It's our fault – for being ignorant

The Labour government is obviously committed to doing something about the wage-gap between men and women – they’ve released a study. This study compares the wages in male dominated industries, such a building and painting, with wages in female dominated areas, like hairdressers and caregivers. This research does show that wages in male dominated industries and female dominated industries tend to have similar start rates, but after five years workers in male dominated industries earn over 45% more. However, the conclusion the Minister of Women’s Affairs comes to is ridiculous:

I have a theory that if women knew more about the potential earnings and career opportunities in some of these trades more traditionally occupied by men, their choices might be different. We quickly realised however that there was a dearth of information about what young people earn in different trades and occupations. So the Ministry commissioned a piece of research on ‘Wages & Training Costs in Male- and Female-dominated Trade-related Occupations’ and I thought this was a good opportunity to release the findings, because I think they are relevant to any young woman making decisions about her career, something that has always been a priority for the YWCA.

If only women had realised there was a wage gape earlier sooner then we would have solved it long ago!

There are some structural reasons women don’t go into male dominated industries. It’s not like girls and boys emerge fully formed at 18 to decide what to do with their life. My all-girls school did not have a wood-work department or a metal-work department – there was nowhere within the school was there anywhere where you could learn these sorts of skills.

Being the only women in a male dominated situation is often an extremely unpleasant experience. One of the way men have continued to dominate the male dominated trades is to act in a hostile way to any woman who enters. I haven’t personally organised in male dominated trades, but I know women who have, and women who know the female apprentices. Not everyone has a hard time of it – not every male-dominated worksite has a misogynist atmosphere, but enough do that it’s not easy – and for many women the risk may not be worth the pay-out.

Knowledge is the last problem that needs to be solved. But even asking the question “why aren’t more women painters?” ignores the more pressing question “why aren’t caregivers paid more?” If we’re going to look at the wage-gap we have to look at the low-wages.

For the government to tut-tut about women only being 8% of the modern apprentices is hypocritical. When they set up the modern apprenticeship scheme it didn’t cover hair-dressing, or any other traditional female trade. They could have included female trades in modern apprenticeships, but they didn’t – that’s the reason this scheme is male dominated.

But the bit about that speech that most enraged me is that they studied caregivers. The government is probably the funder for at least 80% of caregivers employed in this country. If they wanted to do something about the wage gap, then getting pay-equity for caregivers would actually be a really good start.

The wage-gap is complicated, I’m aware that I’ve only covered a few of the many ways in which sexism, misogyny, and capitalism work together to screw women over, but I’m fairly sure I’ve got a better grasp on it than Lianne Dalziel does.

Note on comments: I’d like the comments to focus on the reasons we don’t have pay-equity and how to achieve it.

This entry posted in Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Economics and the like, Feminism, sexism, etc, Gender and the Economy. Bookmark the permalink. 

39 Responses to It's our fault – for being ignorant

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  5. 5
    Chris says:

    Firstly I would like to say that I don’t think you can have a wage gap between different industries, to compare a Pilot to a Steward is not a fair comparison, similarly an Engineer to a Hairdresser. When we look at starting wages we notice that they are similar, this gives us the idea that this amount is somewhere near the minimum required to live (or at least some approximation thereof). From this point onwards we have several major points:

    1) Difficulty of job
    2) Hazards of job
    3) Pay scale of job
    4) Advancement rate of job
    5) Personal abilities

    1) Can be addressed easily, different jobs pay differently, a more difficult to do job (or one that requires specific knowledge) will tend to pay more because it has a more limited field of candidates to choose from. Anyone can stack a shelf, few people can build Nuclear Reactors.

    2) Hazardous jobs pay more. (I don’t think I need to explain this one)

    3) Jobs are inherently limited in what they can pay, a good programmer who works contract can easily earn 6 figures, one working in a company will likely be limited to 5 (UK here). Similarly an Engineer will tend to earn more than a hairdresser because there is more room for expansion within a company (larger budgets etc).

    4) Advancement rate, lots of jobs hold semi-regular pay reviews, at these your pay goes up, down or stays the same, a lot of this is to do with how your work is perceived (see later).

    5) Who you are and how well you work do have an effect on pay.

    Now if we assume that there is a general trend for Females to prefer linguistic and socially oriented jobs and Males to prefer technically orientated jobs then we see the problem. Technical jobs have in general more room for expansion (salary / hours) than social jobs, furthermore they have the potential to require extreme hours.

    People in general can be split into two groups, work to live, and live to work. The first group will trade flexible hours etc for pay, the latter will do the opposite. So what we have done is given a different equation to work;

    [center]pay = salary + benefits + “time”[/center]

    So certain pay gaps can now be easily explained by their flexibility (its much harder to have meetings if people don’t work a set of core hours etc…). So part of a pay gap is now a personal choice in what you wish to do.

    Finally we look at your personal choices, time off, maternity leave etc. From an employers perspective a young woman is a worse choice than a young man simply because she has statistically a higher absence rate, a reasonable chance of requesting maternity leave etc. While it can be said that these are required from an Employers perspective these are simply time off, and time off is not productive.

    So to summarise:

    Different jobs pay differently, this depends on their skill level, risk and expansion capability within the market. On top of this personal choices into working hours and reproduction do make a significant difference. There have been studies which have shown that taking an actually representative sample in technical fields that women are paid more than men who made the same lifestyle choices (9-5, career rather than kids etc).

    There may be a real pay gap, however we cannot identify this from a distorted sample that compares different jobs and different choices within those jobs.

    On the role of Carers and pay this is a case of supply and demand, if families etc were not willing to play this role then the government would be forced to step in and do something. However as people do this willingly their required pay to motivate them is low, at the end of the day if you can pay someone $2 or someone $20 for the same quality and standard of work in the same time you pay the one who wants $2. This may not be the “nice” thing to do however it is the correct business decision, this has been called a “male capatalist society” however I think that it is more indicative of a general social trend, men strive to create hierarchies of power, wealth etc and to be the top dog while a lot more women will strive to be fair and equal. The problem is however that communism can only function correctly and well with a strong capatalist base. So while fairness and equality are nice they must be of opportunity rather than outcome as otherwise the system becomes a race to not strive as there is no real point in doing so.

  6. 6
    Sailorman says:

    “Note on comments: I’d like the comments to focus on the reasons we don’t have pay-equity and how to achieve it.”

    Do you mean pay equity between different types of work (e.g. your position that caregivers are underpaid) or do you mean pay equity between sexes?

    It’s an important distinction: The sex gap could be reduced by (for example) getting more men to become caregivers and more women to become plumbers, but the wage gap between industries wouldn’t be affected at all.

  7. 7
    RonF says:

    The government is probably the funder for at least 80% of caregivers employed in this country.

    The government in the U. S. is under pressure from taxpayers to hold down costs. Just like any other employer, they’re not going to want to pay more than the market value for a particular kind of labor.

    If they wanted to do something about the wage gap, then getting pay-equity for caregivers would actually be a really good start.

    Equity on what basis? The market value of their labor?

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    1) Can be addressed easily, different jobs pay differently, a more difficult to do job (or one that requires specific knowledge) will tend to pay more because it has a more limited field of candidates to choose from. Anyone can stack a shelf, few people can build Nuclear Reactors.

    That’s a difference in training, not a difference in difficulty. In fact, many very difficult jobs have lousy pay — for example, ditch-digging.

    So category 1. should be called “training,” not “difficulty.”

    2) Hazardous jobs pay more.

    No they don’t.

    Similarly an Engineer will tend to earn more than a hairdresser because there is more room for expansion within a company (larger budgets etc).

    I’m not convinced this is a major factor. Someone at a tiny architectural firm might earn a lot more than someone working for a huge mega-corporation fast food company, for example.

    Firm size matters in some fields – lawyers for big firms tend to earn more than lawyers for small firms, for example – but I’m not sure there’s any evidence that biggitude of firm explains much of the difference in pay between different job fields.

    The first group will trade flexible hours etc for pay, the latter will do the opposite.

    What are “flexible hours”? If your work hours vary from week to week, but your boss sets the schedule, then are you working “flexible hours”?

    Too often, I see jobs like fast-food clerk or part-time cashier described as having “flexible hours.” But in those jobs, the flexibility belongs more to the boss than to the worker.

    In my experience, employees who have flexible hours – in the sense of controlling their own hours – are usually better paid. For instance, when I was a secretary on Wall Street, my hours weren’t flexible at all. However, the Vice-Presidents at my firm (there were a lot of them) had a lot of flexibility; some of them never came in before 11am, others never came in on Fridays, some chose to work from home half the time. As long as they got their work done, they weren’t slaves of the clock.

    In practice, both employee-controlled flexible hours and high pay are goodies offered by companies to attract and retain their most valued employees. So although there are exceptions, in general flexible hours and high pay go together, rather than being trade-offs, just as high pay and good medical coverage tend to go together rather than being trade-offs.

    From an employers perspective a young woman is a worse choice than a young man simply because she has statistically a higher absence rate, a reasonable chance of requesting maternity leave etc.

    First of all, you’re counting “higher absence rate” and “maternity leave” as two separate things. But is it true that young women have higher absentee rates than young men, not counting maternity leave?

    Second of all, at least in the USA, the kind of discrimination you’re describing is illegal.

    There have been studies which have shown that taking an actually representative sample in technical fields that women are paid more than men who made the same lifestyle choices

    Could you cite a couple of these studies, please? (To see citations of several peer-reviewed studies indicating that the wage gap remains even after equalizing all those factors, please see this post.)

    However as people do this willingly their required pay to motivate them is low, at the end of the day if you can pay someone $2 or someone $20 for the same quality and standard of work in the same time you pay the one who wants $2. This may not be the “nice” thing to do however it is the correct business decision…

    As Maia pointed out, in New Zealand child-care wages are determined by the government, not purely by supply and demand. So your argument here is inapplicable to the specific situation she’s describing.

    [Edited to clarify the distinction between boss-controlled and worker-controlled flexible hours.]

  9. 9
    Ampersand says:

    Equity on what basis?

    To quote from the Pay Equity website:

    Equivalent jobs are those whose composite of skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions are equivalent in value, even if the jobs are dissimilar.

    Most large firms already use these sort of evaluations to help them determine pay scales; the proposal is to use these already-established procedures to identify and address inequalities in female/male and white/non-white dominated jobs.

  10. 10
    Ed says:

    I don’t want to speak for Chris but when I read the response I assumed that the comparisons had an assumed “all else being equal” factor to them. All else being equal, hazerdous jobs pay more… so “no they don’t” seems wrong to me. Pick a job, then look at the standard rate of pay here and the rate of pay if they do the same job..like truckdriver… in Iraq. Who is getting paid more? You can argue military members make less than stockbrokers…but military members in a war zone make more than military members out of one. Again, go with the “all else being equal”.

    The same goes for difficulty… All else being equal a ditchdigger makes more than say..a janitor. That is assuming being a janitor and digging a ditch take similar amounts of training and skill. I am not discounting training, it is an important consideration. Of course if it is going to require more or costlier training, the employer is more likely to be picky about who he hires and how capable they are.

    As for the flexible hours, All else being equal, people who want to pick their own hours are going to have to settle for less pay. A very easy and direct example of this would be overtime in an hourly rate situation…. if you choose to work extra hours you make more money. If you choose to take your time off…you make less money. That goes for most employment. If two people are equally competent and equally trained, the one who sacrifices more time has higher productivity and is more likely to be promoted. That is only logical.

  11. 11
    Sailorman says:

    Amp,

    The problem with the pay equity issue is that you seem to be assuming there is some objective “value’ out there, and if we can identify it, we could fix things.

    I think that’s wrong.

    “Value” is a subjective term in the vast majority of cases. Sure, some things are always valuable in a resources-limited situation–food and shelter, for example–but not much. A system which purports to be able to establish “value” runs into problems pretty quickly. The obvious one is that if the system’s results are vastly at odds with the freemarket results, it suggests that the system may not be accurate.

    So when you say:

    Equivalent jobs are those whose composite of skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions are equivalent in value, even if the jobs are dissimilar.

    it gets quite hard to determine.

    I’m a lawyer. My field requires few, if any, useful skills which would be “valuable” outside my field. (it so happens I have them but they’re not field-related). Can someone measure the “required skill” to be a lawyer? And if so, who on earth could they compare it to?

    BTW:

    That’s a difference in training, not a difference in difficulty. In fact, many very difficult jobs have lousy pay — for example, ditch-digging.

    So category 1. should be called “training,” not “difficulty.”

    methinks we’re going to run into a lot of semantics arguments here. Few people I know would refer to a ditch digging job as “difficult” though we all know it’s backbreaking labor. Few people would refer to getting a Ph.D. as “easy” though we al know there’s no physical labor involved.

    But “training” may not be the best answer either. Training is only part of what makes some jobs difficult to do. Some fair part of it tends to be untrained, whether it’s attention span, ability to multitask, intelligence suited to the field, etc.

    What are “flexible hours”? If your work hours vary from week to week, but your boss sets the schedule, then are you working “flexible hours”?

    Too often, I see jobs like fast-food clerk or part-time cashier described as having “flexible hours.” But in those jobs, the flexibility belongs more to the boss than to the worker.

    In my experience, employees who have flexible hours – in the sense of controlling their own hours – are usually better paid. For instance, when I was a secretary on Wall Street, my hours weren’t flexible at all. However, the Vice-Presidents at my firm (there were a lot of them) had a lot of flexibility; some of them never came in before 11am, others never came in on Fridays, some chose to work from home half the time. As long as they got their work done, they weren’t slaves of the clock.

    In practice, both employee-controlled flexible hours and high pay are goodies offered by companies to attract and retain their most valued employees. So although there are exceptions, in general flexible hours and high pay go together, rather than being trade-offs, just as high pay and good medical coverage tend to go together rather than being trade-offs.

    Flexible hours in this context refer to an EMPLOYEE’S ability to have some say in the hours they work. An option to work part time is flexibility. An option to work second or third shift is flexibility. An option to work from home, to manage one’s own days off… etc. These are all flexibility. Flexibility is a benefit because it lets you do your own prioritizing of time, without regard to a standard 9-5 schedule.

    If I want to be a lawyer and prefer to work nights and weekends, for example, I’m out of luck. But I can achieve those hours as a nurse, grocery stocker, cop, truck driver, etc.

    I think your examples here are poor and highly limited. In this context, flexibility is most often attained by adopting a lower paid, public-service job in a field that provides services outside of normal business hours. I’m not sure why you think the internal workings of a large firm would disprove this.

    I agree with your comment about “flexible hours required” jobs. When EMPLOYERS change hours on a weekly basis, that is not “flexible hours” as it is meant here. That’s almost “reverse” flexible hours, and it’s a detriment, not a benefit.

    First of all, you’re counting “higher absence rate” and “maternity leave” as two separate things. But is it true that young women have higher absentee rates than young men, not counting maternity leave?

    Second of all, at least in the USA, the kind of discrimination you’re describing is illegal.

    he did seem to acknowledge the illegality, BTW.
    Does anyone know about the absentee rate question?

    From the studies I’ve read in the past, when we put artificial constraints on an otherwise-free market, then the market tends to try and equalize. When you impose rent control, you get a black market in apartments. When you force companies to hire people they don’t want, they’ll find a way to pay them less. And so on. I don’t LIKE it, but I’d bet my nickel that if we passed an “equal pay for women” law, those companies who didn’t want to hire women would find some loophole as fast as they can, and do their best to maintain the status quo.

    So I actually tend to think the issue is to make women more valuable as employees, which means pushing them more into high-value fields (like electricians) instead of low-value fields (like daycare providers). Alternatively, if there is any evidence which tends to show that women are BETTER workers or MORE valuable than men in a given field (attendance, intelligence, skills, etc etc) I think we should publicize it in an effort to affect the market through information.

  12. 12
    lucia says:

    If only women had realised there was a wage gape earlier sooner then we would have solved it long ago!

    I don’t think this is what the head of the YWCA intend to say.

    The link you provided is a talk by the head of the YMCA annoucing the results of a project they just completed. It’s natural for her talk to focus on that project, why it was undertaken, and what was good about it.

    I think all she means to say is: This wage pay hike information was unavailable to young people making decisions. Young women might make different decisions if they had the information easily available. So, we, the YWCA decided to compile it, make it available and encourage young women to use it.

    This is actually a good thing. Women and men should both consider wages when deciding whether to become a plumber or a hair dresser!

    Will more women entering plumbing entirely wipe out wage differentials? No. Are some of the difficulties sexism on the job? Yes.

    But of the solution is for young women to be aware of this differential and make different career choices.

    Unless we have other evidence to, I don’t think we can assume the head of the YWCA would be against raising wages for health care workers or other programs that might help women.

  13. 13
    Ampersand says:

    Ed wrote:

    All else being equal, hazerdous jobs pay more… so “no they don’t” seems wrong to me.

    Did you follow the link that went along with “no they don’t”? My argument is that all else held equal, there’s no pay bonus for hazard (in the US job market). In fact, there’s a very slight pay deficit associated with high-risk jobs.

    Your counterexample is the pay scales of the US Army. It’s true that there’s hazard pay in the army. But the Armed Forces aren’t an example of a free market at work, or even a semi-free market; pay scales in the Armed Forces are determined by top-down formulas, not by supply and demand.

    Unlike the armed forces, I disagree that there’s much hazard pay in the mainstream US economy. Most of the dangerous jobs are low-wage jobs that only people with little choice – usually men of color without higher education – take.

    As for the flexible hours, All else being equal, people who want to pick their own hours are going to have to settle for less pay. A very easy and direct example of this would be overtime in an hourly rate situation…. if you choose to work extra hours you make more money. If you choose to take your time off…you make less money. That goes for most employment. If two people are equally competent and equally trained, the one who sacrifices more time has higher productivity and is more likely to be promoted. That is only logical.

    Generally speaking, whether or not to work overtime, or to take time off, is more a matter of what the employer offers than what the employee desires. I have a lot of friends who would like to work overtime, but who are specifically forbidden to do so by their bosses; less common, but still existing, are jobs where you have to be willing to work overtime or you won’t be hired at all. At other jobs, employees aren’t allowed to work more than 25 hours a week because the firm wants to avoid paying benefits. To pretend that time worked is purely a matter of employee choice is to ignore the realities of what most jobs are like.

    Also, the worker who works more hours only has higher productivity if she’s working for a salary. If she’s working for an hourly wage, then working more hours doesn’t necessarily mean she’s being more productive per dollar paid her.

  14. 14
    Sailorman says:

    Amp,
    You seem to be assuming flexible hours is a choice after one enters a field. From what I have read, flexible hours seems to be a career-determining choice in many fields. IOW, people enter a specific field or take a specific position because of that field’s normal hours requirements. Not many people have the opportunity to renegotiate their hours/flexibility once they are already employed.

    So in theory, the employee chooses between jobs. If I want to work as a supermarket clerk, i can work at a lot of different supermarkets. Some will be 9-5; some will be 10PM-6AM; some will be spread throughout the week; some will require weekend work; some will end before/after/during school; etc. I would choose where to apply based on my desire to work certain times, balanced against my desire to earn more money. A nigh stocker shift which also includes weekends will pay more than a day stocker shift from 9-5. This just happens to be both a low skilled and flexible position.

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    The problem with the pay equity issue is that you seem to be assuming there is some objective “value’ out there, and if we can identify it, we could fix things.

    I don’t assume there’s an objective value. I assume that we, as a society, can come up with values that better reflect our desired priorities than the values assigned by an discriminatory market would.

    The obvious one is that if the system’s results are vastly at odds with the freemarket results, it suggests that the system may not be accurate.

    You’re assuming that the market is an objective measure of “accurate” value.

    I’m a lawyer. My field requires few, if any, useful skills which would be “valuable” outside my field. (it so happens I have them but they’re not field-related). Can someone measure the “required skill” to be a lawyer? And if so, who on earth could they compare it to?

    Sure we can.

    The real formulas used are much more complex, and account for many more factors, but here are some of the things we could compare:

    Training: How many years of training are required to become a lawyer versus other jobs? How expensive is the training?

    Responsibility: How many people do you supervise in your position? Do you have a supervisor, and if so, are you directly supervised for most of your work hours, or are you trusted to do most of your work with only occasional direct observation by your supervisor?

    Working conditions: Do you work outdoors? Does your work get you dirty? What is the injury rate for your work? Do you work sitting down or standing? Can you choose your own hours?

    …And so on.

    Again, I should point out that many real-world corporations use formulas like this to help determine pay scales. The idea of using formulas to determine relative pay was not made up by feminists.

    Few people I know would refer to a ditch digging job as “difficult” though we all know it’s backbreaking labor. Few people would refer to getting a Ph.D. as “easy” though we al know there’s no physical labor involved.

    I think you must know very different people than I do; in my experience, “backbreaking labor” is understood to be “difficult,” and ditch-digging is a frequently-used stereotype of a difficult job.

    I agree, however, that getting a Ph.D. is not “easy.”

    In terms of real-life labor market outcomes, maybe “knowledge” would be a better word than “training.” But it’s not at all controversial among economists that the largest pay goes to workers in jobs that require specialized knowledge. Brain surgeons get paid more than ditch diggers because being a brain surgeon requires a lot of specialized training and knowledge, not because it’s more difficult work.

    If I want to be a lawyer and prefer to work nights and weekends, for example, I’m out of luck. But I can achieve those hours as a nurse, grocery stocker, cop, truck driver, etc.

    Do you have any facts to back up a single word you’re saying? Because as far as I can tell, you’re making up nonsense. In supermarkets that restock at night, stockers work nights, but that doesn’t mean they have flexibility. If they want to work days, they’re probably screwed. Nurses, unless they’ve spent years working their way up to the top of the seniority pole, have next-to-no control over their hours. I used to work in a hospital with graveyard shift nurses, and most weren’t working graveyard shift because that’s what they wanted; they were working graveyard shift because that’s what the hospital told them they had to do.

    I’m not sure why you think the internal workings of a large firm would disprove this.

    It’s interesting to me that you completely ignored my logical argument.

    1) Is it true or not true that flexible hours are a benefit that firms offer to attract employees?

    2) Is it true or not true that firms, on average, are more likely to offer benefits to the employees they are most eager to attract and retain?

    3) Is it true or not true that firms, on average, pay higher wages to employees they are most eager to attract and retain?

    If you agree that all three of the above propositions are true, then I don’t see how you can deny that we should expect higher-paid employees to also have more flexible hours, on average. It’s basic economics.

    In real life, I think I’m right. The Chief of Police has more flexible hours than a meter maid. The Vice President is much less likely to be on a strict 9 to 5 than than the mailroom workers. Many doctors take Fridays off; the doctors’ receptionist come in to the office on Friday and use the doctor-free time to catch up on paperwork.

    If I tell you that an employee was fired for coming in to the office an hour late every day for a week, would you guess that employee is an executive or a clerk?

    There certainly are some low-wage jobs that are highly flexible in that there is little penalty (other than not getting paid) if you call in sick frequently. In firms with low skill and high turnover – for instance, phone banks – employers are willing to be flexible in this way to a point. But by and large, both economic theory and real-life experience suggest that executives are cut more slack than mailroom workers, and the reason for this is the same reason executives are paid more – the firm values them more and is willing to do more to retain them.

  16. 16
    Chris says:

    I was going from an “All else equal” pov, thanks Ed.

    Of course these factors can be limited, my work allows me semi-flexi time, this is part of my “benefits” (and it helps cut employee absenteeism). I will try and find some statistics for the absenteeism, unfortunately I don’t tend to keep track of things I read. A fast google turns up this http://www.york.ac.uk/depts/econ/documents/dp/0012.pdf Which notes that absenteeism on an illness only basis is similar between men and women, however women have a higher absenteeism overall. Married men have a very low rate, married women much higher (apparently irrespective of children which surprises me).

    While the discrimination based on potential pregnancy is illegal it is a major factor in hiring. I have seen first hand several new recruits start a job and within 6months leave for maternity leave (allowed 1 year in this post), come back and basically 6-9 months later back off again. One of the women involved in this did it 3 times (3 separate pregnancies brought to term), accruing 3 years leave effectively with her job held open, she came back part time (another allowance) and then 3 months later quit. While this may not be typical the possibility of this makes people management and salary paying difficult.

    Dangerous jobs when compared to an equal job are generally paid, mining etc we don’t really have a comparison to, however lets look at oil pipe repairpeople. The divers (undersea repairmen) get paid £300+/day, and get 6 months off / year, their shore based alternatives don’t gain these benefits. The military is not a free market, however it has to pay semi-competitively to acquire good candidates so is a valid comparison. The post you referred to didn’t seem to break down the pay / risk aspect within the same field, I was not saying that danger = money, more that danger = more money in a specific field (so the pipe repair guys).

    Again we can encourage women into male domianted fields, however the question is more should we. I will admit to not liking affirmative action, I agree with equal opportunity however to delibrately skew the balance seems wrong (for example had I been a black woman I could have been 2.5K better off through each yeah of uni and left with ~5K in the bank rather than -5K). People make lifestyle choices, of course education and access to this vary, however at least in the UK everyone has a shot at going to uni, it might not be totally pleasent (working while at uni cannot be good for your grades) however it is possible (government grant + bursary + supplimentat income). Nothing at my school stopped the girls entering computing classes etc, however they chose not to. I think we have to respect people’s choices and realise that each choice we make has some form of effect on our future and how we will be percieved.

    Another major factor in comapring salaries is how promotions work, at least for me its not fixed, its 0%-10% roughly, based on performance, manager review and how well you sell yourself, so to compare anything but the starting salaries of people gets a bit pointless because people are not clones, we are not all inherently equal (otherwise 50% of the population would be less exceptional and 50% more exceptional).

  17. 17
    Chris says:

    Ampersand, in direct reply to the flexibility point its not really a comparison here between meter maid and police chief so much as a choice between taking a job and not.

    You have 3 job offers:
    1) 16hrs / week, any time between 7am and 9pm any day of the week. 1 hrs drive away, can work from home unless providing a submittable. $15/hr

    2) 40hrs/week, 8:30-5, 2hr commute, $30/hr

    3) 25hrs/week, no commute. Must be in work 7pm-12midnight, $20/hr

    Now personally I would take option 2, however I know people who would prefer 3 despite being paid less and havign arguably worse hours (but no commute), others still would take 1.

    Of course this is a Mickey Mouse example, however it is plausible. If however I want to go into a specific field then my problems become different and flexibility becomes a perk within the role rather than a wage issue normally.

    On the difficulty point, digging ditches is not difficult in that almost anyone can do it. A ditch digger who doesn’t turn up causes a minor hassle. A brain surgeon however not turning up generally causes a lot hassle. Difficulty in the sense I meant was really both training and the level of expected “responsibility” though that word is not really appropriate.

    The problem with using training is that its also not terribly useful, a highly trained job (chemist working on oil samples) is actually not terribly well paid, however a similar education level can lead to a programming carear (good 5 figures, 6 if a good contractor) or other such like. You have to consider not only the investment but also the marketability of the skills that are held.

    Your point on lawyer vs fast food worker upholds this, the lawyer has a large expansion market for this business, he can essentially demand any number he wants if he is good enough. A fast food worker however large the industry can be easily replaced and his skills are essentially worthless from a company perspective. A chef however can demand much more money as he is selling the restaurant on his cooking meaning his business expansion capability is much higher. (not sure if I am making the point I want to make well, sorry for any confusion).

  18. 18
    Sailorman says:

    Do you have any facts to back up a single word you’re saying? Because as far as I can tell, you’re making up nonsense. In supermarkets that restock at night, stockers work nights, but that doesn’t mean they have flexibility. If they want to work days, they’re probably screwed. Nurses, unless they’ve spent years working their way up to the top of the seniority pole, have next-to-no control over their hours. I used to work in a hospital with graveyard shift nurses, and most weren’t working graveyard shift because that’s what they wanted; they were working graveyard shift because that’s what the hospital told them they had to do.

    Other than my local classifieds? And my local “help wanted” signs? And my acquaintances, a fair number of whom work in fields with non-standard hours?

    Let’s take hospitals as an example. I have worked in hospitals myself, and happen to have two family members who are nurses, as it happens. Now, you are partially correct, in that many hospitals do not have an enormous number of openings for 9-5 positions. But this actually supports my point.

    Why? Well, because the state of hospitals, and the state of nurse hiring, is a known fact. Nurses in any are will be aware of their post-training options BEFORE they usually become nurses. That is why people who, say, WANT to be able to work the swing shift (as do a few folks in my family) woud become nurses in the first place.

    But nurses actually have a lot of control over their hours AS A WHOLE. You keep speaking as if everyone must only stay at one job, in one place. A nurse can switch hospitals. Or floors. He can work as a home nurse; at a senior facility; he can work at a small, medium, or enormous hospital; he can work in a rural area; etc. The hours and work conditions available across that range are often quite wide.

    Keeeee-rist. I think you have entirely ignored what I said vis a vis CHOICE OF JOB as opposed to choice of hours within jobs. Or at least the “stocker” example in your response suggests you missed this completely, since I addressed that in some detail. Yes, once you have taken a job, that job is often not especially flexible. So what?

    So yes: I have facts to back up what I’m saying. Do you? And enough with the “making up nonsense” dreck.

    Brain surgeons get paid more than ditch diggers because being a brain surgeon requires a lot of specialized training and knowledge, not because it’s more difficult work.

    Also, or perhaps mostly, because there are only a small set of people who are capable of being good brain surgeons. But there are a fairly large number of people who could do a good job as a ditch digger.

    1) Is it true or not true that flexible hours are a benefit that firms offer to attract employees?

    Yes, of course.

    2) Is it true or not true that firms, on average, are more likely to offer benefits to the employees they are most eager to attract and retain?

    Yup.

    3) Is it true or not true that firms, on average, pay higher wages to employees they are most eager to attract and retain?

    Yup.

    If you agree that all three of the above propositions are true, then I don’t see how you can deny that we should expect higher-paid employees to also have more flexible hours, on average. It’s basic economics.

    I don’t deny that. You seem to be saying “high pay=flexible hours” and I tend to agree wioth that. I just don’t agree with the reverse; flexible hours /= high pay. In fact at most levels, a demand for flexible hours = LOWER pay.

    This takes place at big firms, as well. We all know that a new demand for flexibility will often be met with reduced salary. Part time work leads to the old joke “working 30 hours, getting paid for 20″ which is essentially the same thing. Businesses GIVE flexibility because it is what workers want. But it costs them: workers who DON’T demand flexibility often, in my experience, get paid more money.

    In real life, I think I’m right. The Chief of Police has more flexible hours than a meter maid. The Vice President is much less likely to be on a strict 9 to 5 than than the mailroom workers. Many doctors take Fridays off; the doctors’ receptionist come in to the office on Friday and use the doctor-free time to catch up on paperwork.

    If I tell you that an employee was fired for coming in to the office an hour late every day for a week, would you guess that employee is an executive or a clerk?

    clerk, because execs don’t get “fired”, they get “tranferred” or “let go”. Heh. ;)

    There certainly are some low-wage jobs that are highly flexible in that there is little penalty (other than not getting paid) if you call in sick frequently.

    But that is not what I mean. You are discussing UNPLANNED flexibility. I am discussing PLANNED flexibility. Planned flexibility can be specific–e.g. you may only want to take jobs which get off daily at 2:00 PM so you can get your kids from school. Planned flexibility can be unspecific–e.g. you may wnt to take josbs which pay you by the piece. You may want to work for a firm which doesn’t care about daily hours billed, and only cares about weekly hours billed–which give you the flexibility to work a 16 hour day and an 8 hour day, instead of two 12-hour days.

    Sick days are something else entirely. Either an inflexible job or a inflexible job can have a good or bad sick policy.

    The ultimate example of flexible work is task-specific self emplyment. E.g. if you write books for a living, you can work (or not) and get paid (or not) for failing to do so. It doesn’t really have to do with sick days.

  19. 19
    Robert says:

    I assume that we, as a society, can come up with values that better reflect our desired priorities than the values assigned by an discriminatory market would.

    Except that the “discriminatory market” is the composite output of the choices of all the people who make up the society. It’s the same set of people. What process do you propose to cause these people to assign a different value to the things they’ve already assigned values to?

  20. 20
    curiousgyrl says:

    Just to throw in a couple of points;

    There is some evidence of a “block-busting”-like phenomenon related to the gender segregation of work. When women are admitted, men get out and the field become s less prestigious and lower paid–teaching is a good example.

    Second, lots of anthropology and history has suggested that ‘skill’ is an near-arbitrary and gender and race-biased category. EG, skilled work is anything mostly white men do. The reasons for this are complex (this isn’t meant as a blameing -type observation.)

    I think these are important when considering the relative “value’ of various occupations. Its easy to fall into cognitive traps there.

  21. 21
    JG says:

    As I understand it, Canada had a fairly dismal experience when it tried to enforce “comparable worth” in all government positions. I think it has now been quietly dropped, but maybe someone has more current information.

    The committees put in place to determine which “female” jobs were comparable to which “male” jobs couldn’t come to anything more than a rudimentary determination even after years and couldn’t catalog all of the thousands of positions. In cases where there was an implementation, organizations had to take roundabout measures to even function, for instance the number of applicants for information technology jobs went to nearly zero, but they were flooded with applicants for clerical positions. So the organizations had to simply outsource the IT jobs – at a much higher cost to taxpayers, and the IT people got paid more anyway because of that.

    Government micromanagement doesn’t seem to work very well, examples abound from the old Soviet Union, the East Block, North Korea, Cuba etc.

  22. 22
    RonF says:

    Except that the “discriminatory market” is the composite output of the choices of all the people who make up the society. It’s the same set of people. What process do you propose to cause these people to assign a different value to the things they’ve already assigned values to?

    Why, the people who are in charge who obviously are wiser than we and have not only the right, but the obligation, to overrule those of us who “discriminate” and are obviously in the wrong.

  23. 23
    RonF says:

    Equivalent jobs are those whose composite of skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions are equivalent in value, even if the jobs are dissimilar.

    Most large firms already use these sort of evaluations to help them determine pay scales

    I have been involved in hiring people at large firms. They determined what wages to pay on the basis of what the average pay for the position that they had open was paid in the area; i.e., what the local market was for that job. Nobody has ever said anything about looking at any other kind of guidelines..

    And if you want your company to be competitive, then that’s what you’ll pay, too, and not what some government functionary decides you should pay. Otherwise, your product/service will cost more than what someone who’s not subject to government interference has to pay.

    the proposal is to use these already-established procedures to identify and address inequalities in female/male and white/non-white dominated jobs.

    How is this going to work? Let’s say that I own a restaurant, and I have a bunch of waitresses. Is some government official going to tell me, “Waitressing is as hard as truck driving, so from now on you have to pay your waitresses twice what you pay them now”? That means prices go up, my business goes down, and I’ll probably end up at the least making less money and having fewer waitressing jobs, and possibly simply going out of business.

    The market discriminates on the basis of making money. People whose labor is worth less, either directly or because of associated costs, are going to get paid less than people whose labor is worth more. Note that I’m not talking about the intrinsic worth of the labor, or even the person themselves. Otherwise, a professional athlete or some rap star would get paid 1/200th of what they get and a good elementary school teacher would get paid $100,000/year.

    But a corporation/small business is not a social agency. When you take money from them to subsidize social policy, you inevitably hurt their productivity and profitability. This can drive small businesses right out of business and can make larger businesses less competitive. And as you may have noticed, the world most large businesses work in (and a great many small businesses) doesn’t stop at the American borders.

    Which leads to another question. If this system has the power to raise someone’s pay, does it have the power to lower someone else’s? If not, why not?

    I can’t get the Pay Equity web site to load.

  24. 24
    Robert says:

    I can’t get the Pay Equity web site to load.

    That’s because they determined that “web coder” and “child care worker” were equivalent jobs deserving the same pay, and all their techies decided it would be more fun to play with kids all day than write code.

  25. 25
    Brandon Berg says:

    One of the way men have continued to dominate the male dominated trades is to act in a hostile way to any woman who enters. I haven’t personally organised in male dominated trades, but I know women who have, and women who know the female apprentices.

    I’ve heard that this is mainly a problem in unionized industries. Theoretically, it makes sense. The purpose of unions is to drive up wages by limiting the supply of workers available to do a particular kind of work, so they have to find some way to make sure that not everybody who’s willing and able to work in their field actually does so. Driving out women through sexual harassment is one way of achieving this.

    You won’t find any of that in the world of software engineering. Heck, I’d happily take a 10% pay cut if it meant having more female coworkers. Purely in the interest of fostering diversity, of course.

  26. 26
    Robert says:

    Getting back to Maia’s requested direction for comment: why is there pay inequity, and what can be done about it?

    The area of work where the standard left feminist analysis of male-oppression-did-it seems most on target is the area of the trades – skilled and difficult work, generally highly paid, which women do in only small numbers. Why is that?

    One answer, inarguably, appears to be “because men conspire to keep them out”. The litany of cases where men on job sites have actively been shitty to new female workers – far beyond the ordinary level of hazing and razzing of newbies – is simply overwhelming. Any woman who has worked in the trades has stories to tell.

    Is that a case of simple sexism? Sexism obviously plays a role, but I think there is a confounding factor, which is a legitimate desire for homosociality on the part of many men and women.

    Not everybody, but most people, enjoy the company of their own sex on an exclusive basis from time to time. This has less to do with the politics of gender or whatever than it does with the fact that when no members of the opposite sex are in a social space, the social and linguistic constructs that we employ, as a species, as part of the mating game drop out of the active social matrix. That in turn creates a vastly more relaxed and uncompetitive atmosphere – the competitive games still go on, but there are no stakes and people are playing for fun, in essence. That makes for a more congenial atmosphere. Drop a person of the other sex into the mix, and it’s not a homosocial club anymore.

    I recall applying for a job in the records department at the courthouse here in Colorado Springs, where all the people working in this office were women. For the interview process, they had the whole department (about ten women) interviewing each candidate. It was extremely clear that the social environment of the office was close, intimate, and mutually supportive and friendly – the benefits of homosociality. It was clear that the interviewing team was very interested in how well the new hire would fit into this existing matrix – and clear that a woman would have a large advantage in appearing compatible.

    That’s obviously problematic from a diversity and fairness perspective. On the other hand, how can I blame them? A huge chunk of their enjoyment of their job – and thus of their life – would be wiped out if they started adding men into the mix. The same is true of all-male sites. That doesn’t justify treating people badly whose only crime is having the wrong kind of hooha, of course – but I believe it does explain the motive behind at least some of the bad treatment.

    I believe that one productive path to erasing some of this discriminatory behavior would be to legitimize homosociality in non-work contexts. If people can get their dose of relaxed, God-isn’t-it-nice-to-be-just-us-girls/guys social interaction outside the workplace, then their protective reactions in the workplace might be attenuated. We can’t really tolerate coercive homosociality in the workplace – but we can readily tolerate it in the private sphere of action.

    Doing so might lower the barriers in the workplace that (mostly) men create, which in turn would bring more women into these high-paying jobs, which in turn would undermine pay inequities.

  27. 27
    Brandon Berg says:

    The market discriminates on the basis of making money. People whose labor is worth less, either directly or because of associated costs, are going to get paid less than people whose labor is worth more.

    It’s important to note here that wages are based on marginal value, not average value. The question is not how much money child care is worth on average, but how much one more child care worker is worth. There are millions of people who want to buy child care, but not everyone is willing to pay the same amount. Every once in a while, there might be someone willing (in theory) to pay a million dollars an hour. But most people aren’t willing to pay much more than $5-10, and there are probably some people willing to pay only a dollar or so per hour.

    The point is that for any given amount of child care being supplied (let’s call it X), consumers will bid up the price until it reaches $Y, the price at which there are exactly X people willing to pay $Y or more for child care. We then say that $Y is the marginal value of child care when X units are supplied, because it’s the price that people are willing to pay for the Xth unit.

    That’s the demand side. On the supply side, people are willing to provide child care services for widely varying prices. A billionaire might not be willing to do it for anything less than $500,000 per hour, whereas a teenager might be willing to do it for only $2/hr.

    So at any given price, there are W people willing to pay that price or more to consume child care (or whatever), and Z people willing to supply it at that price or less. The market wage is the price at which W and Z are equal, which also happens to be the marginal value of the Zth unit of child care.

    The reason child care workers make so little money isn’t that there’s any grand conspiracy to devalue their work, or even necessarily that we individually or collectively value it less than other types of work. The main reason is that it doesn’t require a lot of training, so there’s a virtually endless supply of people who are willing and able to do it. Naturally, this means that the marginal value of an additional child care worker is low, so wages are low as well.

  28. 28
    Chris says:

    A well written piece Brandon.

    I think the problem is really in comparing jobs, identifying “equal” tasks is really difficult, especially when its not just the job but the choices within it and the market the job is present in.

    What we perhaps need to find is a few studies where only selected industries are compared (so we can ignore the equal job issue) and compare the wages of similar skilled / level workers.

  29. 29
    JG says:

    Another problem in implementing “comparable worth” legislation is that “the whole world is going global”, so to speak.

    Let’s say that a determination is made that a nurse (RN) in a hospital with 5 years experience is equal to an engineer in a computer company with 5 years experience.

    If the nurses get paid less than engineers, you have to either force hospitals to raise the wages, which may be a problem, or you have to force companies to reduce the wages of engineers.

    If you do the latter, and if the forced cuts are drastic enough, some engineers are simply going to go somewhere else. Companies may also choose to outsource to get the talent they need, and the outsourcing may also go beyond the border (to India, say, which is already happening).

    I suppose you could then implement federal legislation to prohibit any company from outsourcing. Or maybe just build a Berlin Wall.

  30. 30
    nik says:

    I’m glad to hear a lot of people slamming this:

    Equivalent jobs are those whose composite of skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions are equivalent in value, even if the jobs are dissimilar.

    It’s just a total rejection of the market. Imagine two jobs, a car driver and a horse drawn carriage driver, if only a dozen people can do the former but thousands can do the latter I think it makes sense to pay more for the former job – even if they’re equivalent. It encourages people to do one rather than the other.

  31. 31
    mythago says:

    It’s just a total rejection of the market.

    Assuming the market occurs in a vacuum and is driven purely by rational economic forces. Also, there is a Tooth Fairy.

  32. 32
    JG says:

    Assuming the market occurs in a vacuum and is driven purely by rational economic forces. Also, there is a Tooth Fairy.

    Admittedly, advertising influences people, there is corruption (but especially when government money is available, like in defense contracts, grants etc.) and lots of other distortions of the market, but the end result is that for the most part, the market moves to supply people with what they want. Buggy whip manufacturers go bankrupt, computer companies expand. That kind of thing.

    Distorting the market may be necessary in some cases (government is necessary), but the more you do it, the more you create opportunities for corruption, misrouting of funds and a black market.

  33. 33
    helen says:

    Off the top of my head, it seems like just the presence of “engineer” on that list screws everything up. As opposed to every other profession on that list, it requires a 4 year university education as difficult as physics. Many engineers have the MS degree also. So, it’s silly to compare them to hairdresser, which only requires 6 months of schooling.

  34. 34
    nik says:

    Assuming the market occurs in a vacuum and is driven purely by rational economic forces. Also, there is a Tooth Fairy.

    This is simply a misrepresentation, but not one I’m even going to bother arguing with.

    I would just like to mention that one influence on markets is collective bargaining, and that in the world advocates of ‘equivalent jobs’ would like to bring about this would not be possible. The notion is implacably anti-union. Please don’t pretend you’re bravely standing up to the market, your position is pseudo-leftist.

  35. 35
    mythago says:

    I like that strategy: if you disagree with me, you’re simply misrepresenting me and I’ll argue against it but pretend I’m not.

    Sexism obviously plays a role, but I think there is a confounding factor, which is a legitimate desire for homosociality on the part of many men and women.

    Robert, you’re first redefining sexism as “legitimate”, and then pretending that there’s an absence or at least a decline of homosociality in the non-work sphere.

  36. 36
    Ampersand says:

    Nik wrote:

    I would just like to mention that one influence on markets is collective bargaining, and that in the world advocates of ‘equivalent jobs’ would like to bring about this would not be possible. The notion is implacably anti-union.

    In the US, pay equity has mainly been used by state governments – which is to say, it has mainly been used among one of the most heavily unionized sectors of the entire labor market.

    Please don’t pretend you’re bravely standing up to the market, your position is pseudo-leftist.

    I have no patience for smarmy leftier-than-thou rhetoric; and the claim that people who support pay equity aren’t lefties is, frankly, insane. Don’t post that kind of bullshit here again.

  37. 37
    nik says:

    Haven’t you just breached your own comment policy?

    If you want to explain how collective bargaining works in a world of ‘equivalent jobs’ then go for it. As far as I see your dream of having everyone in equivalent jobs getting paid the same won’t work if you allow people to freely join unions which successfully negotiate in the interests of their members. I didn’t think pay differentials between sectors was allowed.

    I’ll refrain from calling supporters of pay equity pseudo-leftists (I’ll also pass on saying people are talking insane bullshit), but my point’s still unanswered: I can’t see how you can sign up to both unionism and pay being equalised between sectors.

  38. 38
    Brandon Berg says:

    Nik:
    I believe they’re talking about pay equity within firms, not between sectors. The basic idea’s still critically flawed, though; the idea that jobs that are equally hard are inherently worth the same is just another variation on the old labor theory of value. As you point out, wages must account for differences in supply of and demand for different kinds of specialized labor, or the labor get misallocated.

  39. 39
    JG says:

    Another idea to consider is “Who is doing the evaluating?”.

    Politics shift. With the Supreme Court, you went from the Lochner era in the 1930s all the way over to the Court in the early 70s with Roe vs. Wade. People who called for the Court to strictly interpret the Constitution shifted along with which way it was getting interpreted.

    Some committee that “decides” that a nurse is equivalent to an engineer and a truck driver is equivalent to a waitress may decide something else tomorrow.

    And I also think the market is going to shift based on that determination. If mine workers are deemed equivalent to administrative assistants, I would probably do my best to shift over to being an administrative assistant (if I were a mine worker). What do you do if you run out of people who are willing to work as miners? Or garbage collectors, or sewer workers or the rest? They should also have equal opportunity to shift over if there is no extra benefit AT THEIR LEVEL (meaning that’s the most money they can make at their level of education or training or whatever – that’s why they friggin’ do it).