kinda cluelessWell, I’ve written about this before and received quite a lot of feedback. You guessed it, the wage gap between men, women and now it seems there’s an ever widening “belief gap” regarding the wage gap. And while there are lots of news outlets that would have you believe that it’s just cavemen dwellers who don’t believe in a wage gap (despite countless studies that prove it exists), it’s not. There are many economists, conservatives, liberals, recruiters in our own profession, and women, who believe:

1) that a wage gap does not exist at all,

2) that if a wage gap does exist, it exists because of choices women make,

3) if a wage gap exists that it is not our problem nor do we have to take any responsibility for it.

So in the interest of further public education among the readers of this site (presumably folks involved in talent acquisition and potentially at least SOME women) let’s talk about this. One of the reasons this is once again, coming to the forefront, is because Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, recently chose Paul Ryan as his running mate. Ryan, among other things, voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay act, a law that makes it easier for women to challenge unequal pay.

In the above linked Bloomberg op-ed, author Ramesh Ponnuru states:

Here’s the truth you won’t hear: The pay gap is exaggerated, discrimination doesn’t drive it and it’s not clear that government can eliminate it — or should even try.

He doesn’t just discourage government from addressing the wage gap, he stresses with a 2005 and 2009 study, respectively, it doesn’t exist and if it does, it is most certainly not the fault or responsibility of employers to make it right:

There is very little that individual employers can do about any of these issues. They can’t make men do more housework, or pick majors for women. Nor can they reasonably be asked to adjust their salary schedules to make up for those choices.

None of these arguments are new to women who have been trying not only to get the wage gap closed but now have to wage a double battle regarding the belief that such a thing exists.

So what happens when you control for certain industries, having kids, full vs part-time and hours worked beyond full time (described in many economics studies as 35 hours per week or more)? Well, the wage gap still seems to exist, as shown in this 2010 GAO study, showing that female managers make 81% as much as their male counterparts, even when controlling (once again) for all of the above factors.

One of the most common arguments against the existence of a wage gap based on discrimination, is that of women taking time out of the workforce to have children, care for their families and help with the housework (I cannot believe I even have to write that). But this too, proves to be a bit of a red herring, as even when childless women and men are compared, full-time working women are paid only 82 percent as much as full-time working men.

I guess what I’m saying here is that even when controlling for hours worked, childlessness, and job title, the gap still seems to exist.

Okay fair enough, let’s level that playing field, let’s go back to when kids first start entering the workforce, when the discrepancy (among all socioeconomic, cultural and field of study data) seems to be the smallest (yay!):

  • Among all workers 25 years of age and older with some high school education, women’s median weekly wages total $388 compared to a total of $486 for men.
  • A  female MBA graduate is paid, on average, $4,600 less at her first job than a new male MBA graduate.

What about the kiddo argument? If women are paid less because of their decision to have children (and that IS the rationale here) shouldn’t men with children be paid less than their childless male counterparts? Well, no:

Women are penalized for caregiving while men are not; the 2003 GAO study found that women with children are paid about 2.5 percent less than women without children, while men with children enjoy an earnings boost of 2.1 percent, compared with men without children. In other words, working mothers pay a penalty while working fathers receive a bonus.

While it would be irresponsible to continue to bandy about the stat that women earn 77 cents to every dollar men do, even when controlling for all of the above factors, the gap still exists, despite various claims to the contrary.

One key toward making it better would be to acknowledge it is there and work toward bridging that gap, via leadership and negotiation training for both women and men and a better, deeper understanding of the biases that lead us to fight this claim so vociferously (seriously, check out some of the comments in these posts, articles and studies).

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll talk a little bit about other, less-explored arguments against the pay gap’s existence, including negotiation tactics, work-life balance and high-risk high-reward theories. Read on for part two…



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