Gender-Based Pay Discrimination

The evidence of gender-based economic discrimination is clear and obvious to anyone who wants to look. Study after study has shown that women get paid less than men, and those studies also show that it’s true for occupations where they do the same jobs. There are far fewer women CEOs, and on average they make considerably less than do male CEOs. In addition, in any occupation, once women comprise more than fifty percent of the workforce, the annual percentage increase in compensation for that entire workforce decreases.

While women represent over half (51.5%) of assistant professors at U.S. colleges and universities and are near parity (44.9%) among associate professors, they accounted for less than a third (32.4%) of full professors in 2015. In addition, according to 2017 Department of Education statistics, the salary gap between male and female full professors at U.S. colleges and universities has actually increased over the past decade, so that the average male full professor now makes $18,000 a year more than the average female full professor.

A 2017 study of medical school faculties showed that while nearly fifty percent of all assistant professors were women, only 22% were full professors. The Statistical Research Center at the American Institute of Physics reported in 2017, that even after accounting for factors such as postdoctoral experience and age, women physicists were paid significantly less than male physicists.

Several series of studies have shown that when identical resumes – except for the gender of the name – for various jobs were submitted to U.S. companies, the resumes with the male names received far more callbacks. Another example of this is illustrated by a 2018 study from Ohio State University, which submitted 2,106 dummy job applications to over a thousand entry level positions around the country. The highest achieving men averaged callbacks 16% of the time, but the women with equal or higher grades were called back just 9% of the time, while the men with the lowest grades had a callback rate of about 11.7%. A follow-up survey also discovered that employers were worried that women with high academic averages were “less likeable” than men or than women with lower average grades.

There are scores of such studies, and while the amount of pay discrimination varies according to the studies, they all show such discrimination. Interestingly enough, most of these studies seem to show that pay discrimination in professional jobs is lowest at the entry level and increases incrementally at each higher level of responsibility. Likewise, it appears that the glass ceiling is alive and largely intact, whether in academia, medicine, business, or politics.

While one might argue, and studies support this point, that fewer women wish to sacrifice personal and family life for the stress, politics, infighting, and pressures of CEO-level or top political, professional, or academic positions, the fact is that a significant percentage of women do sacrifice personal and family life – and, in almost all cases, they’re paid a lot less than the good old boys. By any standard, that’s also discrimination.

And Republicans wonder why millions of professional women aren’t happy when the GOP pushes through judicial nominees who appear biased against women and minorities? Or, more likely, the GOP doesn’t even care.

11 thoughts on “Gender-Based Pay Discrimination”

  1. Alan says:

    I don’t deny the truth of the studies, even if the studies are poorly done where there is smoke there is likely fire, but I do debate the accuracy of the studies in many areas. Government positions, for instance, are generally openly posted salaries. It’s quite literally impossible to pay one E-5 in the Navy differently from another E-5 who is doing the same job at the same place and time. The same is true of many companies, especially unions, where pay is regimented and openly posted for positions.

    For the political aspect, I doubt the GOP cares in the least. Neither side cares, they only care about their agenda. We the People continue to vote them into office as they push the agenda time and time again.

    1. Derek says:

      Well, the military is a unique horse when it comes to gender discrimination, but it’s still there. And we’re not talking about combat arms:

      The male private that takes charge of a situation is a natural leader.

      The female private that takes charge of the situation is a bitch.

  2. Andreas says:

    I think there are plenty of gender related problems, but high level statistics on wage gaps and gender segregation are typically extremely misleading. There are now more than a few studies which show how the gaps shrink to almost nothing as more details and relevant factors are included. It is of course possible that the US is discriminating in the extreme, but more likely the facts are not quite what we have been led to believe.

    In most cases the relevant factors boil down to life choices and what should be discussed is probably what causes men and women to make different life choices. Are we ready to discuss those choices fairly or do we keep rehashing statistics which may seem easy to interpret at a brief glance, but are totally misleading when studied in detail?
    Are we (and women as group) ready to adopt a society which forces equal life choices on men and women as groups?

    1. First of all, gender discrimination is indeed significantly higher in the U.S. than in the Scandinavian countries, particularly at higher income and responsibility levels. Even in the U.S. gender discrimination is significantly lower at the entry level. Second, it also depends on how one defines “almost nothing.” Third, one of the reasons that “life choices” are made the way they are is that in every country men take on significantly fewer household and child-related chores. That’s also a form of patriarchal discrimination, and it means that such “choices” place women in the position of either “agreeing” to spend less time with children or not to have children, which is indeed the route that many young women are choosing to take, or to have children without a spouse, because they see a spouse as just one more obligation without enough added value.

      1. Andreas says:

        It is quite true that segregation of gender in both work and family life is one of the major factors behind the group level pay gaps, however the assumption that segregation is caused by “patriarchal discrimination”, i.e. lack of responsibility from men or discrimination of women is not supported by the data. Again US figures might differ, but for scandinavian countries the total workload of men and women, including chores, is equal (within statistical uncertainty). Segregation in workplaces is high, which is what was dubbed the gender equality paradox, essentially that women when free to choose as a group choose more segregation, not less.
        The “real” pay gap, the part that cannot be accounted for by relevant factors, is about 0.1% (both men and women). There were similar studies in the mid nineties, which were at least roughly replicated in the US, which showed that the pay gap was at least less than a few percent, and that the major factor required to reduce the pay gap was detailed job descriptions, it depends on lack of information to a very high degree.

        The point here being whether to use this knowledge to force women to make the same life choices as men. Yes, men face the same “choice” of either spending less time with children or not having them at all and to a higher degree than women do, having children without a spouse is not really an option. This also ties into the sexual selection process where less successful men (economically and in terms of societal status) are left without partner/children. There might well be young women who see the spouse as just another obligation, but the data tells differently, so how much of that feeling has actual merit and how much is just societally encouraged sexism? There are also indications that women choose to have children without a spouse, not because a spouse does not add value, not because a men are “afraid of powerful women”, but rather because the pool of men with enough economical and societal status to attract them is small and the competition for those men high. No added value should maybe be interpreted quite literally in those cases.

        Are we prepared to remodel society to the degree required in order to for example eradicate those segregating choices women choose to make when free to do so? To eradicate the tendency of women to choose men with higher economical and societal status. To eradicate the tendency of women as a group to take on significantly fewer income-related chores relative to household and child-related, to mirror your argumentation earlier. Will women agree to this remodeling?

        1. You’re arguing from facts in your society. In the U.S., the figures differ significantly. Men spend roughly a third the time women do in domestic and childcare chores. As for the “real” pay gap, as I noted earlier, the amount of difference in the U.S. depends on the level of seniority. It is, as you noted, only a few percentage points [on average, because there are specific industries, such as Silicon Valley, where it’s much higher] at the entry level. Even taking all quantifiable factors into account, it’s much higher at senior levels. Also, if you can’t get promoted to senior levels, then you can’t get the same years of experience, so some of those factors used to “adjust” the “gross” pay gap are in fact the result of discrimination, and, thus, are themselves suspect.

          1. Andreas says:

            Correct, most of the specific figures I have are from my society, however the tendencies have been replicated in several others and are not all that hard to find. It is also correct that the aggregate differences are larger where there is more competition and wages more affected by results/achievement, but also there the differences almost disappear at closer scrutiny.

            Domestic and childcare chores differ between men and women, but note what is included in each category. The home related chores which men typically do, maintenance for example, are often excluded when statistics on this issue are cited. I looked up the U.S. figures on domestic chores and child care from the American Time Use Survey, and the figures I find are that men do 38% of the total or 62% of the time women spend, not roughly a third. By the same statistics if you add upp domestic, child care and work activities, the total is 5% less for women, does that mean men are actually the ones discriminated against?

            The gender-based pay discrimination on a society level is very small and does not only affect women, it also does not explain segregation in either type of work, workplaces or seniority.

            The glass ceiling effect, i.e. the relative proportion of women drop of at senior levels, has also been studied quite extensively and again appears more related to women’s life choices than pay gaps or other discrimination. When women are offered positions at senior levels they are far more likely than men to decline, they are also less likely to switch jobs/workplaces, which is another factor correlated to higher wages. It is a common assumption that these life choices are a form of discrimination, but so far the evidence, especially regarding the major factors behind the pay gap, point in the opposite direction.

            If we want en equal opportunity society we cannot continue to assume discrimination or that discrimination is in one direction only. If we, for example, interpret differences in household chores as women taking more domestic responsiblity, then the mirroring interpretation that must be accepted is that men take more responsibility for family income. Which words are used is important here, as they affect further interpretation of such effects as pay gaps.

            This ended up as a much longer discussion than I originally intended. Discrimination without doubt exists and those behaviors should be exposed, but at the same time discrimination should not be inflated, mixed or confused with every gender difference. Assumptions about discrimination will only lead to ineffective and possibly even counter-productive policies in addition to engendering distrust.

          2. Andreas… I believe you’re either overlooking or disregarding the fact that many of the so-called choices you cite aren’t “free choices.” A study I ran across years ago dealt with the results of moving for economic or career enhancement. When a family moved to improve the woman’s economic or professional status, the ensuing divorce rate was twice as high as when a family moved to improve the male’s income or professional status. women are well aware of these factors. Men tend to ignore them. In my book, this isn’t just a “gender difference,” it’s a form of male discrimination and using women’s concern for the family against women, and a lot of your so-called “free choices” fall into that category. What it boils down to is that women tend to care more about family than men, and that caring is used against them.

          3. Andreas says:

            I am neither overlooking or disregarding consequence of choices, but they exist for both men and women and do affect outcome, which is the whole point. BTW, I call them life choices for a reason, not free choices, there is no such thing as a totally free choice.

            The prevalence of divorce for unemployed and recently unemployed men that is also rather high (at least 30% above average), men are well aware of those factors as well, but it is not called female discrimination when women do it.

            As for moving to work, look at it from the point of sexual selection which is already known to include that women tend to select (rate as more attractive) men with higher income and social status than themselves.
            From that point of view, moving to a new job will mean a higher income for that partner and likely the same or lower income for the accompanying partner. The result when the woman moves to a new job is thus less attraction for her partner, when the man moves and the woman accompanies, the result is that his female partner will view him as more attractive. End result, more divorces when the woman moves to a new job, but not because of “male” discrimination. Life is more complex than that, but it is an example of how the outcome is blamed on the man, despite supporting evidence pointing to that it is a matter of the woman’s values, not the man’s.

            Women make decisions with basis in their own value system not simply because of some altruistic care for family, that is just an euphemism in order to not need to acknowledge that women are also selfish.

          4. All of that said, more discrimination exists than either your sociology or statistics show. I’m not about to spend days rooting through the inaccuracies and assumptions in statistics and sociology. After more than fifty years in the military, business, and government, and having consulted for some of the largest companies in the world, I know that the discrimination I’ve cited is real, that many of statistical adjustments you cite are in themselves based on discriminatory assumptions, and I’ve worked with statistics enough years to know that they reflect the perceptions and beliefs of those who create them. Either one of us can “prove” a point with statistics, but no matter how one cites statistics, women make less money, have less economic and political power, and are rather tired of it… and of men explaining why they’re not really being discriminated against because it’s their fault for the “life choices” they make. I don’t see anyone blaming unemployed or underemployed males for their life choices in not pursuing jobs requiring more training or expertise.

          5. Andreas says:

            The adjustments you say are based on discriminatory assumptions are in reality not even adjustments, they are the same statistics on a more detailed level, by comparing people who actually have the same jobs, the same experience, work in the same field, and so on, in several smaller and more similar groups instead of society level aggregates with huge built in errors where every factor other than gender is ignored.

            It is a severe misunderstanding that those statistics differ because of “adjustments” added to the same original data in order to hide or “correct for” differences as is done for the society level aggregates. There are no additional assumptions, only better data and if there is one golden rule about statistics, it is “shit in, means shit out”. Statistics can be fudged with small irrelevant groups or by misrepresenting the results, as in the case of calling the gender pay gap discrimination, but the smaller the difference between the data and the actual question and the closer the sample group is to the population, the harder it gets to fudge the statistics. That is why the statistics I cited are important, they are extremely hard to fudge. Just as it is more meaningful to compare total workload or total domestic chores instead single factors such as time spent cooking or time spent repairing the car, which would give completely opposite results.

            One can always argue that any conflicting data is wrong, that women in general for example do a better job than men or that they do a job far beyond the job descriptions, but there have been attempts to show such and so far they have failed.

            In the same way as women as a group have less income and less political power men are “discriminated” by lower health (in part work environment, work hours and competition related pressure etc.), lower work safety (higher work related physical risks) to pick a few. Income and political power comes at a cost, and a pretty harsh one at that. Women don’t have free choices, but neither do men. Ignoring the drawbacks of men´s situation and glorifying the positive sides, while doing the opposite for women does not constitute proof of discrimination it is simply discriminatory in itself.

            I don’t dispute your experiences, I have seen enough to know that the behaviors you describe exist. However, I have also seen the other side of the issue, partly because I come from a low education/low income background going up through the education system, academia and business, and partly because I have worked in both male and female dominated workplaces. I don’t expect you to forget your experiences because statistics show something else one a higher level, but I do expect at least subjecting those experiences to a ground-truthing or reality check, before they are used to extrapolate to society and blame a couple of billion people for something they might have no responsibility for, or at least no more or less than women do.

            I am also a bit disappointed at how you could have missed the discrimination and derogatory attitude towards un- or underemployed men, how they are ignored, shunned and called losers and so on. Turn on the tv, go for a walk among people, sit down at a café and listen and look around. Those attitudes and behaviors are out in the open because they are not even seen as something wrong! Yes, that includes by americans of which I have met and worked with more than a few. Those attitudes are far more prevalent than those that denigrate women’s abilities as leaders or professionals in different fields.

            There is not much point continuing this discussion further in this format. I do actually appreciate your experiences and that includes how they come through in your writing, but I also think there is a lot more to the issue, both regarding men’s choices and how the problems affect our society.

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