I agreed in Part One of this essay that there may be a small average pay difference of five percentage points between employed American women and men. It’s possible that even after you take into account all the facts mentioned before, lower education, less seniority, lesser presence in well paid industries, women, on the average, earn 95 cents on men’s one dollar. (That’s also on the average.) I agreed that this may be evidence of discrimination against women in the work place. But is it the obvious explanation? Is it the only explanation? Is it even credible at all?
There is a reason this is an essay for women only. I want to help you evoke forbidden topics, topics never or rarely approached in the social sciences or in the newspapers. It’s time to muster everything you know about your sisters, ladies; we are going into taboo territory!
I am not a woman myself but I have had occasion in my 30-year teaching career to observe hundreds of women. I have also observed women in various workplaces in two countries. What follows is not (NOT) supported by any study.* It’s a thinking exercise about what I suspect you know. See if it jibes.
Female students obtain better grades than male students in college. However, they don’t get to good grades the same way. Males take more risks, on the average. In my observation, for example, they are many times more likely to wing it than their female fellow students. In general (on the average), males are more forceful, much more likely than women to demand their due (even when nothing is due to them at all).
If you don’t ask for a raise, often, you don’t get one. If you are timid about organizing, you will earn less than those who are well represented by unions. Is it possible that women, on the average…. (Finish the sentence) and that this would account for the remaining possible five percentage pay differential between women workers and their male counterparts. Is it possible?
I have personally seen a few cases of discrimination against women workers. They consisted in creating work conditions that would make it difficult for the targeted employee to produce a work performance that would make raises likely. (Poisoning the water.) As I said, I have only seen a few cases perhaps fewer than ten. Every single time, the discriminator was a female supervisor. Perhaps, my limited experience is atypical. Or is it? What do you think? Do women in positions of power ever persecute other women? Often? Seldom? Never?
Now, I want to talk briefly about productivity in a manner that is especially proscribed in polite society. I think I have observed hundreds of time that women in a group with an assigned task spend large amounts of time in activities that seem unrelated to the task. Women tend to socialize at length where it’s not called for. The socialization often includes plotting against one another and excluding some. Perhaps the socializing is a kind of disarmament conference without which work cannot even proceed. Again, those are a subjective observations possibly based on women who are somehow different, not representative, different from the average. What do you think?
Here is what I observed when teaching, specifically. Most of what follows is based on teaching the same, clearly elite class every winter for 22 years. The classes were small and they involved important group projects. The projects were done mostly in class. The sample these 22 classes give us is obviously biased, unrepresentative. It’s biased because it was composed of students markedly superior to the run-of-the-mill student. The women in that class were probably more productive than most female undergraduates (and than most male undergraduates as well).
Here is what I saw: Insofar as it’s observable, groups of males engaged in a collective task, achieved the same results as women with considerably less time expenditure than women. It’s as if a straight A cost guys three hours, and women nine hours. (Those numbers are subjective, of course. I am holding myself back; I wouldn’t be surprised if the gap in time investment were wider.)
Is it possible that my observation is not in some way nullified by bias? Is it possible that what I think I have observed in connection with the time cost of doing something is somehow related to the earlier observation that women tend to socialize when doing so does not appear to contribute to the accomplishment of the task ? You decide.
My informal observations are surely not (NOT) equivalent to a formal, rigorous study. This does not mean that I should keep quiet about them. If they don’t ring a bell with your experience, ignore them. If they do, maybe it’s worth thinking about alternative explanations to the widespread belief in the general existence of uncalled for, arbitrary discrimination against female workers. Keep in mind that, at this point, we are talking about a five percentage point differential; we are considering 95 cents on the dollar, not the president’s 77 cents.
Now, let me switch angles of vision a little bit. The actual, residual difference between women’s and men’s remunerations after you have accounted for the obvious factor, (Part One of this essay.) is so imprecise that it leaves open the possibility that women earn more than men in the same jobs.** Again, I am frankly wading into the subjective and I am inviting you to wade in with me.
During thirty years of teaching, there were about ten times when I fielded female students’ complaints that they were discriminated against in some fashion just for being female. That was always in my role as an adviser rather than as a classroom teacher.
Every time, I would ask the complaining student if it were not possible that she was angry because her male counterparts seemed to be getting grades they did not deserve according to her judgment. I will let you guess what answers I received to this particular query.
Then, I would look the student straight in the eyes and I would propose the following hypothetical:
Suppose you are completely right, suppose the instructor discriminated against you simply for being female, let me ask you: Has it ever happened in your whole life that you got an undeserved pass just because you were a girl?
I did not have the presence of mind to keep exact tabs, of course, but I can’t remember a single time when the conversation did not dissolve into a smile!
Adding subjectivity to subjectivity, doing it consciously, I would guess that male instructors by and large prefer female students. They are less likely than males to be grossly disruptive; they are nicer; they are more polite; they smell better. (It matters in a room of forty in June.) Female students also often flirt with the teacher in unconsciously charming ways. (Disclosure: I am married to a former student.)
Would these behaviors tend to cause male instructors to treat female students negatively? Women instructors?
Maybe this is all my own private self-delusion. Maybe this preference for women employees does not exist in the workplace, as a far as male supervisors and male decision makers are concerned. Or maybe, I am not that deluded, or maybe males in positions of power have a built-in preference for female subordinates as much as they do for female students. How surprising would that be?
Take my case, for example: My mother was a woman, my daughter is a woman, my granddaughter is female, my sisters are female. They all love me, without exception. I addition, I am married to a woman. She cooks for me, very well, almost every day; she does my laundry (even when I don’t want her to); I talk with her more than I do with anyone else on earth. When times are tough, she is always, every single time, in my corner. I don’t want to get X-rated but it’s also true that 100% of my sexual satisfaction, in my whole life, was somehow connected to women. (Like many California men, I also have an ex-wife somewhere but she does not cause me any grief. I am lucky; she just moved on instead of exacting a just revenge.)
Is my experience different from that of most or all men? Did they have male mothers? Were their sisters guys? Are they all married to other men who love them and spoil them? Is a very high percentage homoerotic? You see my point.
Is it possible also that a lifetime bath of estrogen predisposed me to a positive bias toward women or, is it more likely that all these good treatment left me prejudiced to the point where….
…to the point where I would take care- with someone else’s money, most of the time – to pay female employees only 95 cents when I pay their men colleagues a full dollar for the same work?
Or, alternatively, is it possible that my unchecked, unthoughtful, mindless tendency is to treat them better and to pay them more, say, $1.05 to males’ $1.00 ?
When you take a sketch and you take the trouble to draw in all the details, often suddenly, you come to see that you misunderstood or mis-perceived the meaning of the original sketch.
Three big questions to finish.
If the good research (that I did not do) confirmed my speculation that women may earn on the average one dollar and five cents ($1.05) to men’s one dollar would there be big demonstrations to protest the disparity? Would anyone have the nerve to initiate legislation to close the pay gap by force? What do you believe?
Discrimination against women in any way, shape or form has been illegal in this country since 1964. Is there any one who thinks that if legislation has been inoperative for fifty years, unable to correct (alleged) pay discrimination against women, more legislation under a weakened president, imposed on a deeply divided nation will now solve the problem? This is a real question. Please, answer it in your own mind.
And if it were possible to pay women less for equal work, with the same quality of workplace attention, the same performance, the same results, isn’t it true that a rational hiring policy would require discrimination against men? If this were true, all employers would try to limit labor costs by hiring only women until there were no more women available for hiring in the relevant pool. Or is there some magic male solidarity that trumps everything, including business competition and the search for profits?
By the way, the last time I looked, in the USA, women had most of the wealth and most of the votes. (If it’s not true anymore, I don’t worry; someone will surely correct me.) Why don’t women, on the average, use their votes and their financial resources to erase the pay differential, to turn the 77 cents into at least one dollar?
Here is my stake in all this. First, I detest government policy based on lies and on deviousness. Second, my daughter is rearing her own daughter alone. The last thing I want is that my adored granddaughter should be cheated because her mother is being short-changed on her paycheck merely for being a woman. Are other men different? Am I a brilliant and inimitable exception?
Some stories have been told so long and so often that people don’t think of subjecting them to even the slightest of reality checks. The 77 cents on the dollar story does not stand up to scrutiny. It’s a purely political story designed to keep alive an artificial sense of grievance in an important segment of the electorate.
The 77 cents on the dollar story exploits women. It’s insulting.
A good tale to finish, the second funny thing that any feminist ever said:
Ginger Roger was Fred Astaire’s dancing performer for twenty or thirty years. The couple dominated movie screens in the forties and fifties and beyond. Fred was more famous than his partner, Ginger. At one point, irritated by the fuss over her partner, Ginger is said to have declared,
“I did everything Fred did backward and in high heels!”
* Such studies are practically proscribed in academia. If they were not, their findings would be boycotted by major journals. Political correctness reigns where it shouldn’t exist at all. Nevertheless, there are a few brave academic researchers who venture where no one is supposed to tread. Most are women.
** In the early 2000s, black women earned more, on average than black men. The case I pose to you is thus not completely absurd or imaginary. I don’t know if this disparity continued after the crisis beginning in 2008. It does not matter. I just wanted to impress on you that women sometimes earn more than men.