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The continuing gender gap in wages - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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November 24th, 2009

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02:33 pm - The continuing gender gap in wages
Here's a troubling article about how the gender-based wage gap perpetuates when more women move into a professional field. The most striking point is:
"The same gap is often seen within engineering itself. Bioengineering has been growing to the point where we could see a 50/50 split of women and men majoring, and there have been some reports of salary staying flat or going down. Engineering fields where women are less than 20 percent pay more." Arreola says more study is needed to conclusively determine a cause for this pattern, but the implication is chilling: Once women break into a field in noteworthy numbers, its value goes down.
Here's one particular explanation for how this occurs,
One possible explanation for the average pay going down in fields with more women is that the ladies aren't negotiating their salaries as assertively as men do -- but then, why is that again? Well, there were those studies that showed, as Harvard public policy professor Hannah Riley Bowles put it, "[M]en were always less willing to work with a woman who had attempted to negotiate than with a woman who did not. They always preferred to work with a woman who stayed mum. But it made no difference to the men whether a guy had chosen to negotiate or not." So if men are doing the hiring, women might be less willing to push for a higher salary, for fear of not getting the job at all or being penalized in other ways once they do, while men are free to ask for more with no consequences.
However, it seems clear that there's more than this going on, and what we have in part at least is the visible result of the still widespread assumption that a field with a significant percentage of women in it is a field that is no longer as deserving of high wages.
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(7 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:November 24th, 2009 10:45 pm (UTC)
I'm willing to believe the worst, but I also note that if supply goes up, prices tend to go down. If women break in faster than jobs increase...

(note: haven't read the article)
[User Picture]
Date:November 24th, 2009 11:46 pm (UTC)
That is definitely troubling. Thanks for pointing it out.
[User Picture]
Date:November 25th, 2009 01:07 am (UTC)
I'm not surprised at all. Many, if not most, people are biased against assertive women. I have had this bias against assertive women all my life, and I am a woman myself. I don't like overly assertive men, either, but I tolerate assertiveness in men more than I do women. I much prefer people who do not complain, go through official channels, or move on. I feel safer when people, including myself, do not make waves.
[User Picture]
Date:November 25th, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)
So if men are doing the hiring, women might be less willing to push for a higher salary, for fear of not getting the job at all or being penalized in other ways once they do, while men are free to ask for more with no consequences.

Data point of the personal variety:

I do not negotiate my wages, and am in fact afraid to because of right-to-work issues. My employer has a very mixed record with transfolk, and I'm more willing to be paid badly in a largely good environment than to lose employment because I expect to be paid what I'm worth.

It bugs the shit out of me, because I'd prefer to be able to be more assertive.
Date:November 25th, 2009 04:42 am (UTC)
I think a major issue here is something pointed out later in the article:

And 18-year-old young women are still choosing majors based on the expectation that they'll one day be primarily responsible for childcare.

I chose to not have children until later in life (if at all), because I knew it would negatively affect my career. I didn't make the assumption that I'd be the primary caregiver to a child, just that the first couple of years I would do the gestation and breast feeding, which meant not working during that time or only working part time.

In order to have children, women have to sacrifice part of their career life...several months at the minimum. This time taken out of a career can have a huge impact on wages. A woman who drops to part time, then comes back on full time, will probably have to wait until the next round of reviews to get a raise...a considerable chunk of money taken out of lifetime wages.
[User Picture]
Date:November 25th, 2009 05:40 am (UTC)
That's likely part of it, but it also sounds like there's a lot more than this going on.
[User Picture]
Date:November 26th, 2009 04:36 pm (UTC)
I just now read the article, and I think the gender gap persists because of our society's attitude towards sex. Women are seen as the symbols and providers of sex, and our society is mostly sex-negative. In contrast, neopagan culture is mostly sex-positive, so women are treated as equal to, or in some cases superior to, men.

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