, whatever that addresses the issue of what other causes there may be for the 77/100 problem?

The facilitator of this workshop probably meant well, but he or she was teaching something false and quite possibly harmful. As regular readers know well, the wage gap is not entirely due to  negotiation – it’s also the result of straightforward discrimination, occupational differences between genders, the housework and childcare that working women are expected to take on, the cumulative effect of time off for maternity leave and childrearing, and much more. It is true that women are less likely to negotiate a higher starting salary, but women are also more likely to be penalized for negotiating.

A lot of people like to argue that women can overcome sexism through personal action, like developing better negotiation skills. This can be an empowering message, but it’s not really true – becoming more assertive in isolation from the rest of the culture will only get you so far. Addressing the wage gap, if that’s something we want to do, requires big policy changes and new cultural norms.

Too often, messages of personal empowerment become about blame. (Barbara Ehrenreich really skewers the self help movement on this point in Bait and Switch.) If all you need is a positive attitude, then you don’t have child care/a promotion/help around the house because you don’t want it badly enough. Want harder! Stop talking about social change!

Written by Allison

27 May 2009 at 11:14 am

Human development and paternity leave

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Marginal Revolution pointed me towards this lengthy Guardian feature on Iceland, which has topped the UNDP’s Human Development Index ranking.

Iceland’s economy defies the conventional wisdom – they maintain a generous social welfare state with relatively low tax rates and only 1 per cent unemployment. It probably doesn’t hurt that Iceland has no armed forces. (This is a good reminder of how much of the world’s resources go into defences, and how much surplus we have to gain from building a stable and peaceful international system…)

This tiny arctic country is also a bit of a riddle when it comes to women’s rights. Iceland has the highest birth rate in Europe, and the highest divorce rate, and it is apparently not uncommon for women to have their first child at 21 or 22, while still in university. None of these things would seem to lead to women’s empowerment, but Icelandic women work outside the home in higher rates than anywhere else in the world, including in positions of influence.

Part of this might stem from Iceland’s unique Viking background, Carlin suggests. While the men went abroad to pillage and conquer, women were left in charge. That’s interesting, but not something that, say, Canadian women can put into practice. I’m often discouraged by how few of these success stories seem replicable. There is one lesson here, though, about the importance of universal child care and paternity leave:

…if you are in a job the state gives you nine months on fully paid child leave, to be split among the mother and the father as they so please. ‘This means that employers know a man they hire is just as likely as a woman to take time off to look after a baby,’ explained Svafa Grönfeldt, currently rector of Reykjavik University, previously a very high-powered executive. ‘Paternity leave is the thing that made the difference for women’s equality in this country.’

Of course, paternity leave can’t have this effect unless large numbers of men take advantage of it. But creating that option is a first step.

Written by Allison

21 May 2008 at 11:56 am

The negotiation gap

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Commenting on this post, “v” has made a good point about one source of the gender wage gap:

Some say it happens at the negotiation stage. Men are more likely to ask for raises or higher salaries when hired or changing jobs. This trait is attributed mostly to gender and could drive the results.

As it happens, there has been research done on women and negotiation. By now something of a feminist proverb, “women don’t ask” is actually the title of a book from a few years back by Linda Babcock and Sarah Laschever. (Babcock is an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon’s school of management and public policy. The two released a sequel of sorts in February.)

Women Don’t Ask seems to be marketed as self help, but is backed up by Babcock’s academic research. Here’s a sample, from the book’s site:

By not negotiating a first salary, an individual stands to lose more than $500,000 by age 60—and men are more than four times as likely as women to negotiate a first salary.

If the problem is that we don’t ask, then learning to ask for more should help close the gap, right? Not so fast. Writing in the Harvard Business Review (gated), Babcock herself covers the downside of asking for more:

…many companies’ cultures penalize women when they do ask – further discouraging them from doing so. Women who assertively pursue their own ambitions and promote their own interests may be labelled as bitchy or pushy.

There is necessarily less quantitative research backing up this point, so sprinkle salt to your taste. Still, it all goes back to yesterday’s post. Women can’t address the wage gap on our own.

Written by Allison

16 May 2008 at 4:09 pm

Making Sense of 77 Cents

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I skipped Blog for Fair Pay Day, partly because I was studying, and partly because it was an American legislative campaign that I don’t feel much connection to. Nonetheless, I have wage gaps on the brain, and I’m still poking through the material released for that initiative.

The central statistic – that American women make 77 cents on the dollar – is almost meaningless. I want to know the breakdown – what proportion of that gap is straightforward discrimination, women simply being paid less than men for equal work? Thomas Sowell says that gap is “trivial.”

Here are some alternative points, from the National Women’s Law Centre:

A 2003 study by U.S. Government Accountability Office (then the General Accounting Office) found that, even when all the key factors that influence earnings are controlled for — demographic factors such as marital status, race, number and age of children, and income, as well as work patterns such as years of work, hours worked, and job tenure — women still earned, on average, only 80% of what men earned in 2000. That is, there remains a 20% pay gap between women and men that cannot be explained or justified.

One extensive study that examined occupational segregation and the pay gap between women and men found that, after controlling for occupational segregation by industry, occupation, place of work, and the jobs held within that place of work (as well as for education, age, and other demographic characteristics), about one-half of the wage gap is due solely to the individual’s sex.

Read the full fact sheet with references here.

I don’t want this site to be, as someone imagined, “all income inequality all the time,” but I have lots more to say right now. Stay tuned.

Written by Allison

30 April 2008 at 1:22 am

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Feminist Economics on YouTube

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Folks over at the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE) have started a YouTube channel for feminist economics. So far they’ve collected a number of videos from the release of the World Economic Forum’s 2007 Global Gender Gap Report. You can watch Saadia Zahidi’s presentation here, and a response panel here. Both of those clips are 20 minutes plus, so I’ll embed a short interview with Laura Tyson.

Call me naive – or just Canadian – but I didn’t realize until I watched these videos that the United States has no federally enforced paid maternity leave at all, and only 6 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Dear god. For a quick sense of just how backward that is, check out this Wikipedia chart summarizing parental leave policies around the world.

Written by Allison

29 April 2008 at 6:09 pm