Young women earn more; angry women earn less

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Some weird news on the salary front for working women (thanks to Karen Tumulty of Swampland for the poke). The New York Times reports on new Census data today that shows young women in urban areas seem to be outearning their boy counterparts.

The analysis was prepared by Andrew A. Beveridge, a demographer at Queens College, who first reported his findings in Gotham Gazette, published online by the Citizens Union Foundation. It shows that women of all educational levels from 21 to 30 living in New York City and working full time made 117 percent of men’s wages, and even more in Dallas, 120 percent. Nationwide, that group of women made much less: 89 percent of the average full-time pay for men.

Just why is a matter of debate, says the paper, which cites a number of reasons: women graduating from college in greater numbers, gravitating to big cities, perhaps even putting the pedal to the metal career-wise in order to accommodate planned family leaves later in their careers. The hard numbers:

In 1970, all New York women in their 20s made $7,000 less than men, on average, adjusted for inflation. By 2000, they were about even. In 2005, according to an analysis of the latest census results they were making about $5,000 more: a median wage of $35,653, or 117 percent of the $30,560 reported by men in that age group.

Prepare for the enormous caveat:

Nationally, women in their 20s made a median income of $25,467, compared with $28,523 for men.

New York and Dallas do not the U.S.A. make. But, at least for women in those two cities, this is good news, right? So check out this Washington Post story today, based on research by Victoria Brescoll, a post-doctoral scholar at Yale University. She found:

A man who gets angry at work may well be admired for it but a woman who shows anger in the workplace is liable to be seen as “out of control” and incompetent, according to a new study presented on Friday.

In her study, she conducted three tests in which men and women watched videos of a job interview and were asked to assign the applicants a salary.

In the first, the scripts were identical except where the candidate described feeling either angry or sad about losing an account due to a colleague’s late arrival at a meeting. Participants conferred the most status on the man who said he was angry, the second most on the woman who said she was sad, slightly less on the man who said he was sad, and least of all by a sizable margin on the woman who said she was angry.

Again, the hard numbers:

The average salary assigned to the angry man was almost $38,000 compared to about $23,500 for the angry woman and in the region of $30,000 for the other two candidates.

In another test, she told test participants the subject was a CEO:

“Participants rated the angry female CEO as significantly less competent than all of the other targets, including even the angry female trainee,” Brescoll wrote. She said they viewed angry females as significantly more “out of control.”

That impacted salaries. Unemotional women were assigned on average $55,384 compared to $32,902 for the angry ones. Male executive candidates were assigned more than trainees, regardless of anger, with an average $73,643.

Okay. First of all, what American CEO earns that little? Who were these test takers that they would assign such crap salaries?

But seriously. My initial reaction is, of course, anger. In the first test, the woman had ostensibly lost an account. What kind of moron is sad about a lost account? The tragedy in Minneapolis makes me sad. My mom’s illness makes me sad. Losing an account would just piss me off. And that earns me a lower salary how?

The Wash Post saw implications in the CEO portion of the latter study for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. I don’t–not personally, anyway. Hillary is so even keel that I would actually quite enjoy seeing her chew out an opponent at a debate.

Taking a step back, I wonder what the study does say about society’s expecations of women. Perhaps it’s just about semantics. The words we use to describe people in a business context are, after all, still stuck in an aggressive, male-dominated context. CEOs are titans or chainsaws or kings. They’re admired even, or maybe because, they’re bull-headed or mercurial or take-no-prisoners. Applied to women, these descriptives can seem jarring, even if the underlying meaning applies.

It’s time to change that. Let’s speak honestly about how we feel. With more young women graduating college than men and gunning their engines in the workplace, maybe a change is already underway: if the lead account exec’s a gal and losing an account pisses her off, won’t her colleagues accept that as a plausible reaction? Then, by the time her generation hits the corner office, maybe she won’t have to disguise her feelings behind a feather fan. And maybe she won’t have to pay with a marked-down salary.