Questioning the Wage Gap

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In response to my posting about the wage gap between men and women, my friend Gerry writes:

I’ve always been suspicious of the stat that women earn 77 cents on the dollar for performing the same job as a male colleague. Why? Because if there’s one thing we know about corporate America is that it loves to pay less and get more. Just like Wal-Mart shoppers.

Any former customer service rep who watched his admittedly miserable job leave for foreign shores can attest that corporations will do anything to save money. If Dell could save a few rupees by moving its helpline to India, wouldn’t it hire only women domestically to save 25% on salaries? If this stat were an accurate representation across the board then there would be a lot of unemployed men in this country. The Old Boy Club wouldn’t survive that kind of benefit to the bottom line.

This is not to deny that sexism exists and that it manifests itself in the workplace. I’m certain it does because I’ve witnessed it. But an article on CNN Money reports that a flaw in the formulation determining the wage gap accounts for at least some of the misleading statistic.

Jeanne Sahadi writes that “all the wage-gap ratio reflects is a comparison of the median earnings of all working women and men who log at least 35 hours a week on the job, any job. That’s it. It doesn’t compare those with equal work, equal training, equal education or equal tenure. Nor does it take into account the hours of overtime worked.”

I present my own situation as support. For years my wife and I held the same position at competing ad agencies: Director of Editorial Services. On paper we held the same job: we ran departments, managed workflow, hired and fired people, stamped out fires. But she earned about 20% more than I did.

Why? Because she had a three-year career head start on me and was hired at higher base salary based on her experience; her company grew faster than mine did (she managed 14 editors; I managed only 4); her job was more demanding; her company was part of a global advertising conglomerate and mine was not; her boss went to bat with senior management for her during her reviews and mine did not; and she was with her company for ten years while I was with mine for only 7. For those reasons she received better raises than I did, even though we held the same position.

My point is that on paper I made less for the same job but in reality we did not have the same job.

Or maybe I’m more effeminate than I realize.