Narrow the Gap: ending income inequality for women

From Gina Trapani, a project to address the fact that in 2012, women still get paid less than men for the same work: Narrow the Gap. Happy International Women's Day.


  1. Equal job/equal pay is a no-brainer. The real power in that sentence is that women are computer scientists and systems analysts. The not-too-distant past is not too distant.

  2. But some day some of those women might want to have children, and since we must maintain the antiquated 1950’s (white middle class suburban) notion that each child must stay at home until age 5 or 6 with his or her actual mother providing full time care, it is completely rational that these women shouldn’t get too used to earning a living wage.  Someday, 10 or 20 years into their 50 years of working life, they might fall a few months behind their male counterparts.

  3. Next question: what are the most equally paid occupations?  So far “security guards and gaming surveillance officers” seems to be winning…

      1. Unless you’ve found a good readout sorting the data, I would bet good money teaching is one of the worst.

        1. Public school teachers are paid according to union-negotiated contracts.  In the district in which I worked the only factors were: a) number of years in the district, b) degree status (bachelors, masters, or PhD in other words), and c) “professional development points.”

          I’d guess that union pay contracts are equal for both genders pretty much everywhere that public school teachers have unions.  Which in the U.S. is just about everywhere.

      2. The linked site gives the following:
        97 ¢/$ for special education teachers
        91 ¢/$ for elementary and middle school teachers
        83 ¢/$ for secondary school teachers
        77 ¢/$ for postsecondary teachers
        77 ¢/$ for other teachers and instructors

        The first is the highest one I saw, although a few things like cooks and computer programmers were at 95. Taking about thirty random entries gave an average of 80.

        1. I wonder if women teachers taking time off for childbirth and early child rearing adversely affects their standing in the table.  My wife, a union teacher in the LAUSD, took a fair amount of time off when our kids were born, up to the limit the contract allowed, and is still only back working half-time.  I don’t believe that necessarily affected her seniority, but maybe since the time spent home with the kids can put a bit of a damper on professional development point-gathering and advanced degree-earning compared to a non-homebound male teacher, maybe that helps explain most of the difference.

          I should know these things more definitively, but I only know how much my wife makes, not what her co-workers make.

          1. My guess is that it does.
            quick google searching shows that aprox 3% of women are pregnant at any one time and that the unpaid time off after having a baby is between 6 and 12 weeks. when you take this into account women’s wages are still further behind but the gap is a lot closer then that website makes out.

            i would love to read the methodology behind that study to find out exactly what was taken into account when the figures were compiled.

  4. But obviously men take on the RISKIER, computer science and analysis jobs that women won’t do. Also insert some shit here about biotruths, women being unable to do math (somehow only applicable to white women and not a global view), and how computer science is the direct descendant to men hunting large wooly mammoths.

    1. Those missing semi-colons buried so many thousands of lines deep in the code can jump out and kill you if you’re not on your toes. Clearly this isn’t a job for a penis-deficient member of society!


    2. Yes, that white woman Ada Lovelace writing the FIRST computer program or proves men were made for the job and not women. Or that other woman, Rear Admiral Grace Hopper coining the phrase “Bug” in the code…and writing COBOL, one of the first modern languages….. 

      :-)  Wonder what their biotruths were 

      Sad, the more things change , the more they stay the same.

  5. I work in a place where women computer scientists and systems analysts, and every other job here, make the same. Why? Because we have a union. People say unions are no longer relevant, and then things like this are posted. 

      1. Yes.  And that’s a good thing, because nobody’s ever yet invented a management structure which has any ability to distinguish the two.

        Hence banker’s bonuses.

      2.  Yeah, unions make everyone lazy, amirite?!?!

        Enjoy your 20-hour shifts in the coal mine!

    1. Same here. In my job all the psychologists in the health boards in the whole country make the same amount with a transparent pay scale.

    2. I would bet good money that if you look at the wage stats between men and women in your workplace it would look very similar to that website, the figures there do not appear to take into account any unpaid childcare leave which can be between 6-12 weeks in most industries.

      when you have people off for 1.5-3 months not earning but are reporting on a yearly income it can quickly skew the data one way. 

        1. There are justifiable reasons for unequal pay.  However, one of them is not what sex you happen to be.

    1. Strippers get paid by the customers, not by the business.  Male customers’ tips vs. female customers’ tips are likely correlated to disposable income.  Extrapolate.

    2. Short answer from someone in that industry: no.
      In fact this is across the board in the adult industry. (I use that term to include strippers, escorts, adult film performers and webcam performers) 

      In regard to the adult film industry, men make much less than women in hetero porn, but men who perform in gay porn get paid more.  This is slowly starting to change with the rise of men like Keni Styles and James Deen. Producers are starting to cotton on to the fact that straight women want to see attractive male performers, and realise that if they want to attract better looking male actors, they are going to have to increase the pay. Therefore the gap is slowly but surely decreasing, and a good thing , too!

  6. If women are less likely to ask for raises, doesn’t inflating women’s salaries give an unfair advantage to those who do and doubly penalize less gregarious men?

    1. Why any worker should have to ask for a raise at all would probably be more educational here than your question. This all boils down to power.

  7. Given the law of supply and demand, you’d think female engineers would be paid more than their male counterparts.  But I guess that’s not how it works in reality.

  8. Interestingly, the gender gap grows more towards the top of the educational spectrum. At the low end, the one thing that anchors low skilled nonunion service jobs is the minimum wage. As a cashier in high school everyone in that boat made about the same, unlike management;

  9. Warning: Mansplanation:

    I advise everyone to stop using “__ cents to the dollar”. It has less impact than any of the other ways people put it (e.g. percentages, the actual difference between what a woman makes and what a man makes in a year (which was used in the tiny grey writing at the bottom)). Whenever I hear it, it makes me think of people saying things like “OBAMA WANTS TO SPENT *YOUR* TAX DOLLARS ON *ABORTIONS*!” and commercials that say “PENNIES ON THE DOLLAR”, like their audience can only understand shiny metal discs and papery green things.

    I mean, obviously none of these ways of putting it have been working, but I think the “__ cents to the dollar” works the least.

    Sorry for the mansplanation. (I’m not being sarcastic here. It’s hard to figure out how to say this stuff.)

    1. I don’t think this qualifies as mansplaining.  It’s purely tactical and it’s presented as your opinion rather than unqualified truth.  And it’s not actually condescending to women.  I think you’re good.

    2. Cents to the dollar is used because there are 100 pennies in a dollar.  It *is* a percentage.  

  10. Marilyn vos Savant (Guinness Book of World Records “Highest IQ” before they retired the category) had an interesting article about this exact issue.  She upheld that women should have a slightly lower average wage than men.

    A number of her points didn’t seem that great but one did stick out:  Women can get pregnant entirely of their own free will and cause a great cost to a business (medical leave, hiring a temp, lost momentum on projects, holding open the job, etc) that the business has no control over.  This risk is in addition to the risks any male employee represents as there is no equivalent uncontrolled cost event common to men.

    Marilyn said that since pregnancy is quite common the risk has a large weight.  She went on to say that whenever there is an increased risk associated with an employee they should get a reduced wage as they are inherently less valuable to the company.

    Note: I am just adding this point for discussion; I am not supporting it.

    1.  This would be a perfectly reasonable view if we wanted to run our businesses like plantations, but I’m fairly certain that we can do better. An employe is not a piece of equipment.

      Now I know that you’re not advocating this idea, but just for the sake of comparison: non-white people in America are far more likely to be sent to prison, which injects a lot of instability into your labor pool! That must be why they make less than white employees!

    2. On the other hand if women choose to not get pregnant entirely of their own free will, the society that made its economic decisions on simplistic short term econ 101 math will quickly be fucked.  And not in the good way.

    3. While I am sympathetic to the bio/psyc-mumbojumbo explanations that this crowd loathes, this sort of explanation isn’t supported by the literature. Glass. 2004. Blessing or curse? Work-family policies and mother’s wage growth over time. Work and Occupations, 31, 367-394 in particular found that the wage penalty that women in management positions incurred was ameliorated when the women changed jobs.

      The major hypothesis the author was testing/disconfirming was that the time off due to childbirth caused a decline or lack of increase in the woman’s human capital. This obviously was disconfirmed by the finding that when the women moved jobs after having a child, she received wages much more on par with her male counterparts whereas when she stayed at the same firm (with the institutional memory of her taking leave for the childbirth), she did not.

      I think it also disconfirms the claim that the market is properly evaluating the value of employing a woman who may take time off for childbirth. When the women in the Glass study moved jobs, the market did not think they were less valuable to them. Perhaps the new firm updated the women’s value based on them already having a kid (or more), but that doesn’t seem the most likely explanation.

      1.  Did that study take into account the normal increase one gets for simply changing jobs at all?  I know many fields (engineering for example) you almost always net a higher wage on changing to a new firm as you don’t get raises at a rate equivalent to your growing worth.

        1.  They were interested in relative salaries (a signal of discrimination) so absolute increases aren’t an issue.

    4. On that same logic, women should get a 30% raise upon submitting proof to their employer of infertility, menopause, or tubal ligation.

    5.  Men can take paternity leave, so they too can get someone pregnant and take leave and the above happens. More so, anyone can quit at any time, so hiring someone is a risk.

      And all young women know to never wear your wedding ring to an interview or mention a spouse. They may assume you plan to have children soon and may not hire you.

    6. Yes, indeed, “highest IQ” trumps any sort of empathy or social awareness. 

      Also, women should be penalized for being the ones who have children, don’tcha know. Aside from overpopulation issues, which should be taken deadly seriously, it’s not like society, you know, *benefits* from proper childraising or anything…

  11. I’ve worked in software and engineering for about 20 years. I’m thinking back to how many women I’ve worked with who were senior programmers. There were several, actually. One woman had helped to found the company and worked for shares in its early days. She was one of about 4 people who really understood this very complex server side software. She became a millionaire during the dot com boom, when the company was sold to a larger company. The product has since been acquired by Microsoft.

    Another woman programmer was part of the development team that made that company’s bestselling software program. She left or retired and started a company with the other members of the team. They were consulting back to the company at the time I knew her. I have no idea what she made but gathered she did pretty well from her clothing and status she was given by the other programmers.

    There are far fewer female programmers than men, and the majority of senior level programmers I’ve worked with were men, so I’m curious if the pay inequity comes partly from the different roles the women programmers are taking. Then I think the issue is why women are not promoted up to those senior level jobs.

  12. I was for ERA in the late 70’s and I believe in equal pay for equal work but statistics like this make me suspicious since they never offer an explanation save for the usual “woman are suppressed.” It’s my experience that business pays what they have to or what they can get away with. Stats like this just finger point at the male gender as a whole.

    1. In precisely WHAT way to they point to the male gender as a whole? 

      Do you also say this when presented with statistics on domestic violence or sex-crimes? 

    2. “I was for ERA in the late ’70s”… awww, do you want a fuckin’ cookie or something? And boo hoo hoo… you and all other men **benefit** from sexism, just like all white people (including me) benefit from racism.

    3. There are a lot of explanations in the relevant sociological literature. Most of them are ruling *out* things like differences in human capital and time taken off to have children.  There’s plenty of support for societal influences on the aspirations and education of women and girls playing a role, as does institutionalized discrimination. Interpersonal sex discrimination also applies; it can be intentional (“statistical discrimination”) but is quite often unconscious, and therefore hard to combat.

      Social phenomena rarely have simple explanations.  People are complicated critters.

      I’d cite some papers but this is a large body of literature.  It’s easier to just tell you to go to Google Scholar and search for “wage gap” or “gender wage gap.” One of the leading scholars on this is Blau, so that’s a good starting point.

  13.  It is a legally mandated sign-up, and controls a male’s eligiblity for FAFSA etc.  While not pertinent to existing draft conditions I still find it relevant.

    1. I’m glad you do. FAFSA is about the only thing I can think of that it matters for. And make no mistake, it is a draft program.

  14. I wonder how they factored in things like “women only work 52 minutes for every hour men work” (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics)?   There are so many potential confounding variables, any result is likely to involve devolve into arguments about what adjustments were made to the data.  

    1. Why would you need to factor in that particular statistic to compare pay for the same job? Those 8 minutes women “aren’t working,” aren’t spent on a paying job anyway.  They are probably spent on housework, childcare, or caring for someone who is sick, disabled or elderly.

    2. Even if that’s true and not just a misreading of the data that ignores underlying causes and failure to account for various factors, how does that explain waged labor, as opposed to salaried labor?

      1. Could be that 15% more work experience is worth a 22% difference in pay.   But you would need to do some analysis to figure out the relationship between work time and pay, along with a multitude of other variables.   

        The key here is that it’s very difficult to actually find a bunch of pairs of people (one male, one female) with the exact same characteristics.   So, what happens is that they try to collect stats from groups that look different, and then adjust things to try to remove those differences.   That process is more art than science, and is where you have a lot of disagreements about whether your end result is measuring what you want to measure.

    3. If women only work 52 minutes for every hour men work, maybe it’s because they get their work done faster.

      1.  Or that men are picking up more shifts, or that more men have jobs that just have long hours, or any of a host of possibilities.

        Statistics are meaningless without context.

        1. Which would mean employers are giving men more shifts or more hours, or more jobs with more hours.

      2. Women tend to work harder than men, both in the professional sphere and at home.  This has been found in study after study of a variety of professions and household life.  There are exceptions, of course, but the finding is very common.

        We get better grades in college too.

        So really there is no rational argument for paying us less.  Honest.  It’s okay to accept that there’s discrimination in play and stop assuming the employers in question have perfectly rational, defensible reasons.

        1. My experience working with men and women residents at the hospital (where hours are long and schedules are nebulous) is that women were much, much better at setting a goal of when to leave and organizing their day to make it happen, where men were more likely to hang around all night soaking up what Frank Herbert called ‘the esprit of shared suffering’. And probably expecting better pay for it.

    4. Yeah, women’s unpaid labor? That ain’t *really* work. Childcare, housework, the emotional work in relationships (which is then mocked as “she wants to talk about the relationship all the time”)… who cares, right, since it doesn’t earn any money? Besides, if it had any value, teh menz would be doing it.

  15. Everyone is ignoring the elephant in the room!

    Xeni, how does your blogging job at boingboing pay compared to the men? hmmmmmmmmm? :)

    1.  Wow, one whole study.  A couple hundred more and you might have an evidence base that rivals the research to date on male/female pay disparities.

    2. Here is some more information on the 2010 study:,8599,2015274,00.html

      The key point you forgot to mention is that only women aged 22-30 who are single and childless working in urban areas earn 8% more than men. Women who are married, or don’t work in urban areas, or aren’t in this age group still make less than men.

      “The figures come from James Chung of Reach Advisors, who has spent more than a year analyzing data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. He attributes the earnings reversal overwhelmingly to one factor: education. For every two guys who graduate from college or get a higher degree, three women do.”

    3. “Carrie Lukacs of the Independent Women’s Forum…” Yep, there’s a totes unbiased source right there.

  16. Assuming that 20% of “computer scientists and system analysts” are women (totally guessing) making an average of 78 cents for every dollars the men make, that means men would get a paycut to 95.6 cents for every dollar they make now to equalize wages. 

    This is, after all, a zero-sum game.  When companies decide to solve a problem like this, they do it by setting aside a certain percentage of the budget for the next year’s pay-raises to address the inequality.  More pay raises for women means less for men. 

    I’m not making an argument here that the inequality shouldn’t be addressed, I’m willing to take one for the team.

  17. This might be a stupid man thing to say, but if this is true, why isn’t there a company out there taking advantage of lower female wages by having an entire female workforce? I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, I’m just skeptical regarding the universality.

    1.  Why would an employer want to make their discrimination blatantly obvious? They’re better off creating a work atmosphere where no one wants to talk about pay.

  18. Why are we assuming it’s not?  I haven’t seen any sources explaining putative causes of the wage gap in this thread at all. 

    1. Buy me a gun. If long-term commenters don’t have the common sense not to argue with astroturfers and trolls, I end up working four hours behind real time.

  19. I can buy into this data with two caveats.

    first – is it adjusted for seniority??  When the men have worked as bus drivers for 30+ years and the women for 10-15, that makes a difference.

    second – some of these job categories aren’t very granular.  Are male and female pharmacists, bus drivers, bartenders doing the “same job”???  Yeah, I’ll buy that. 

    But “Other business operations specialists”? “Financial managers”? ” Miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators”??  Not so much.

    1. Men are put in cages at those companies, and treated like the sex slaves they were meant to be.

      1.  So I can claim the home office exemption  after all!  Wonder if I can deduct the manacles and ball-gag?

      2. From my experience, men usually pay to be put in cages and treated like sex slaves! ;)

  20. I’ve read that the 78 cents on the dollar figure is based on lumping the entire sector together regardless of hours per week, seniority, title or position, and then splitting it up by male and female. I would like to see a source that compensates for all of the other possible factors and finds only the coorelation between pay and gender.

    I realize women may not get promoted as often or given as many hours but that is a different story from what is being claimed here.

  21. Grammar question: wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say female rather than women in that image at the top?

    Genuinely pondering that one…

    1. Human females are called women. Calling women ‘females’ is a lot like calling non-white people’s cemeteries ‘burial grounds’.

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