Saturday, April 19, 2014

A thought about women's wage gap

There is an interesting article by the National Women's Law center. It reflects some of the data which shows gender discrimination against women, and that black women face even more discrimination in the workplace than to white women.

A lot of that discrimination seems likely to be unconscious in today's organizations. The people making the discriminatory decisions probably would not only deny bias, but be unaware of the bias. There is some reduction that organizations can make in reducing such bias. Objective tests might be used in hiring and promotion; resumes might be blinded -- the names and other indicators of gender removed. Managers might receive sensitivity training, and might be disciplined if the data suggest that the are discriminating. However, I would expect progress to be slow.

I suspect that couples make decisions that one person will sacrifice income to do more unpaid work, while the other person will do less unpaid work to maximize monetary income. Thus one may stay at home with pre-school children while the other works and advances his/her career and pay level; one may be responsible to leave work and take care of family or home emergencies while the other stays at work. Often these decisions act to the detriment of the woman's monetary income and favor that of a man's. (If the woman's pay rate is lower than that of the man, as seems common, then it makes economic sense to forego the woman's pay rather than the man's.)  Increasing wages equity for women might lead to these family decisions more often favoring a woman's monetary income.

I note the following however:
  • A study by labor economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn found that when you look at the combined effects of occupation, industry, work experience, union status, race and educational attainment, 41 percent of the wage gap remains unexplained.
  • Occupational segregation – the fact that women and men are concentrated in different occupations – contributes to the wage gap. 
Note that 59 percent of the variance in the Blau and Kahn study is due to the named factors. Thus having women work in higher paid occupations, in industries with higher pay profiles, with more work experience, more often as union members, and with more education will be likely to help increase their monetary income. Those are long term goals, involving working with young women and girls to prepare them for more remunerative careers, as well as opening opportunities for women with the required qualifications.

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