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Earning Power!: May 2005

Friday, May 27, 2005

Is the Wage Gap Women's Choice?

We hear about the wage gap and the most recent studies in which women only make seventy five cents to each dollar a man earns. Even more shocking is to learn that in 2002 it was seventy seven cents! Are things really getting worse?

It’s been argued lately that if anyone could be paid 25% less for the same job, wouldn’t companies in a capitalist economy hire all women?

On this premise, the wage gap is being called a hoax. If it is a hoax, it’s a waste of time to put in place programs that help women. Some suggest women get a Bachelor's degree to earn up to 75% more than women with just a high-school diploma. Others have said that women are victims of their own poor choices, and if they would choose better careers, they would close the wage gap. Some authors have even suggested that women have an unfair advantage because they get hired into all of the low paying jobs leaving no room for men!

Two Different Subjects: Wage Gap and Career Choice

The first issue is an issue of wage gap discrimination for total annual pay for work done in similar positions. The second is earning less pay overall because men choose higher paying careers. Lately people seem to be confusing the two issues by saying that women choose to be paid less by picking low paying careers. No woman I know would choose to be paid less for the same work.

Wage Gap Issue

Wage gap statistics track career choices, and how much is made in each position. The figures are not incorrect. Women are paid less for exactly the same positions. This is even compensating for seniority and flex time. Saying that the average full time male works more than the average full time female cannot be substantiated. Even if it could be, more time at work has nothing to do with an employee's performance, effectiveness or contribution of deliverables.

Career Choice Issue

However, it’s possible you can blame women for choosing careers that pay less overall. For example, nursing (health care) and elementary teacher positions (education) pay less than x-ray technician and professorship positions. The first two categories are over 90% women while the second positions are over 90% men. All of these positions are hard work and still offer flexibility. The positions dominated by men pay more.

The interesting fact is that even in these two traditionally female positions, nurse and elementary teacher, the few men who choose them earn more. The US Census Bureau shows that women only earn about 82% of what men earned in these same positions, even with diplomas and certifications.

Women Actually Paid More?

An assertion that keeps coming up is that there are many careers where women are paid more, and this is unfair to men. One of the examples given is technical sales, another is modeling. Well, technical sales are paid by performance, so that isn’t surprising. Even with lower base pay women can often bridge the gap with commissions. As for modeling, not to put out male models, but they don’t attract the same volume of attention and sales as females do, so the females are compensated for bringing in higher sales.

Another rumor is that part time women earn more per hour than full time men. This may be the case, but is anyone taking a look at the cost of perks and benefits that full time employees get that part-timers and contract hires miss out on entirely?

The Truth About Equality

It would be really easy to fuel the women who contine to accuse men of sexism, or to fuel backlash of the men who are tired of being blamed. The truth is they have both been wrong.

A closer look at the statistics reveals that the wage gap occurs when women have children. Single, childless men and women earn about the same amount in any career choice. What the census shows is that there is a correlation to pay increase for men and decrease for women each child that they have.

We know today that women are different than men. Feminism may have provided choices about birth control, but it never provided answers for the biology that only women can have children.

First, men in our society have become so alienated and defensive that they never picked up their share of child and elder care. And second, even though women are increasingly the primary household earners, the misperception of the man as breadwinner still persists. Men are compensated by increased salaries and women earn less. Thus the gap.

The wage gap is a parenting issue. It is only when we look closer at alternatives around the needs of the business in the context of the needs of our families that we can close the gap and solve the problem. Women and men should stop blaming each other and begin to work toward joint solutions for the sake of our children.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A New Model for Cooperative Genders at Work

Cosexuality (adj.) Cooperative sexuality. Describes a state of equality of men and women where both genders work together toward empowering each other. It describes a new feminism with the full participation of men.

The idea is that traditional feminism became antiquated and unattractive when people began associating it with hatred of men, superiority of women, or exclusively lesbianism.

The original idea of feminism was solid: belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Sadly, nowadays even mentioning the word "feminist" alienates at least half of the population. In fact, many women, especially young women, do not wish to associate themselves with a cult of hatred. Late twentieth century man-bashing is definitely inappropriate when we work together today.

In the modern global business environment, there needs to be a new model. Enthusiasm for support would not be exclusively from women. It would also attract the interest of men and young people who are still interested in concepts like giving people equal opportunity to pursue their dreams, equality of pay for performance, or access to the same level of top leadership positions in charge of profit and loss.

Cosexuality is the new way both genders can work together and share masculine and feminine traits as needed and appropriate in order to be most effective and competitive without being intimidated. Women in business do not feel the need to imitate men or play by their rules in order to succeed.

The ideal environment is one where neither gender belittles nor mimics the other, but instead work together with respect and diverse skills. The feeling in the environment is "fun" rather than "fear".

Traditional feminism was about a power shift. Empowered people can abuse power, and this has been a possibility since women have in fact accomplished the goal of liberation. Cosexualism recognizes that although there is supposed to be a sisterhood among women to support each other toward our goals, it is often an ideal that is not met.

Instead, the cosexual reality is that men are essential as mentors, advisors and enthusiasts in women's careers. Where feminism pushed for the independence of a woman, cosexuality suggests that interdependence between genders is the key to accomplishment and profit. When one gender is excluded, both sides lose.

Finally, cosexuality allows modern fathers who are also interested in work-family issues to participate in finding flexible solutions that allow them to be a dad as well as a financial contributor to their kids. Issues that may have been considered the domain of women in the past are now their issues as well. It's an injustice to both sides to not encourage these men to raise their voice as role models for the next generation.

Earning Power! is optimistic that the majority of men are behind these concepts.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Six Reasons Why Men Don't Hire Women
and what you can do about it

I had barely started my cup of cocoa when I overheard the men next to me.

"I just don't hire women anymore other than as assistants," one said, "because I don't want the headaches."

In 1973, newspaper help wanted ads were routinely divided by sex, with clerical and service jobs for women, and high-paying industrial and management jobs in the MEN column. How can it be that in 2005 a woman can still not be hired based on her gender rather than her performance?

Here are some six myths that stop men from hiring women.

Myth One: I'll have to take care of them.

Companies are looking for people who can take care of business by adding to the profits or cutting the costs. They do not want their employees to cost them. The fact is that even women with little work experience are more used to taking care of others than being taken care of. In order to run operations of their household, they must have exposure to time, money, risk, legal and property management, emergency, health, education maintenance, and special occasion, vacation, and quality of life planning. About half of all women work outside of the home, and in 22% of working couples, the woman earns more than than man, making her the breadwinner who is taking care of everyone financially as well.

Myth Two: I'll have to watch what I say and do.

Tolerance is a two way street. As much as men feel they cannot be themselves at work anymore, women have felt they needed to act like men in order to be accepted. The environment becomes sterile, civilized, and politically correct to the point that there is no enjoyment. Work environments are often competitive, and inadvertently, someone is bound to become offended, even if the offense isn't intentional. Many women can banter as offensively as men. Most issues can be avoided up front by setting expectations with employees up front. Not allowing inappropriate language to become the norm inside the office is important so that the habit doesn't slip outside the office and reflect badly upon the organization. Maybe your company should take a look at how women have been rewarded for working with you. If employees are being treated fairly in respect to pay, benefits, and other forms of compensation and recognition for performance, they will like working for you and it will be difficult for them to reasonably argue they're being harmed, or that they'll desire to harm you.

Myth Three: She won't put in the time on task.

Companies want maximum productivity from their employees. This myth arises from the idea that women don't prioritize business first or that women are more distracted with personal issues. Here the competant woman is fighting the man's image of a scattered and uncommited, young, single girl or a married woman, possibly with kids who come first. Statistically, young single women are performing on par with young, single men and they are earning about the same amount. By age 40, 90% of women have at least one child. The majority, about 64%, of top executive women have kids and they still perform. About 38% of married moms also work full time. Being married or having kids apparently motivates these working women to get work and keep working or they would stay home. The only real statistical correlation is that for each child a man has he earns more, while for each child a woman has, her pay level decreases. Also, about 22% of working women are over age 55 and could put in the time on task you are looking for if you hired them.

Myth Four: It's easier to find the right man for the job.

Companies want people with the right work history and results. It's true, there is often a larger pool of experienced men to draw from because more men than women are in the funnel in the first place. With the exception of businesses by women, for women, most industries are dominated by men. Still, who you are attracting to fill positions may have more to do with how you recruit your employees than who is available to do the work. Everyone knows that most hiring is done through personal contacts. Most old boys networks don't have a lot of women in them, so they aren't recommending women they know. The key is to tap into organizations that draw professional women to them so that you have pick of the experienced female candidates who have a proven track record. Once contacts are established it's easy to find qualified women, too.

Myth Five: Women will take things personally and attack me personally.

Companies want to keep employees focused on economic goals. Management doesn't want to be accused of being mean, unfair or unkind if things aren't exactly the way employees would like them to be. The truth is, it is very difficult to make balanced decisions all of the time. Men can be just as verbally ferocious as women and possibly even more threatening when a policy is ineffective. Managers have to get good at building setting correct expectations, benchmarking performance, and gap analysis of individual skills in order to effectively draw out the best qualities in any employee. Take a look at how well you do this first, and if the problem then clearly rests with the individual decide how to help them improve or get rid of them. If you're worried about women hurting you, remember, it's just business, so don't take it personally.

Myth Six: Women care more about being happy than making money.

Companies want sales people who will chase the close, and to do that the salesperson has to be motivated by money. Here the myth is that women don't want or need the money, but that perception is incorrect. They just often don't just want it in a visibly greedy or self-focused way. Acting in self-interest is a great economic theory that doesn't apply to the generosity required in a family. Women, especially women raising children or doing elder care, don't directly claim the products of their own labor. The incentive to gain wealth and power isn't self motivated because she'll never gain all the benefits for the costs invested or sacrificed. When applied to work, the problem lies with the man who frames everything in economic terms rather than the profitability added from value added services such as customer satisfaction, repeat business, less turnover from people satisfaction, all of which make money and cut costs, but are more difficult to measure. Bottom line results can come effectively from women or men depending upon the managements ability to learn to tap into individual motivations and loyalties.

How do myths like this perpetuate themselves? They are kept alive by what scientists call belief perseverance. Basically, people just can't stand to be wrong.

By wanting to be right about not hiring women, these men will rationalize it, selectively support it by choosing to relate only those experiences that validate it, and give extra weight to information that conforms until the prophecy is self-fulfilled. By seeking others and clinging to other co-workers with negative associations and spoken generalities, these men continue their own illusion that they can predict the behavior of all women in business, rather than seeking out and filling the funnel with good candidates that can effectively deliver results for their business.

Bias is something we are all guilty of. It is not a bias to make assumptions based on real evidence. Unfortunately, when the men at the coffee shop said they wouldn't consider women, it's more likely that they are simply afraid because they don't have enough real information, so they feel safer sticking to the familiar kinship they have gotten from male colleagues and remain inflexible to the benefits of hiring women.

When we hold a bias, we act on our attitudes out of fear, and in trying to protect ourselves miss out on wonderful opportunities that in business can result in superior economic rewards. The firmer we are in our own sense of identity, the greater we understand the worth of diverse energies, skills and perspectives.

Most men that say things that might offend women have a passive or innocent bias founded on a naive premise or a handful of unfortunate experiences with a particular individual. Men who have positive experiences working with women are no longer threatened by their values, ideas, and fresh ways of doing things. The only way that men can see successful women is to hire more women, promote, and support their career goals so that they are exposed to positive examples that in turn, open the door for others.

It is up to individual women to encourage the men to educate themselves in a caring and non-dismissive manner. That's why the guy's next round of coffee was on me that day.