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The real gap isn’t between men and women doing the same job. It’s between the different jobs that men and women take.

It might be the most famous statistic about female workers in the United States: Women earn “only 72 percent as much as their male counterparts.”

It’s also famously false. A new survey from PayScale this morning finds that the wage gap nearly evaporates when you control for occupation and experience among the most common jobs, especially among less experienced workers. It is only as careers advance, they found, that men outpaced female earnings as they made their way toward the executive suite.

So, women aren’t starting off behind their male counterparts, so much as they’re choosing different jobs and losing ground later in their careers.

The irony is that as women advance in their own careers, they might be more likely to fall behind, but they are also more likely to negotiate. That popular refrain that women don’t know how to ask for a raise? That’s bunk, too, the researchers concluded.  Nearly a third of women — and 29 percent of men — have asked for raises, and even more female executives have done the same. In female-dominated sectors like health care and education more, half of women have negotiated for salary, benefits, or a promotion .

Still, inequalities persist. Comparing men and women job-by-job conceals the fact that men still dominate many of the highest-paying jobs. PayScale studied more than 120 occupation categories, from “machinist” to “dietician.” Nine of the ten lowest-paying jobs (e.g.: child-care worker, library assistant) were disproportionately female. Nine of the ten highest-paying jobs (e.g.: software architect, psychiatrist) were majority male. Nurse anesthetist was the best-paid position held mostly by women; but an estimated 69 percent of better-paid anesthesiologists were male.

The highest-paid job in PayScale’s controlled set is anesthesiologists, who are 69 percent male and 31 percent female — creating a 38 percent percentage-point “jobs gap.” Here is the jobs gap for the ten highest-paid positions.

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 4.41.59 PM

PayScale’s study is a necessary chaser to BLS and Census data, because the government “compares all weekly earnings, even though women and men do different things,” said PayScale chief economist Katie Bardaro. “We’re trying to compare men and women with the same education, same management responsibilities, similar employers, in companies with a similar number of employees.” After controlling for these factors, “the gender wage gap disappears for most positions,” she said.

In one job, they had enough data to show a statistically significant wage advantage for female workers. That is “dental hygienist.”

But even if the gender gap disappears after controlling for experience and job selection, it’s hard to imagine that men thoroughly dominating the highest-paying positions is a good outcome. For example, the expectation that women more than men bear the responsibility to raise children gently nudges thousands of highly educated women out of full-time work.

There is a wage difference. But it might not be the wage difference that you thought. The real gap isn’t between men and women doing the same job. The real gap is between men and women doing different jobs and following different careers.

That gap should continue to tighten. Women have earned the majority of bachelor’s degrees for the last few years. They’re well-positioned to benefit from a growing professional service economy, and working moms are already the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of households with kids, an all-time high. But if women are more likely to go into health care than manufacturing, more likely to work in human resources than software, and more likely to leave their careers early to start a family, the gaps will persist.

Ideally, some day soon, it won’t take a statistical “control” to show that men and women are fundamental equal partners — and equal competitors — in the work force. It will just be the obvious truth.

  Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees business coverage for TheAtlantic.com.


VANDERBILT (US) — Female graduates from top-ranked universities who become mothers are working less despite the promise of higher wages, new research finds.

The battle for work-life balance among female white-collar employees, especially those with children, is something women have struggled with for decades. Though past studies have found little evidence that women are opting out of the workforce in general, first-of-its-kind research shows that female graduates of elite universities are working much fewer hours than those from less selective institutions.

“Even though elite graduates are more likely to earn advanced degrees, marry at later ages and have higher expected earnings, they are still opting out of full-time work at much higher rates than other graduates, especially if they have children,” says Joni Hersch, professor of law and economics and of management at Vanderbilt University.

Hersch’s research, published in the Vanderbilt Law School, Law and Economics Research Paper Series, finds that 60 percent of female graduates from elite colleges are working full time compared to 68 percent of women from other schools.

It’s all about the kids

The presence of children strongly influences how much a woman works. Labor market activity is lower for women with children, but the gap between those women with and without children is largest for elite graduates. Among elite graduates, married women without children are 20 percentage points more likely to be employed than their elite counterparts with children, while among non-elite graduates, the difference in the likelihood of employment is 13.5 percentage points.

MBA moms work least of all

Hersch found that when comparing graduates from elite and less selective schools, the largest gap in full-time labor market activity is among women who also earned a master’s in business degree.

“Married MBA mothers with a bachelor’s degree from the most selective schools are 30 percentage points less likely to be employed full time than are graduates of less selective schools,” says Hersch.

The full-time employment rate for MBA moms who earned bachelor’s degrees from a tier-one institution is 35 percent. In contrast, the full-time employment rate for those from a less-selective institution is 66 percent. The gap remains even after taking into account the selectivity of MBA institution, personal characteristics, current or prior occupation, undergraduate major, spouse’s characteristics, number and age of children, and family background.

Fewer female CEOs?

Hersch contends these statistics show that the greater rate of opting out by MBA moms with undergraduate degrees from elite institutions has implications for women’s professional advancement.

“Elite workplaces, like Fortune 500 companies, prefer to hire graduates of elite colleges,” says Hersch. “Thus, lower labor market activity of MBAs from selective schools may have both a direct effect on the number of women reaching higher-level corporate positions as well as an indirect effect because a smaller share of women in top positions is associated with a smaller pipeline of women available to advance through the corporate hierarchy,” says Hersch.

Comparing degrees

Hersch found a similarly large gap among women who later earned a master’s in education. Sixty-six percent of tier-one graduates are employed full time compared to 82 percent of graduates from non-elite institutions.

Other factors also contribute to which women are working more hours.

“Estimates show greater labor activity among women with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than arts and humanities; those with graduate degrees; those in higher-level occupations such as management, science, education and legal; and women who are not white,” says Hersch.

Why opt out?

A common question associated with opting out is whether highly educated women are willingly choosing to exit the labor force to care for their children or whether they are “pushed out” by inflexible workplaces. But Hersch says this hypothesis of inflexible workplaces does not explain why labor market activity differs between graduates of elite and non-elite schools.

“Graduates of elite institutions are likely to have a greater range of workplace options as well as higher expected wages than graduates of less selective institutions, which would suggest that labor market activity would be higher among such women,” Hersch writes.

“Without discounting the well-known challenges of combining family and professional responsibilities, increasing workplace flexibility alone may have only a limited impact of reducing the gap between graduates of elite and non-elite schools.”

Gathering the data

Hersch gathered her data from the 2003 National Survey of College Graduates, which provided detailed information for more than 100,000 college graduates. The survey was conducted by the US Census Bureau for the National Science Foundation.

Researcher Joni Hersch says the hypothesis that women with children are “pushed out” of inflexible workplaces does not explain why labor market activity differs between graduates of elite and non-elite schools. (Credit: Even Westvang/Flickr)

To identify schools considered elite and to put these schools into tier levels, Hersch used both the Carnegie Classifications of institutions of higher education and Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges. Barron’s Profiles looks at quality indicators of each year’s entering class (SAT or ACT, high school GPA and high school class rank, and percent of applicants accepted). Barron’s then places colleges into seven categories: most competitive, highly competitive, very competitive, competitive, less competitive, noncompetitive, and special.

The Carnegie Classifications are based on factors such as the highest degree awarded; the number, type, and field diversity of post-baccalaureate degrees awarded annually; and federal research support. For example, Research universities offer a full range of baccalaureate programs through the doctorate, give high priority to research, award 50 or more doctoral degrees each year, and receive annually $40 million or more in federal support.

Source: Vanderbilt University


Facebook boss Sheryl Sandberg – one of the world’s most powerful women – shares her secret of career success. Don’t hold back or sell yourself short, she says. Does her advice ring true?

Sheryl Sandberg (reuters)

Sheryl Sandberg is the tenth most powerful business woman in the world, according to Forbes, with a net worth of some £530 million, and she’s adamant that she didn’t get where she is today without a healthy dose of assertiveness, determination and ambition.

In her book, Lean in: women, work and the will to lead, Sandberg addresses the dearth of women in leadership roles and investigate just what is holding them back. Her answer: not just extermal, structural problems, but internal obstacles which she says won’t fall down unless women themselves start pushing.

In short, what is holding women back is a thousand small decisions: failing to stand up for yourself when it matters, deferring to others first, being too modest about successes, deliberately holding back because of future plans to have a family.

“A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and men ran half our homes”, she declares: and the reason why this is not so, she believes, cannot simply be blamed on the patriarchal establishment.

Using stories gleaned from her similarly high-flying friends and celebrity acquaintances (there is a lot of name dropping scattered through the book), as well as her own experience, Sandberg offers a solution. Don’t hold back, but commit wholeheartedly to your future success.

A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and men ran half our homes.Sheryl Sandberg

There are practicalities here too, a nod to those struggling to balance career and family life. Getting things done, she counsels, is better than trying to be perfect. Setting obtainable goals is crucial, although “dreaming is not doing”.

There is also advice on negotiating skills, and dealing with criticism wisely: charting that path to success, Sandberg warns, is like “trying to cross a minefield backward in high heels”.

To help chart that tricky course, she has set up a website encouraging women to set up their own “lean in” groups, along with videos and other resources. Jessica Bennett, from New York magazine went to one such group and was impressed.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

“She has labelled a solution for problems that are rampant among a generation raised to believe that we were on level footing – and a pragmatic approach to change it.”

Anne Marie Slaughter, who served as director of policy planning for Hillary Clinton, sparked a fierce controversy over the role of women in the workplace with her Atlantic article declaring “why women still can’t have it all”. She stepped back from her own leadership role because of her family: yet she has been equally complimentary, calling Sandberg a “feminist champion”.

But some of her critics have complained that her highly selective, unashamedly elite experience offers no help whatsoever to those who are less well off, single parents, less well educated, non-white? Women who lack the luxury of making choices?

At least, say supporters, the Facebook executive is trying to offer a partial solution to a compelling problem. In the United States, research shows that just 21 of the top Fortune 500 jobs are held by women.

Women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man, despite President Obama’s renewed push for equal pay. In these recessionary times of unemployment and downsizing, women’s participation in the US workforce is starting to decline.

In the UK, the picture is depressingly similar. A report into women in top management positions commissioned by the Government, did reveal this week that the number of women on the boards of FTSE 100 companies is now at a record high: up from 12.5% in 2011 to 18% today.

Decades away from equality

And outside that blue chip elite, the picture is even less rosy: the workplace is still “decades away” from equality.

And as for juggling that family with a high-flying career: that is no easier, either, according to a study of 2,000 women carried out by the Association of Accounting Technicians this week.

They found the overwhelming majority of new mothers feel they haven’t got enough confidence to return to work after maternity leave. Two thirds said they felt drained of self belief, while more than half thought they were no longer capable enough after taking time off. Instead they felt trapped by the drudge work of home life, robbing them of the space for creativity and ambition at work.

Just because routines and priorities change once women have a family, said the AAT, “doesn’t neccessarily mean that one’s career should be negatively affected or sacrificed”.

And that, in essence, is Sandberg’s argument. Stop being afraid. Do it anyway. Don’t shape yourself to fit around the world: make it bend around you.

As for the very real structural, historical barriers that still hold back women’s advancement, the “million cracks” in the glass ceiling that prevented even Hillary Clinton from fulfilling her presidential ambitions, first time round at least – that is not something that finds a solution here.

Men too need a manifesto for change: this burden is not simply on womens’ shoulders. The real struggle for equality is far wider than the Sandberg white, educated, wealthy elite, and it is a struggle which they cannot win on their own.


iStockphoto

(MoneyWatch) Gender is always a hot topic in economics, and nowhere more so that in the work of behavioral economists who focus on what happens in the real world rather than in theory. Of late, behavioral economists have been interested in lying: why people lie, under what conditions they are more likely to lie and what kinds of people are most prone to lying.

The findings are rich, complex and often contradictory. Among other things, academics at the Stockholm School of Economics sought to determine whether men or women were more likely to lie for financial gain. Building on earlier experiments, they got 312 pairs of students to participate in a game of sending and receiving money in which dishonesty was more profitable than honesty. Who would prove the more honest?

Of the 85 men who took part, 55 percent lied to secure a higher payoff. Of the 71 women who took part, only 38 percent lied. This is statistically significant. There was no gender difference in trust.

It is important to emphasize that, in this game, everyone was anonymous — no one knew anything about the other participant. This suggests that decisions about whether to lie derived only from a choice about whether falsifying the truth might lead to a windfall. In more personal circumstances, results may differ because other issues are involved, such as maintaining a reputation, appearing selfless or not wanting to hurt some else’s feelings.

Some will argue that, being anonymous, this makes the results far more solid. I’m not sure. But it does raise questions about the wisdom of leaving big banks overwhelmingly in the hands of men.

(via Margaret Heffernan CBS)