Gender equality in the work place

Jacob Proffitt Jacob at Proffitt.com
Wed Aug 30 20:14:25 EDT 2000


On Wed, 30 Aug 2000 18:05:04 -0400 (EDT), Mary Ann Dimand wrote:

>If I may, I will suggest looking at
>http://www.census.gov/prod/99pubs/p60-206.pdf , a research paper which
>indicates median earnings by education and sex for the U.S. in 1998, and the
>standard deviation within each class. Standard deviations are a statistical
>measure useful in determing whether a difference might be viewed as
>indicative of a substantial distinction between the classes (statistically
>significant). I need to go to the PO pretty fast now, so I won't go through
>the bother of reproducing the data. Especially as I'm giving a big wallopful
>below.

I appreciate the reference and found the data very interesting.  I would
like to point out, however, that education level is not an adequate measure
of proficiency.  For most positions, you need both education and experience.
This is true for any technical positions and particularly true for
managerial and executive level positions.  A new graduate just out of law
school is never going to compare well with the seasoned partner at his or
her law firm--even though both would find themselves in the same group in
the data cited.

Since women haven't been a part of the work force as a group for terribly
long, and since there are increasing numbers of women entering the work
force, the population of women in the work force tends to be younger,
therefore is misrepresented in the cited statistics.  It would be far more
interesting to me to see data that compares people based on time in their
career separated by gender.

Aggregates of median incomes will never show gender equity because too many
women opt out of the system.  Too many women enter and leave the work force
in unpredictable ways, whether they enter at 40 due to life changes or leave
at 25 to concentrate on raising a family.  The only way to raise aggregate
median incomes to parity is if you made the women into men--not just
socially, but biologically as well (or invented Melissa's favorite fictional
device, the uterine replicator).

Another factor that conservative analysts like to point to is that this
flexibility in women entering and leaving the work place is a risk factor
they need to account for in their hiring process.  Personally, I think this
is pretty much bunk, at least in the last decade or so.  There is no more
expectation of loyalty, and employers are increasingly forced to pay their
employees based on the work they are doing now because all loyalty ties have
been more or less permanently broken in the work force.

A lot of the statistics thrown up by liberal organizations like NOW and the
AFL-CIO are all based on the census data you gave.  They like to take the
aggregate disparities and apply them as if women tended to work the same as
men.  They then bend some numbers around to claim that gender inequality
will cost women an average of $250,000 in their lifetime of lost wages.  And
they would have a point if women worked the same as men.  But they don't.  I
don't mean they aren't as hard working, I mean that enough women have
non-linear careers to affect the data.

Unfortunately, I am unable to find any studies that would show the data I
would require to conclude that there is still gender inequity on an
aggregate level in the United States.  Frankly, this data wouldn't be that
difficult to get at--a study designed to show gender split wages based on
time and qualifications for their careers.  "Bachelor's degree with ten
years in their field" for example.

Equal pay for equal work has been the law in the U.S. since 1963.  Some
claim that it is ineffective because of supposed barriers to entry into top
professions.  Since then, other laws have been enacted to ensure equal
access to these professions.  All of which is good and right.  It is,
moreover, enough.  Women experiencing discrimination have adequate remedies
available right now and should pursue those remedies in the individual cases
where they are truly being discriminated against.

Actually, there is *one* other law I would support that would affect gender
equity.  One of the things that *might* still account for some
discrimination might be instances where a woman doesn't know what her work
is worth.  Frankly, I've been hit with this one, myself--I was once in a
situation where I did not realize what my value really was to my company, so
I was paid much less than those around me.  This is simply an issue of
information.  I think I would have no problem with a law that ended the
stupid secrecy people practice about what they earn.  I should know not only
what the CEO of my company makes, but also what the guy in the cubicle next
to me is making.  That way, if I think my talents are worth more, I can say
so in simple terms and either leave or stay based on how aligned my vision
of my abilities is compared to my employers.

Which realization has lead me to where I am now.  Making more than twice
what I was just five years ago.

Jacob Proffitt
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