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Women may be to blame for pay inequality

    EqualpayWhat's going on in our workplaces? Why are women earning less than men? 

    Some say it is because we're choosing jobs that pay less, taking time out of the workforce and showing less ambition. Others say it is because men tend to hold the top jobs and tend to pay the men at their companies bigger salaries -- either because they like them more or feel they deserve it.

     In today's Miami Herald column I included comments by attorney Richard Tuschman of Epstein Becker & Green, who says: "I'm not suggesting some women don't get paid equal for the same work as men. But the numbers being bandied about suggest it's a huge problem and that's just not the case." (Tuschman writes the Florida Employment Blog)

     I've been thinking a lot about something a female lawyer said to me. Barbara Locke, a lawyer who went out on her own after 20 years at a big corporate law firm, told me women need to be more assertive about money. When we think we're paid fair, we don't concern ourselves with what others are making, she said.  She also belives women are too upfront about their parenting responsibilities or need for flexibility. For example, she says we tell the boss we're willing to take less pay because we need to leave by 5 p.m. two nights a week. Men will just leave early without bringing attention to themselves.

     I think Barbara absolutely is right.

     I was astounded when I looked at Fortune's lists of highest paid men and women.  The highest paid men earns almost 10 times what the highest paid women earns. Women are climbing the ranks but our paychecks don't reflect it. Barbara's not convinced they ever will.

     Are our choices to blame for our lower paychecks? Are women doing enough to push young girls into higher-paying fields? Are we negotiating hard enough for the highest salaries possible?

   Two new national bills, the Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, will make it easier for women to sue for pay discrimination. But the threat of a lawsuit may not be enough to fix the problem.

      Barbara says it will take a generation or two or three before women have any chance at equal pay. Do you agree?

Comments

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Lisa Landy

Unfortunately you and Barbara are absolutely right. Men wait for a company to go to them about their hours or productivity, which could take more than a year and sometimes never happen, and women will pre-emptively tell their superiors that they will be working less and consequently take less pay. The end result though is that the woman will work more or less the same hours anyway, just for less pay.

I find it incredible that Mr. Tuschman is so willing to dismiss thoroughly verified data because it doesn't fit in with his mind-set. It isn't legal now to overtly discriminate against a woman because she has had a child but it doesn't mean this doesn't happen. The assumption is there that women will quit work completely or work less hours and so the woman will not be staffed on the highest priority and most profitable work leading to lower hours, lower receivables and lower pay. It isn't that the woman doesn't want the work or can't do it, she just isn't given the opportunity. Eventually the woman will become overly frustrated and will either leave, thereby fulfilling the expectation but not for the assumed reason or be forthright about her desire for less hours because killing herself at work isn't getting her anywhere anyway.

The question is what to do about it. As good intentioned as I think Obama is, legislation isn't going to do anything. There is a mindset that needs to be changed but until women control enough of the business that the men have to pay attention I doubt it will change.

Richard Tuschman

Readers, if you review the literature on the causes of the pay gap, I think you'll see that I have a valid point. There is a gender pay gap -- women earn about 77 cents what mean earn, on average. But understand, this is simply a comparison of what the average full-time female worker earns versus what the average full-time male worker earns. Women tend to go into fields like education, psychology and the humanities, which typically pay less than the fields men tend to go into, such as engineering, math and business. Women are also more likely than men to work for nonprofit groups and local governments. And, many women choose to leave the workforce or go part-time to raise families. When they re-enter the workforce in a full time capacity, they don't earn as much as men who, all along, continued working full-time. All of this, and other non-discriminatory explanations for the pay gap, are explained in the American Association of University Women's 2007 study, "Behind the Pay Gap," which is available online at: http://www.aauw.org/research/index.cfm

In other words, the 23% pay gap doesn't reflect gender-based wage discrimination in employment -- i.e. when a woman earns less than a comparably qualified man for the same work. The pay gap is mostly a product of the different choices women and men make. Only a small portion of the pay gap might be attributable to discrimination. This is not my opinion -- this is the conclusion of economists who have studied the issue, including liberal, female economists. See, e.g., this article from Reason Magazine, http://www.reason.com/news/show/119920.html, in which Harvard economist Claudia Goldin is quoted as saying that there isn't sufficient evidence of systemic pay discrimination. "There are certainly instances of discrimination, she says, but most of the gap is the result of different choices. Other hard-to-measure factors, Goldin thinks, largely account for the remaining gap -- 'probably not all, but most of it.'"

Proponents of the Paycheck Fairness Act argue that new legislation is necessary to close the pay gap. But since the pay gap is, for the most part, not the product of wage discrimination, the legislation won't close the gap significantly. Besides, Title VII and the Equal Pay Act, as well as state and local laws, already prohibit gender-based pay discrimination and impose significant penalties against employers in cases where discrimination is proven.

To be clear, I am all in favor of encouraging women to study math and engineering and other fields in which they can pursue high-paying careers, and close the pay gap over time. But to suggest that wage discrimination is the primary cause of the pay gap, and that yet another law prohibiting wage discrimination will close the pay gap, is naive at best, intellectually dishonest at worst.

- Richard Tuschman


Sheila Thomson

The other day I saw the results of the university admission exams in Rio. Women had the top marks for medicine, sciences, and engineering in almost every school. When they go into the work force, they'll have four to six months maternity leave and be able to go back to their jobs, because it's the law (a friend of mine has just done that, after staying home and breast-feeding her baby boy for six months). I'll believe in equality for women in the U.S. when this happens in our country. I've seen too many of my younger colleagues in the U.S. leave their one-month old babies with nannies all day, to be able to go back to work and not lose their jobs. I think it's absolutely essential for a baby to have his/her mom around in the first months. In the long run, the country, the society, benefits. So, here's a suggestion for President Obama!

As far as pay equality, I really don't know what the situation is in Brazil, but I assume women have the same problem here.

Heather

This is crap. Business as usual blame the women who want equal pay. Its women's fault that men cheat on their hours and don't tell anyone. Come on.

The number one rule in the workplace is this. He/She with the most toys win. Period. Doesn't matter how they got it. Thing is women are just catching up having only been let in the game. I am talking my lifetime. Half a century. Women just need to stop apologizing for taking up space.

Heather

This is crap. Business as usual blame the women who want equal pay. Its women's fault that men cheat on their hours and don't tell anyone. Come on.

The number one rule in the workplace is this. He/She with the most toys win. Period. Doesn't matter how they got it. Thing is women are just catching up having only been let in the game. I am talking my lifetime. Half a century. Women just need to stop apologizing for taking up space.

Ram

I can't believe a woman actually wrote this sh... poop. Cindy, did you get the floor done after your writing thing you do? Oh Yeah, wheres my dinner woman.

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