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Women and the Wage Gap

Gender based workplace discrimination is still a major issue. The wage gap in particular has been getting a lot of press this last year. It seems that every time someone brings up the subject, there is always someone there to say we are over simplifying the issues. They argue that there are several industries where women make more then men. A fact that this recent CNN article points out, “Yes, men earn more than women. Except in these jobs.” People are quick to point out that there is no men’s movement in those industries lobbying for equal pay.  But even the CNN article admits that even though there are industries where women are making more it really doesn’t compensate for or in any way justify industries where there is still wage inequality based on gender.

The data is clear that women are still making less overall. So, why does a gender based pay gap exist? Turns out that this is not an easy question to answer, especially since there are probably multiple factors that contribute to the issue. For example, the recent Washington Post article, “The real reason young women leave their jobs,” states that employers assume that women want to be mothers. They also assume that women, especially mothers, are inherently less committed to their careers, and that women would prefer less hours for less pay, and less pay for more flexibility.

In a recent NPR Interview, “The True Story of the Gender Pay Gap,” Harvard professor Claudia Goldin, states that flexibility explains much of the gap. Often women do choose for increased flexibility for less pay. In that sense she argues the data is clear in that we are not comparing two individuals doing the same work for different pay because one of those individuals has been given increased flexibility in exchange for less pay. Which to me seems to bring about the question of do women want more flexibility then men? Or are employers making that choice for them? Prof. Goldin, admits that the flexibility explanation is not true for the wage gap in every industry.

The interview also went on to reference her research paper,”Orchestra Impartiality,” where Prof. Goldin pointed out that there was a 25% increase in the number of women hired when orchestras conduct their auditions blind. This is a different but related issue because it goes towards women being less likely to hired than men. When there are less women in particular field it makes wage discrimination easier. She also found there was a secondary effect in that more women came out to audition when they knew that it was a blind audition.

I think this discovery has brilliant applications in many fields. Major corporations in some fields such as high tech industries have stated the reason they hire so few women is that there are very few qualified candidates. Truthfully, though, many women are discouraged from even applying if they know a company or a sector has a discriminatory reputation. In other words, why waste my time applying for jobs where I know I won’t really be considered? The answer here at least in part seems to suggest that if companies are serious about hiring more women they should publicize that applications will be evaluated blindly, and that hiring decisions makers will not know race, ethnicity, name or gender of applicants unless they are already selected for an interview. This would encourage more women to apply. Unwillingness to take these steps show that well established highly profitable large companies may be more concerned with saying they are taking steps to increase diversity then actually taking the steps.

Often in this discussion employers will state that it is not their fault that women are making less and being hired less. First, as stated above many often state there are not enough candidates. Second, many will often state that women simply fail to ask for more. Many argue that women are less likely to ask for raises, negotiate salaries, etc. I am not sure if that is true or not. To be honest I am sure that there are a combination of all of the above factors that come into play.

As for the last bit if true even in small part there is at least one organization trying to something about it. WAGE- Women Are Getting Even trains women on the art of salary negotiations. I happen to think it is a wonderful idea. If you think you are not getting paid as much as your male colleagues or maybe just not comfortable negotiating your salary, consider attending one of their awesome workshops. What do you think about the gender pay gap and what has been your personal experience?

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