Gender Diversity: A Pay Gap is a Pay Gap

filed under Anecdotes and Stories, Facts and Figures, Gender Diversity.

While I’m on the subject of my daughter…

She and I drove a moving truck, towing a car on a transport, from Colorado Springs to Austin. It was an adventure.  One that I don’t necessarily think everyone needs to have.

While at a truck stop south of Lubbock, I took a short walk. As I returned to our “rig”, some guy in a passing car actually whistled at me.  I was lost in thought. It took him three or four whistles to even register in my consciousness.  I never bothered to look that direction but he kept it up. I kept walking and thinking – now, about men’s sense of entitlement to women’s bodies.  About how angry I used to get about that and how curious I felt at that moment. Was the guy blind? Or was he simply an age-based equal opportunity ogler?

At that same moment, the U.S. Census Department was preparing to publish their findings that the pay gap between men and women decreased over the past 10 years.  Women now earn 82.8% to men’s dollar for comparable work.  It’s the smallest U.S. gap ever.

That’s something to celebrate. We are headed in the right direction. And we are not there yet.

Many headlines have gone further and noted a “reverse gender gap”.  Young, childless women now earn and average of 8% more than men.

That’s something to question. There is no such thing as a “reverse gender gap”.  Nor is there such thing as “reverse discrimination” or “reverse harassment”.  These things are what they are, no matter in which direction they occur.

Any gap is a gap.

Women’s advantage declines with age – by 30, it is gone. Beyond 30, women make less than men. A similar pattern was also observed using British data. A researcher at the University of Manchester found that, while there is virtually no wage gap for women at the start of their careers, the gap grows substantially over the first ten years of a woman’s career.

Two factors in the gap reduction have jumped out immediately.  First, women are finishing college at higher rates than men and thus qualifying for new jobs at higher rates.  Second, there are reports that more men than women are losing jobs in the current economy.  Are these two are related?

In a recession, do we let go those who are higher paid and hire those who will work for less?  Is the gap reduction is related to salary reductions over all?

“It’s not good news for women to have men making poor economic progress,” says Carrie Lukas at the Independent Women’s Forum. “This isn’t a gender war. If men lose, that doesn’t mean that women win.”

There has never been a richer talent pool from which to fill organizational needs.

Evidence continues to mount for the economic value of good diversity practices for all groups, including gender. One 2004 study, for example, found  that companies with the highest percentage of women in senior management outperformed those with the lowest percentages by 35%.

Opportunities are inherent in any crisis.  In today’s economic climate, there is a vast available talent pool from which to fill almost any position. Companies that attract and build loyalty among the best employees with fair pay, flexibility, family benefits and inclusive workplace environments will be well positioned for whatever comes next.

BTW: A study comparing the salaries of transgender employees before and after their gender changes found that, while average earnings for biological females who transitioned to male slightly increased after transition, earnings fell by nearly a third for workers who went from male to female (Schilt and Wiswall, 2008).

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