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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Warren Farrell and Lawrence Summers must be pals

I wouldn't want to be Warren Farrell's daughter.

Software Engineering Friend emailed me a link to Warren Farrell's op-ed piece that appeared in the New York Times on September 5, in honor of Labor Day. When I first read it, I honestly wasn't sure what to think about it. So I've been sitting on it for a week, wondering how to respond.

Could it be? Do single, childless women actually earn more (117 percent) than their male counterparts, as Farrell suggests in his piece entitled, "Exploiting the Gender Gap." Does that mean women who have children choose to earn less money? Does that mean that once women voluntarily enter into a legally-binding relationship and spawn dependents, they consciously or unconsciously give up on themselves? He wrote that the statistic about women earning just 79 cents for every dollar men make is a myth:

There are 80 jobs in which women earn more than men - positions like financial analyst, speech-language pathologist, radiation therapist, library worker, biological technician, motion picture projectionist. Female sales engineers make 143 percent of their male counterparts; female statisticians earn 135 percent.

On the surface, that sounds encouraging. But the more I think about it, the more it pisses me off. There are only 80 jobs out there where women earn more than men??!! That's disgusting. There are thousands of different jobs, so why should me earn more than women in just a handful of jobs.

Farrell went on to write that comparing the salaries of women doctors to male doctors "is to compare apples and oranges" because there are so many different types of doctors. He wrote that women tend to choose general practitioner roles and men tend to be surgeons. I believe his point is that surgeons typically make more money than general practitioners. And it is all fine and well to say that certain types of doctors earn more than others, but if you're going to argue that the reason women doctors earn less than men doctors is because of the type of doctor they are, then follow it up with data that suggests male and female cardiothoracic surgeons typically make the same salary. Or that male and female general practitioners generally make the same salary.

But he did not provide any such detail. I can only speculate that the reason he does not provide that kind of data is because it would still show sexist discrimination against women. That women who are equally educated, who work with the same job title, have the same number of years experience, at the same company earn less money than the men holding those jobs. That can only lead me to believe that Warren Farrell is doing his best to perpetrate a lie that makes women feel like they just aren't trying hard enough. Like it is their own fault for earning less money.

He wrote: "After years of research, I discovered 25 differences in the work-life choices of men and women. All 25 lead to men earning more money, but to women having better lives." But then later, he wrote: "However, when all 25 choices are the same, the great news for women is that then the women make more than the men." Unfortunately, Farrell doesn't really give us much insight on what those 25 difference really are. I'll be the most influential difference in his research is whether the person has a vagina or a penia.

MarkCC commented on Pandagon's blog about this article and the perception and reality of equality and salaries:

...My wife and I both work for the research lab of a big company. She's a lot smarter than me, and frankly, a lot better at being a researcher. And she's been a first-line manager for a year. But I make more than her. And not by a little bit.

What I've learned is that when *I*, as a man, do something like leave work early to go pick up my kids, I get credit for it: "Wow, look what a good, devoted father". When *she* does the same thing, people look at it very differently: "that woman is blowing off her work for her kids".

It doesn't matter what the reality is - the perception is that as a woman with kids will work less hard, for less time. And no matter how many hours she puts in, she'll never get the same credit as me, even though she's *better*.

Just as Warren Summers apologized for his remarks about women being less inclined to handle research jobs, I hope Farrell sees the error in his ways. It just seems that if we keep pounding this garbage into the world then people will start believing it. It even took me a couple of days to sort out my feelings. I don't want to get brainwashed!

5 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree more about the perception issue. As a working mom whose husband works in the exact same group, it drives me nuts. I also get guys at work who apparently want me to pat them on the back for actually taking paternity leave (my company offers dads 4w paid which is pretty stellar) and that sort of thing.

    I'd love to get my hands on the raw data about the specific jobs & salaries myself to play with it.

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  2. Just in case you didn't want to pay new york times for an old article, you can find it here: http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/09/05/opinion/edfarrell.php

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  3. Oh, those kinds of articles make me crazy.

    Yet, when I was offered a promotion that would have ended up with me making more money than my husband.....I turned it down.

    Why? I want to stay in my nice little part-time gig. The one where I can arrive at 10 am and leave at 3 pm, and meet the schoolbus every afternoon, and stay home if the kids are sick, and so on and so on....

    So, I do think that there are women who are choosing to make less money to have more flexibility as a trade-off.

    But certainly it has nothing to do with our intelligence or ability!!!!!!

    Another thing I wonder is if some women, in general, don't ask for the $$$ the way men do. Everytime I turned down that particular promotion - they came back to me with more $$$. I thought that was odd....obviously money is not my driving force at this point. Honestly, I doubt I would have, on my own, asked them for more money. It just never would have occured to me.

    So, my take is that yes, gender discrimination exists and it is wrong, wrong, wrong.

    But there is also a group of women who are choosing to make less - so we can have more flexibility in return.

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  4. Overall, there are the "gap years" where a lot of women take time off from work which affects the overall earnings. Gender discrimination isn't fair though, no matter how you slice it.

    But as a SAHM, I have my own grievances with not getting a tax break or some advantage to sacrificing a salary.

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  5. You have no doubt heard for decades that men earn more, and have clung to the idea out of ideological reasons. So when Farrell counters your long-cherished idea, you are angered in the same way that flat-worlders, who deeply believed all their life that the world was flat, were angered to hear it ain't so.

    Jerry
    Women Belong in the Home With the Kids at http://womenbelongathomewiththekids.blogspot.com/
    Just a one-page web site to inspire a new way of looking at gender issues. Prepare to be shocked.

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