Friday, April 27, 2007

Pay Equity (a reprise)

Well,

According to recent statistics women in the United States are now earning not 77% but 88% of the man's average salary. To this end, one article in the New York Sun states that these statistics, of course, make mass demonstrations completely pointless and ineffective... Not so.

I'm not going to address the statistics because I am ill equipped to do so, and furthermore, statistics can be used to prove just about darn well anything. What I will say, however, is just what sorts of jobs are these statistics referring to? It seems to me that any woman in an 'executive' position (should she get there) is still underpaid and under appreciated next to her male colleagues.
What this article does illustrate is the danger in promoting a policy of 'comparable worth' as it inherently assumes women are weaker. What we (as North Americans) still do need, however, is legislation around equal pay for work of equal value. 'Comparable worth' returns Americans to the persons debate and makes one wonder if women ever actually became persons in the eyes of some.

Another, more interesting, article raises some very scary points:

"A report released this week by the American Association of University Women found that women across the country earn 80 percent of what their male counterparts make one year after graduating from college. Ten years later, they are earning 69 percent of men's pay. Even after considering career choice, parenthood and other factors, a quarter of the wage gap is unexplained and likely a result of discrimination, the report says."

The article itself discusses the implementation of some bills to legislate Pay Equity--labelled (go figure) "feel good liberal legislation" by one senator. I don't disagree that affirmative action isn't always the best path--indeed, it can lead, as Amanda rightly points out, to very unfair hiring practices. I do think, though, that we have to start somewhere; as much as North Americans like to pretend we live in a meritocracy, in truth we live in a meritocracy for the already privileged...

A third article addresses only too "the transparent glass ceiling" faced by women.
This article points out that the statistics around the enduring wage gap can be attributed, in part to the fact that

"Women gravitate into lower-paying professions such as education and psychology. Many go to work for non-profit organizations. Men take a disproportionate number of the jobs in engineering and business."

While this is true, it only serves reinforces the gravity of the larger societal problem: the socialization and gender coding around certain jobs and the failure of some professions to work around the caregiver role. It does also illuminate an interesting tendency of women in the working world; that is, the disproportionate number of women who chose the types of jobs which tend to lend themselves to 'community' based issues. Women, it seems, gravitate toward changing their environment in the most immediate way possible (as teachers or non-profit sector workers). Why is this?

Sadly the article continues:

But, as study co-author Catherine Hill told a congressional committee Tuesday, those decisions [to enter into lower paying professions] do not account entirely for the pay gaps.

She controlled for factors such as education, occupation, hours, and children. A 5 percent difference in pay remained for women one year after graduation — before child-rearing even becomes an issue. The controls whittled the spread after a decade at work to 12 percent.

Over a lifetime, those disparities snowball into total incomes $500,000 less than men, lower Social Security, lower social security for children and families.

Our society punishes mothers, rewards fathers.

No wonder there is concern around the declining birth rates in North America. As women choose more and more to enter into demanding professions, child rearing becomes a difficult choice. Hear this legislators: legislate that all jobs become more accommodating to child rearing (for both sexes) and maybe that 1.5 children per couple statistic might rise...





1 comment:

Amanda Reaume said...

Great post Kaitlin! And nice running into you in the library!