Associate Professor Emeritus of Baruch College Aaron Levenstein once said, “Statistics are like a bikini: what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” Between manipulating sample sizes, asking leading questions, and presenting findings in a deceitful way, people have plenty of tactics for making statistics say whatever they want them to say — and sometimes, the stats are made to outright lie.
With that in mind, here are a few of the most well-known, but rarely scrutinized, claims in hiring and employment, as well as the truths behind them.
1. ‘A Woman Makes 77 Cents for Every Dollar a Man Earns’
President Obama mentioned this claim during his 2014 State of the Union address, but this number can be a bit misleading. The “77 cents to a dollar” number is the difference between the average salaries of men and women, so while the average woman makes 77 cents for every dollar the average man makes — which is unacceptable — this statistic ignores a few key factors, as Christina H. Sommers explains:
“[The number] does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure, or hours worked per week. When all these relevant factors are taken into consideration, the wage gap narrows to about five cents. And no one knows if the five cents is a result of discrimination or some other subtle, hard-to-measure difference between male and female workers.”
Now, this doesn’t mean that the workplace is equally fair to men and women; but as we’ve come to see, the wage gap is a much more complicated issue than companies hiring a woman and thinking “She’s a woman, so we’re going to pay her 23 cents less.”
As a recruiter, you can help combat wage gaps — wherever they might exist — by ensuring that salary ranges treat all candidates equally. When sourcing candidates for diversity initiatives, keep in mind that recruiting diversity candidates is easier when you have as equal a pool as possible.
2. ‘Raising the Minimum Wage Will Lead to Job Growth’
As more and more states move to raise the minimum wage, people constantly question what effect this will have on the economy. Some say raising the minimum wage leads people out of poverty, and others say raising the cost of employing each worker will make employers more hesitant to hire anyone.
Regardless of what raising the minimum wage eventually does for the American workforce, one thing we know for sure is that increasing the minimum wage does not always lead to job growth. As political watchdog site PolitiFact shows, job growth numbers don’t always match minimum wage increases. In fact, some minimum wage increases were met with job losses.
Does this mean raising the minimum wage is a bad idea? Absolutely not. In fact, a lot of other stats suggest raising the minimum wage is a good idea. PolitiFact’s findings simply mean that far-reaching changes like minimum wage increases don’t happen in a vacuum, and no single solution to economic problems is always effective.
What this means for you, as a recruiter, is that you should keep the stagnant minimum wage in mind when hiring entry-level candidates, and you should try to keep pace with inflation.
3. ‘There Just Aren’t Enough Minority Candidates in Tech’
Tech giants like Google supposedly still haven’t caught on to the power of diversity hires. Those who question the tech companies’ hiring processes always seem to meet with criticisms along the lines of, “There just aren’t enough minority candidates in tech.” If only more minorities would apply to tech jobs, the industry would have a more diverse workforce!
Turns out, that’s not true. There are at least twice as many computer science graduates from top universities as there are tech openings at top companies. African Americans and Hispanics combined make up 11 percent of all computer science grads, but only 5 percent of workers of top companies in Silicon Valley.
The lack of minorities in tech jobs is a problem with recruiters, not applicants. The pool of eligible candidates for tech jobs is large enough to effectively double the diversity of one of the most white, male-dominated workforces in the U.S. — but recruiters just aren’t including minority candidates in the sourcing pool.
Stats can mislead, but they can also be powerful tools in making legitimate points when properly sourced and utilized. In order to make progress in helping women, minorities, and underpaid workers, we should always thoroughly examine the stats we use and seek out the underlying causes behind these numbers.