You might be discriminating against women and not even realize it

Let's talk about the pay gap. Census data show shows that, in 2008, American women still earned .77 cents for every $1 earned by American men. And, while some of this has to do with women working different jobs then men, working less hours, or spending less of their lives moving up the corporate ladder, numerous studies have shown that the disparity still exists even after you've controlled for all those factors, and more. Even in the same job, at the same level of experience, the same education, same race, same hours worked, etc. ... women still earn less than men do.

There's been lots of research aimed at explaining the gap, and it's probably tied to more than one factor. But several studies have shown that unfair bias against women — whether intended or subconscious — is part of it. Last week, researchers at Princeton published a study that showed bias against women in hiring practices within the sciences and hit on some particularly interesting aspects of subconscious discrimination.

The researchers gave the same application materials and resume to two sets of scientists and told the scientists to evaluate the candidate for a position as laboratory manager. Half the scientists got the materials with a male name attached. Half saw a female name. The scientists gave the male name a higher rating on competency, hireability, and their own willingness to mentor "him". They also offered "him" a higher starting salary — $30,238, compared to $26,507 for the female name.

The catch: These trends held regardless of whether the scientist doing the hiring was male or female, and none of the scientists used sexist language or sexist arguments as justification for their decisions. At the Unofficial Prognosis blog, Ilana Yurkiewicz explains why those details are so important:

When scientists judged the female applicants more harshly, they did not use sexist reasoning to do so. Instead, they drew upon ostensibly sound reasons to justify why they would not want to hire her: she is not competent enough. Sexism is an ugly word, so many of us are only comfortable identifying it when explicitly misogynistic language or behavior is exhibited. But this shows that you do not need to use anti-women language or even harbor conscious anti-women beliefs to behave in ways that are effectively anti-women.

Practically, this fact makes it all the more easy for women to internalize unfair criticisms as valid. If your work is rejected for an obviously bad reason, such as “it’s because you’re a woman,” you can simply dismiss the one who rejected you as biased and therefore not worth taking seriously. But if someone tells you that you are less competent, it’s easy to accept as true. And why shouldn’t you? Who wants to go through life constantly trying to sort through which critiques from superiors are based on the content of your work, and which are unduly influenced by the incidental characteristics of who you happen to be? Unfortunately, too, many women are not attuned to subtle gender biases. Making those calls is bound to be a complex and imperfect endeavor. But not recognizing it when it’s happening means accepting: “I am not competent.” It means believing: “I do not deserve this job.”

So how do you deal with subconscious sexism? Yurkiewicz' full post is a must-read, and offers some solutions.

Also check out:
Physicist Sean Carroll's post on the same study
The study itself at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Wikipedia on male-female income disparity in the United States

Image: Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from eflon's photostream


      1. What holds true?  That women make 77% of men?  Because other comments here seem to have supported claims that the 77% figure is the uncorrected number.  If by “this” you mean “women make less than men when correcting for many factors” then yes, but given that your first sentence doesn’t make that claim – instead it makes the stronger 77% claim – it’s not clear that “this” is simply “there exists a pay gap larger than 1%”.

        And Nicole points out (unsubstantiated but I believe correct) that when you *don’t* correct for these factors that men of color make less than women as a whole.  If you want to talk only about numbers corrected for those factors then okay, but then leave out that 77% number.  If you want to talk about uncorrected numbers then there’s a thousand interpretations possible comparing different populations.

    1. Has anyone done a study like this with race? Though I suppose it’s more difficult to indicate race though names.

        1. This is a little off topic, but, when I would get the resume of someone educated in India, I would go to the Indian chemist in my group and ask if the universities were well-regarded or prestigious. It didn’t necessarily turn out that they were the best person to hire, but I always found them to have an excellent command of the science in the interview.

      1. It depends what you mean by race.  If you belong to every ethnicity from which you have at least one ancestor, but have only one surname, then your surname indicates only one of your potentially many ethnicities.  But that’s still information.

        So, if I discriminate on the basis of surnames, I may not be certain of the full ethnic background of each person – there’s a chance the person I discriminated for has more of my “undesirable” ethnicity in their background than the person I discriminated against.  I might still unconsciously discriminate between Mr. Bryan and Mr. Badu based on their perceived race, even though each might have one parent from England and one from Ghana.

        But since discrimination is often unconscious anyway, I’m likely not going to realize what I did.  When the chosen candidate shows up for work, I’m not going to go “Drat, I hired a black guy without realizing it”, I’m going to go “Oh good, he’s doing well at the job – it’s always hard to tell from a written application.”

      2. But possible.  I saw one years ago where résumés were distributed but with differing names: sometimes John, Amy, etc. othertimes “black” names like Keyshawn.  You can imagine which ones got calls for interviews.  The résumés were submitted to actual job postings, so the researchers weren’t in a position to poll for the reasoning behind accepting/rejecting the applicants.

        I think this is it: Study Suggests Bias Against ‘Black’ Names On Resumes.

        1. A difficult issue there is that I think discrimination against “black names” might be distinct from pure racial discrimination, in that resumes of black applicants without “black names” might be rejected more often than white applicants, but significantly less often than resumes of black applicants with “black names.” I would speculate that people, even thinking that they aren’t being racist, tend to find people like Colin Powell acceptable, while disliking black people who don’t seem to be from their culture.

          This could be compared with discrimination against white applicants with names suggesting an origin in various less-desirable white cultures of the US.

          1. I would speculate that people, even thinking that they aren’t being racist, tend to find people like Colin Powell acceptable, while disliking black people who don’t seem to be from their culture.

            Which is probably why Colin Powell was tasked with covering up the My Lai Massacre and pushing the Iraq War at the UN 10 yrs ago. A credible name attached to a person black enough to throw under the bus, if necessary.

          2. This could be compared with discrimination against white applicants with names suggesting an origin in various less-desirable white cultures of the US.

            Like….? Morticia? Mittens?

      3. I recall a PBS program that looked at racial perceptions based on names and voices.  Can anyone remember what the program was called?  In particular, I remember them playing the same audio recording presented with different speaker names, to demonstrate how the speaker’s accent, and assumed race, could change.

        Searching for the above turned up this study on job applicants and race: Among other things, they found that “a white name yields as many more callbacks as an additional eight years of experience”.

      4. Yes. This has been done by sending cold CVs with racially coded names to actual hiring firms and counting callbacks. In the US there was a small but detectable bias against Black names. In France there was a massive bias against Arab names. 

        A very thoughtful exec at a Chicago firm talked to a class about how to hire. They were hiring talent like crazy, growing company. He said they started running tests. One test, was hiding names on resumes. Results: more women and more Indians made it through to interviews. They started hiding all names during the resume screen stage of hiring. It’s an easy solution that benefits the firm, and society as a whole. 

        1.  A pity we have to go to such lengths to counter our biases, I hope at some point we’ll have intergrated our societies and workforces enough that we can see Everyone as just people and focus just on skills/experience. Hey, a man can dream can’t he??

          1.  the “potential for a joke” as you put it, is at the expense of women. so, no, there is no way for you to mention a sexist joke without sounding sexist. Sorry!

          2. Sure there is.  It’s called irony.  In this case, the people who would make a joke like that and mean it are themselves the indirect subject of Schenck’s joke.

            In other words, it’s not a joke about women, it’s a joke about sexists.

      1. “In elementary school, we girls learned about Sacagawea while the boys were learning math.” – Marge Simpson

  1. I’m always trying to recruit female software engineers. I can’t be overt in any bias towards them while hiring since that would be gender discrimination, but it is important to me to have balance and different perspectives in a company. After all, half our customers are women.

    Software engineering is, sadly, one of those “different jobs” women don’t take even though it is incredibly high paying. For every 1 female engineer who applies, I see at least 150 from men. I’ve even tried reaching out to various women engineering groups to see if they have a job board or something, but sadly, none I’ve found do.

    Now I don’t know how much choosing different jobs or working different hours or the belief in a lot of people’s minds that someone *will* end up working less hours plays into the earnings difference. Clearly it amounts for some part of the $0.34 per dollar gap between men and women, but if I can’t even attract women to an entire field of jobs that pay a *starting salary* double or triple the median salary of other jobs, my gut tells me that it is at least half the gap.

    1. Talking with female engineers, it’s not the hiring discrimination that causes the problem, it’s the discrimination prior to that point.  They’re just generally assumed to be less competent.  School is not great. The authors here (and others) use hiring because it’s one of the few times where this discrimination can be easily measured in quantitative terms.

      1. I pay absolutely no attention to school on a résumé that comes in (most startups ignore it, only giant companies like Google care). None. I don’t care if you graduated. I don’t care if you went. What I care about is that you show some passion for what you do, are a self-learner, a good communicator and have some previous experience (work or project) that relates or could translate into the work we do.

        I’ve founded four companies and each one hired the same way and I know dozens of other founders that hire the same way.

        Maybe the problem is partially that women take school so seriously now. They get dissuaded in school and don’t realize it is unnecessary. Then again, I have engineers who got a liberal arts degree and took up programming as a hobby instead. That isn’t happening either with women.

        At this point, I’d like to just start training women to be engineers like the Hackbright Academy, but we just don’t have the resources.

        1. I am in a completely different field, so I am not disagreeing with what works best for you.

          My point of view is that at some point in your education, you gain a gestalt about your disciple of science – you understand it as a whole rather than a sum of its parts.  A person from a 3rd tier school with a very small department is more likely to form a less sophisticated gestalt compared to someone from a top tier university with a leading department in the field.

          When the unexpected occurs in research (as it often does) the more sophisticated the gestalt, the faster a better solution is reached.  So, school does play a role in my hiring decisions.

          1. Sadly, outside of donating to one of the Teach Girls to Code programs like Technovation, I don’t see there is much I can do. Salary discrimination in my field happens almost entirely because there are so few women and far more senior men.

          2. How about joining with other small, local engineering companies and sponsoring “GIrls Lead” days where you teach more generic leadership skills (perhaps with the help of a local non-profit).  It doesn’t matter if you are a bunch of male engineers and their wives (or female volunteers from a local college – don’t go all creepy by making it just men), you are teaching widely relevant skills and concepts while making it clear that you are all engineers.

            This won’t get you new hires next year (unless the college students are involved, well maybe), but it will seed the local market with girls and women who are quite pro-engineering.

          3. To broaden your point; this is part of the reason that entrepreneurs from universities with both sophisticated science and sophisticated liberal arts programs on the same campus tend to be more successful. You may gain a great understanding of your field at MIT, but you won’t have as much opportunity to understand how it applies to the wider world as you would at a place like Stanford. 

            That’s part of the reason that large tech firms are leaning toward students from campuses with broader interdisciplinary exchange.

        2. In a startup culture (mine too), where traditional markers of competence are ignored, and intangibles like “drive” and “passion” and “brilliance” are sought after, I think subtle discrimination like the article describes are all the more likely. 

          There are cultural issues that drive opt-outs as well.  It doesn’t take a lot of bro-grammer asshats to make someone feel unwelcome, even if Bros are in fact a barely tolerated minority. It’s a reason dickish behavior should be challenged, immediately, with calm but public shaming. Otherwise, it speaks for the crowd. 

        3. “Then again, I have engineers who got a liberal arts degree and took up programming as a hobby instead. That isn’t happening either with women.”

          I know several women that are self-taught programmers and didn’t go to college. I’m not sure why you’re saying they don’t exist.

    2.  I worked at a small company, founded and run by a woman, with the software developer department almost entirely female… excepting the occasional student-hire who became the occasional student-fire or student-quit.
      And then we had a new man and a new woman get hired into the department at the same time, and both started complaining quietly about how much we were being paid for the work we were told to do. They pointed out what the regional industry standard pay rate was for software developers, and we sat down and put our heads together as a department and made some comparisons. We were being underpaid by somewhere to the tune of 30% to 50% the average in the area (depending on seniority and qualifications).
      Being a small company, you could excuse being lower than average, but that was a LOT lower than average… and the new-hire man was being paid more than the most senior and qualified woman in the department. Including the woman hired at the same time, who had more qualifications and experience than him.

      So Yeah.

      It took a lot of arguing to get management to even pay attention to the problem. I think when it was pointed out that the two immigrant women with families being the lowest paid was bad optics that they really took notice… Then it took management hiring a consultant to study the problem before they took action.

      It was a mess, and uncovered a lot of problems that I’d like to think came down to subconscious biases rather than coldly calculating what they could get away with.

        1. Sorry :) End of lunch, had to grab something from a co-worker.

          Raises were given out – not crazy good ones, but it put us back within screaming distance of the regional average. There was also a revision of the company benefits plan (again, not luxurious, but less miserly) that cascaded out to other departments – also heavily female dominated and frankly, underpaid. The company also hired a part-time HR person (for 4 days a month) instead of leaving the accountant with the job.

          I don’t think the situation ended up ideal, but it took making a stink to get things changed at all, and we weren’t emotionally prepared to make a stink up to that point. I won’t say “it took a man to give us the leadership to do it” because both of the new employees were instrumental in getting us moving, and I’d say the new woman was the leader, not the new man. But I do sort of wonder if it helped that he was there backing us up.

  2. One thing I recommend to all women everywhere, ask for more pay. During the interview, during yearly evaluations, ask for more pay. All they can do is say no.

    I have four sisters, three of them have great jobs with great pay. Why? They are bold strong women who do not apologize for trying to get as much compensation as possible. The fourth? She says she is too shy and embarrassed to ask for more pay.

    1. It’s true that often, women do better if they are simply willing to ask for more pay. However, it’s not that women are irrational or stupid when they feel afraid to negotiate. There have been studies showing that women are sometimes penalized for acting bold and unapologetic in negotiations, because it makes people view them as less likable, and therefore people are less willing to work with them. There are ways to minimize the risk of getting this penalty while still negotiating successfully. But women are right when they think that the risk exists. (See the book Women Don’t Ask for more details.)

      1.  Snow,

        THIS.  Exactly.  And let’s not forget the old saw that men have “a cock and two balls to support” versus women–especially single ones who dared to not take the whole “mom” path–are just being pushy and using the extra pay for mascara and stuff.

        It may not be that explicit, but when asking for raises in the past, I have explicitly been told that so-and-so’s work was being especially considered because they had a mortgage, etc (as opposed to me, for daring to live within my means).

        1. Dude… do not get me started on the number of times I’ve had to talk very sternly to Management about pay rates and consideration for hiring based solely on the assumption that the male candidate has a family to support and the female one did not. Working in manufacturing I’d say the single mom’s outnumbered the married dudes 3:1. 

          I’ve nearly quit on the spot when told I had to be the one to work OT because I didn’t have kids so I didn’t need to leave on time… ah, good times! :)

          1. I’ve nearly quit on the spot when told I had to be the one to work OT because I didn’t have kids so I didn’t need to leave on time…

            That’s a particular hazard for out gays and lesbians – the assumption that they don’t have families, and aren’t doing anything worthwhile in their spare time. *pfui*

          2. I ask the person responsible for an error or a crunch time project to work late but only when essential.  I catch three kinds of hell when it is a Mom with child care time restrictions that their husbands can’t cover.  As a parent I can respect that, but this is the reality of working in industry where some things can’t wait.  I have always made that clear in interviews.  But, if I ask a childless person, I get a lot of grousing, but it gets done.  Personally, my decisions for extra work are based on who needs to do the work, but I can understand managers who get tired of the grief from parents like myself.  Managers should focus on the work to be done, not on avoiding conflict.

          3.  F8ck me I’m glad I don’t work in an industry like that! The concept is shocking, but it’s hard to deny the truth, I guess I just thought that kind of thinking had died out. Oh well, I guess every industry has it’s holdovers from previous times. I do IT in schools and some teachers are horribly resistent to the concept of skills-based pay systems, where teachers who demonstrably teach students better get higher pay. The thing is, those methods of teaching can themselves be taught, they’re not inherent traits.

      2. Yes, sometimes women are penalized. That pretty much tells the whole story. If it’s sometimes, then it follows that most of the time they are not. It’s a risk to be sure. But, taking risks is what life is about. Rarely is success born from safety.
        Here is another lesson from all the kids out there. It’s OK to fail. It’s OK to take a risk and loose. The rewards for taking risks are usually pretty good. The reward for failure is wisdom.
        After all, there is no perilous adventure without peril.

        1.  Dude, did you read ANY of the other posts here?  Blackballing, gradual forceouts, and being stuck on junk projects are the penalties for daring to speak up for equal pay and treatment, not “wisdom” or other unicorn fartage.

        2.  That’s a really bobo comment on a population basis. If group A has a risk that group B doesn’t, and that risk leads to an additional 2% chance of job separation, after, say, 30 performance reviews you’re going to have about half the survival rate in group A.

        3.  I actually do think it’s true that the risk will often be worthwhile. I’m teaching myself to be less afraid of negotiating, to take the risk of asking for more, and I’d encourage other women to do the same. Not only do I think individual women will usually end up with better results that way, but I also think that it’s one way to start shifting the social dynamic so that things are better for all women.

          I just wanted to note that women are actually being rational in perceiving a risk, and anyone on the other side of a negotiation with a woman also has the responsibility to check their reactions. (Just like in the original post, it’s not just men who react negatively to women negotiating boldly — other women also react negatively. So when I say “anyone” I really do mean “anyone.”)

          This doesn’t mean “always give in to whatever a woman wants on account of she’s a woman” — it just means try to have some extra self-awareness, ask yourself (general you, not you personally) whether you’d be reacting the same way in a negotiation with a man, and try to give yourself an honest answer.

        4. “Here is another lesson from all the kids out there. It’s OK to fail. It’s OK to take a risk and loose. The rewards for taking risks are usually pretty good. The reward for failure is wisdom. After all, there is no perilous adventure without peril.”

          Yeah, I hate to break this to you Mr. Bold Adventurer, not everybody is in a position where if they fail they can just easily pick themselves back up and start over. In this economy far too many of us aren’t looking at earned wisdom for risk unless “wisdom” is some sort of odd euphamism for “homelessness”.

        5. After all, there is no perilous adventure without peril.

          One does not simply walk into the boss’s office.

    2. I hate the whole “be strong” trope, as if the women who are getting paid less are weak. So annoying.How about dont be sexist and pay fairly? 

      I’m a rather outspoken lady, and I always ask for what I want. But you can’t admonish people to behaviour otherly than what they’ve been raised and socialized and what our culture demands of them, thats absurd. 

      1. @facebook-1515015318:disqus Be strong is no trope. It’s good advice for anyone.
        I can’t change the world. I can’t make employers suddenly see the light. What I can do, is to support the women in my life to take risks and demand more from life. You can bash me all you want for being this way. Go ahead, be annoyed, blame the world, shoot down the men who support women who want more from life. Take a recommendation from a concerned party and call it admonishment if it makes you feel better.So, you go be annoyed, tell people how they are wrong, and try to change the world. I’ll be over here so I can keep working on making life better for those I love.

        1. Missy Pants wrote:

          “How about dont be sexist and pay fairly?”

          So other than telling us Shrinking Flowers to toughen up, what ARE you doing to “support women?”  Are you giving deserving femal co-workers support and actual good written reviews?  Including them in key projects?  Making sure that for single women with no kids, you are not making assumptions on their time commitments because they don’t have kids? 

          Or are you just patting yourself on the back?

        2. Go ahead, be annoyed, blame the world, shoot down the men who support women who want more from life.

          Convenient that your method of “supporting women” involves saddling women with the responsibility to overcome any discrimination against them while completely excusing yourself from having to do anything at all — except offer unsolicited advice of course.

        3. Your operating on the assumption that what works for you will work for someone else. But in the real world, people respond very differently when men and women exhibit the exact same behavior. And your attempt to make a woman feel like that’s her fault is creepy.

        4. “Go ahead, be annoyed, blame the world, shoot down the men who support women who want more from life.”

          It’s not all about you, snowflake.

    3. All they can do is say no.

      Or fire you “without cause” or blackball you wrt promotions or give you bad employee reviews or help to create a hostile work environment by talking about how you’re “bossy” or “strident” or the other words that are actually more likely to come up in this context.

      Also, cool story bro.

      1. Yeah. But in most cases, they will evaluate the request and make a decision. In fact, if someone actually has a reasoned argument for more money, they will get *something* from their employer.

        Also, cool ridiculous dismissal of a reasonable point, bro.

        1. The point was reasonable.  Trying to pass a family anecdote off as supporting data was not.  Besides that, I thought the point needed some counterbalance — the other side of women asking for money. You can read the comments at Sean Carroll’s blog and let me know if you think the scenarios I mentioned are actually all that implausible. Remember, employers have to factor in the expectation value of productivity losses due to possible pregnancies when hiring women.

          Sorry to offend your delicate sensibilities.  I’ll bring you a hanky next time.

      2. Wys,

        Exactly.  Been there, done that.  In my last executive job, I was stuck at the bottom 3% of my pay ladder.  Those who got raises were the ones who went out after work with the (married, lots of kids) boss who hated going home at night to his brood.

        Of course, the department eventually folded because it was run ass-backwards by this idiot.  In the interim, most of the qualified women were either forced out or left.

        1. Speaking of “cool story bro,” did any women hang out with the douchetastic boss? Did they get raises. I think we’re talking about a systemic issue of undervaluing employees based on gender, rather than specific examples of bad managers getting bad results.

      3.  “Bossy”!  Heh.

        Another B-word is what comes to mind.  As in – “That bitch! Thinks she deserves more money/to be treated fairly/to get promoted according to her work and not according to her gender. Bitch!!”

        1.  When my division got a female SVP, my boss pulled me aside and warned me that “women in those kinds of positions tend to be pretty bitchy!”. I was… not impressed. Same boss later referred to said SVP, after she turned down some of his plans, as “that… GIRL!”

  3. I’ve heard of some places’ recruiting processes that involve blanking out all indicators of gender, age, nationality, religion, and so on from CVs, before those actually assessing the candidates ever see them.

    Seems to me that results like this somewhat drive home the value of that sort of approach.

    1. It’s great to the extent you can do it – but it’s impossible to fully mask.  You can’t list your years of experience in a field without revealing hints about your age…

      Some fields of study have changed their name, schools have come and gone.  If you have a degree in field X from university Y, even obscuring the year it was granted can reveal not just what country you studied in, but a range of years as well.

    2. People actually put their religion on their CVs? Why bother applying in the first place–that’s just asking to be passed over!

      1. Not their religion per se, but if you went to Brigham Young University, Notre Dame University, or Southern Methodist University, for instance, it is an indicator. People also put volunteer activities sometimes. “President, Lutheran Women’s Civic League” is a clue that the person is (a) leadership material, (b) a Lutheran, and (c) a woman.

    3. Read about a similar study a few years ago. Control variable in that case was “regular” vs “black-sounding” names. Jane vs Yolanda etc

  4. I’ve witnessed this personally, and it is a difficult phenomenon to explain (aside from the obvious gender bias). But what is behind it and how to stop it? That is truly, truly important…for both genders really…but primarily for the gender that is getting the short end of the stick.

    And no, it definitely is not as simple as women needing to be more assertive when asking for money.  That would backfire at least as often as it would succeed.

  5. This is very worrisome news.  I’ve run a research group that included more women than men including three of my five PhDs.  That is not a lot of experience compared to others, but it did give me the insight that managers own a lot of the responsibility for gender equity in the workplace.

    I would advise women scientists to interview their potential manager with an eye to understanding their views on mentoring and standing up for their employees.  These are an employee’s best defense against latent biases in a system (IMHO).  I personally think bringing up gender equity in an interview is a red flag especially when the manager values competence above all else.

  6. People do know what is allowed on job forms and even if in private their real reasons for not selecting a candidate are discriminatory, they will not admit those reasons on any kind of official documentation. 

    I have had a couple of direct experiences where job candidates were rejected for discriminatory reasons, and neither time did the hiring manager explain their reasons truthfully on the official forms.
    The first time was at a software company. We interviewed a deaf man for the position of technical writer. He was well qualified, but my boss (who made the hiring decision) told me he was extremely uncomfortable trying to communicate with the candidate. On the form that the company read my boss wrote that the candidate was not qualified.

    The second time I worked with an engineering company. My boss at that job was a handsome man, a real dandy dresser who is probably the only man I’ve known who could wear diamonds and not look stupid. He was fixated on looks and his preschool age daughter worked as a model. I interviewed a woman who was quite fat for a technical writing job and recommended her; he discounted her because she would “have a hard time running around the office,” even though the extent of physical labor involved was getting up to pick up some papers off the printer. I was forced to lie to the agency that was selecting candidates for us that the fat lady was not qualified. 

    1. It is hard to know if that was gender discrimination. Would he have done the same thing to an obese man?

      Being obese, afaik, doesn’t make you part of a protected class unless it is accompanied with a disability except in Michigan and a handful of cities in the US (San Francisco, where I live, is one of them).

      1.  It doesn’t matter if obesity is a protected class or not, from the companies point of view, if a good candidate was excluded because someone in middle or lower management has a bias about something that doesn’t actually impact on their ability to work.

        The net result is turning away the person who might have been the perfect candidate.

        I’m quite against the “companies are persons” meme but that kind of prejudice (legal or no) is against the company’s own “self interest”.

    2. This is always a problem for workers. If someone is unscrupulous enough to discriminate, they’re unscrupulous enough to lie on paper. Hopefully those individuals eventually get overheard and ousted (I know, fat chance); the problem of subconscious stereotypes like in this article is even harder to root out.

      1. Exactly my point – people know what is acceptable to say in an official capacity and what is not. They may admit in a conversation to coworkers or friends the real reason they think someone is worth less or they do not want to work with them, but they will not say it to the HR department or to the person conducting a study on discrimination.

  7. I wonder to what degree this holds true for other countries?

    Some other countries, such as the Scandinavian countries, have a (slightly) smaller pay gap, and more women in high positions (as well as a longer history of powerful women than the US and a lack of the “wallflower” ideal of womanhood that was pushed in the US after WWII)

    So I truly wonder whether this holds true here, and if it does then whether the difference is as large. More than half of the well educated and well paid people I know are women, so the idea of competence irrespective of gender hopefully has some traction here, and men take paternity leave on a regular basis (although shorter than the maternity leave) and that is really expected of men. Hopefully that’s one step in creating proper equality!

    1. I would be very surprised if it wasn’t true here, too. (Well, I’m not from a Scandinavian but a Nordic country, but as it’s all the same to you there on the other side of the big pond…).

      I do think there is less of it, as it isn’t assumed that a woman will leave the job as soon as she gets pregnant. But… even for that it is still there, as it’s most often the woman who takes the parental leave and possibly extends it with home care leave (meaning, the woman is in essense 3 years away from work… or more, if she has more kids during that time). I do think there would be less discrimination if both parents took equal amount of time off (I and my husband did), but it would still not negate the kind of discrimination described in the article. What there is less of around here is the assumption that it’s the man who is supporting the family, although there is an assumption that the man is earning more.

      So… perhaps less, but still there.

  8. A clarification – the post opens by quoting the “77 cents to every dollar” statistic for all men/women without any correction for other factors.  It then acknowledges those factors, but says ” numerous studies have shown that the disparity still exists even after you’ve controlled for all those factors.”

    To be clear, _a_ disparity still exists, but it’s more on the order of 97 cents to the dollar once those other factors are accounted for.

    For some reason, in these conversations, it’s always the “77 cents on the dollar” figure that gets quoted and remembered, and the “other factors” are often waved away by saying things like “even so, the disparity still exists”, without further detailed analysis of just how large the remaining disparity really is.

    NB: I am not in any way suggesting that sexist discrimination is not still a factor.  It most certainly is.   But it deserves a closer analysis than just a single OMG-soundbite number.

      1. From Wikipedia:

        A study commissioned by the United States Department of Labor, prepared by Consad Research Corp, asserts “There are observable differences in the attributes of men and women that account for most of the wage gap. Statistical analysis that includes those variables has produced results that collectively account for between 65.1 and 76.4 percent of a raw gender wage gap of 20.4 percent, and thereby leave an adjusted gender wage gap that is between 4.8 and 7.1 percent.”

        So the adjusted pay gap would be $0.92-$0.95. Still nothing to sneeze at, but not anywhere near the widely quoted $0.77 figure.

        1. That’s a 2009 study on 2007 data across a sample of 150k workers. Seems to be rationally assembled, if a bit assertively positioned in the foreword.

          Are there any corroborative studies?

          1. US States Congress Joint Economic Committee – Invest in Women, Invest in America:

            After accounting for observable differences between men and women (including education, experience, and occupation), that gap narrows to 93 cents on the dollar. The remaining 7 cent pay gap may be attributable to discriminatory practices.

            There are a few others, but they are based on older data.

          2. “including education, experience, and occupation”
            But that last part, occupation… how do you compare one occupation against another? “Women’s” occupations tend to pay less than “men’s” ones, but how do you compare? (Education? Responsibility for lives?…) Or is it seen as non-discriminatory if a man in a low-paying “woman’s” job is payed the same as a woman?

            The wording in that report is rather… sexist. I get what they are trying to say, but the way they say it… On page 6 they go to great lengths do secribe how a woman’s paycheck is important, too. In many families even the only paycheck! (Oh, my goodness!) And on page 8:
            “In addition to demographic changes favoring traditionally-female occupations, women’s educational attainment means that millions of women are in a position to contribute meaningfully to the economy of the future.” Aww… shucks! Isn’t that nice of them to acknowledge that we can even sometimes contribute to the economy… well, in the future at least!

          3. If a pay negotiation disparity exists, would that count as an “observable difference” or as a “discriminatory practice”?

  9. Yurkiewicz’ full post is a must-read, and offers some solutions.

    I was really excited about reading that part…but then couldn’t find it.  At best there was “solution” singular, which was the more people who read the study and came to believe that they could be unconsciously sexist, the more likely they would be to self-correct when making hiring decisions.  Which is great, but not exactly something I couldn’t figure out on my own.

  10. Not to stray from the article too much, but isn’t the most appalling thing about this that, male or female, a lab manager’s starting salary is about the same as that of a cellphone salesperson (including commissions, of course)?

  11. My wife is in HR and did R & D hiring for a energy company and she was so discouraged by the fact that women rarely negotiate over wages upon being hired and men always do.  She said that this was a big reason men were making so much more than women at her work.  Men always negotiated higher pay.  Say always says that women need to be better negotiators.

    1. That’s apparently not enough :(  There have been studies that have found that when two candidates use the exact same script for negotiating a higher salary or for a raise, the male candidate will get it and be judge competent and worthy, the female candidate will not get it and will be perceived as incompetent, overly aggressive, and not a team player. Perhaps the reason women do not negotiate or advocate more for themselves is that they are aware that they will be “punished” for doing so.

  12. I cannot find a reference to this right now, but, I recall a study done maybe 5 years ago showing that people just took for granted women with advanced degrees, or who spoke several languages, or who had specialized certifications, etc. Even something as simple as being a notary, people viewed that as ‘just normal’ for a woman, and nothing special. But, if a man had the same qualifications, he was considered extraordinary and given more pay and higher rank for it.

  13. Where I work, men and women are paid equally if they have the same experience. How do I know? Because I’m in a union. We are paid based on years of service not at the discretion of the employer. We all get raises at the same time, based on our contract. Same holds true for people of color, people with disabilities and LGBT folk. Yes, I’ve seen men getting jobs that women deserved, and that sucks, but once in jobs women and men are paid equally.

    Of course, I’m paid about $20k under industry norm, but I choose to work to make things better for my community not just for some corporate bottom line.

  14. Another good excuse is that the kind of work the women are doing isn’t “important”. Within every field there are some subfields that are perceived as macho, and some that are perceived as wimpy. And it’s easy, given a few preconceptions, to convince yourself that any particular body of work belongs to one kind or the other.

  15. This just goes to show that we all have innate biases.  I can’t imagine the women in the study openly declaring they are in favor of rating men more highly, yet that is exactly what happened.  Curious.

  16. The wage gap is a myth. The average man makes .25 more than the average woman, but also works 8.15 hours to the 7.8 hour a day of the average woman. You can’t just discard that part of the equation. Adjusting for the time, the pays equal.

    Read Carrie Lukas’ post from April of this year on

    1. Whoa Dude — you are overlooking some really basic things about women’s lives as it pertains to work at the job/JOB as well as in the home. Women work as many hours as men in the workplace, and then come home and do more than 50% of the house related chores, childcare, etc. — except with the extra bonus that this work is unpaid, and not even perceived or valued as work by their (male) spouse (dynamics in same sex households are less documented). Don’t believe me — have a look here:

      You are dreaming if you believe that the world is now an egalitarian utopia where men and women are paid the same, and do the same amount of work within the home, not to mention other unpaid work like volunteer positions. And don’t even get me started on how race pertains to the fiction that everyone is paid the same…

      1. You might wanna read that study over. The conclusion is actually fairly clear.
        You’re stating that women do equal work (i.e. career, paid work) and then do more unpaid work (i.e. domestics). The paper actually states:

        In all countries, women do more of [unpaid] work than men, although to some degree balanced – by an amount varying across countries – by the fact that they do less market work.


        The study does not support your conclusion. While women do more housework, they do less market work. That ultimately the work loads are fairly balanced. The point of this paper is that gross domestic product is not a good indicator of actual work. It has nothing to do with an inequality. The paper even says:

        The consideration of unpaid work for relative inequality and for inequality over time is not directly addressed in this paper

        1. I am not sure how this paper can conclude that women who work the same amount of hours (as their spouse or partner) in a paid position (ie job outside of the home), who then do many hours of unpaid work in the household to keep the household functioning  — that their spouse or partner does not do an equal amount of — is a situation that is somehow “balanced”.

          Do you feel that Forbes is a particularly good representative of feminist thought or research ?

          1. “I am not sure how this paper can conclude that women who work the same amount of hours (as their spouse or partner) in a paid position (ie job outside of the home)…”

            The paper never says that. At no point does it say they do equal work at an outside job, it actually says they do less. 

            They do more domestic work, with some statistical variation close enough to qualify as a scientific ‘balanced’, and then do less wage earning.

            The New York Time’s article does exactly what I was addressing with my first post, for science, you’re not allowed to throw out part of an equation and then be surprised when it doesn’t add up.

            “Do you feel that Forbes is a particularly good representative of feminist thought or research ?”

            Much like the article you provided, the Forbes article is a gateway to the information. I looked at what Carrie was saying and then looked at the data she was referring to. Unlike the Times, I feel the conclusion is representative of the data given. The averages generated in the census data is not same job, same position, same hours. It’s just add up all paychecks and divide. 
            Beating a dead horse, to be sure, but you can NOT discount the hours work discrepancy and expect the wage discrepancy to make sense.

            Those wage figures are not controlling for anything. Just by adding hours worked to the equation they even out. But let’s say you don’t buy that. Let’s say, for whatever reason, you are staunch in your stance that the hours worked must be 50/50.

            US Bearau of Labor and Statistics.

            Flip forward to Page 10. Of the 4,609 workplace fatalities that occurred in the most recent study, 92% were Men and 8% were Women. The more dangerous jobs are, predominantly, staffed by men.

            Dangerous jobs pay more money. They have to. Because if they didn’t, no one would do them.

            So that wage data, remember, isn’t controlling for anything including relative risk of job. So if riskier jobs pay more, wouldn’t the gender who occupy those positions make more?

            Now bear in mind, I’m not saying the hours worked by men and women are equal. I’ve seen nothing to back that up. However if you choose to believe that, hopefully you can see that there can be other reasons why there’d be a discrepancy OTHER than discrimination.

          2. Being a physician or lawyer pays more per hour than being a roofer, firefighter or miner. Your conclusion that riskier jobs pay more is…ummm…not well substantiated.

            Tattoo artists charge $150.00 or more per hour, for a job that has no professional requirements for specific education or training. What do you feel the risk or danger involved in their profession is ? 

            You are twisting in circles to deny the existence of gender and race based discrimination with regards to equal pay for equal work. How can a workplace be equal and discrimination absent — if there are some people who are deemed to be worth less for the same work — that is if they can be hired at all ?

    2. The fact that a wage gap exists even when hours worked is controlled for (along with experience, etc) is mentioned pretty early in the post.

      1. I did see her state ‘numerous studies’ but… I’ve never seen them. The wage difference is undisputed and the time difference is undisputed. Controlling for those two alone balances the equation. I’d love to see a peer reviewed paper controlling for more variables. I’ve just never seen them and don’t know what they say. I don’t take these things a face value.

        I mean, if you didn’t read the paper orangedesperado presented you’d think it supported their case.

        I hate to be so negative, but the article from this post is exuberant in ‘shove this in their face’… and I’m reading it and, it’s not a blinded study. It’s a sample size of 14 women.

        Even the researchers refer to it as a ‘subtle’ bias. A subtle bias, on a small unblinded sample. It’s interesting, but that’s about it.

        1. I have seen the studies that showed it, even with correlations to experience etc….one fairly recently, even, but I didn’t bookmark it.  I believe it was connected to women in IT or engineering, (but I’m pretty sure it was IT) if you want to go poking around for it. 

  17. This is why I like to do work where my impact is measurable in a fairly objective way. However someone feels about you, that is separate from the job you are doing.

  18. Q: So how do you deal with subconscious sexism?
    A: With barely controlled rage covered by a polite face and Facts. 
    I worked in IT (help desk, tech support, programming, QA, tech writing, training, etc) after quitting a civil service job and going back to school.
    It was a new world. In civil service, the was a union, and the government made it very clear how to advance (tests!) and what your pay would be (bonuses to vets). In the private sector, I learned quickly that for me, temp work was the way to go, because otherwise I wouldn’t get hired because A) an older woman in tech? No such thing in the early 90s! B) a confident and competant woman? No, an arrogant bitch. C) No fixed pay scale, and I suck at negotiation. I know I can’t bargain, I know I suck at sales; that means I got base pat rates unless someone actually looked at my resume closely. 
    Unfair? Of course. And the subtle discrimination received as a woman in IT was always present (“Where’s the tech guy? You? Are you sure?” was a common comment when I showed up in an office. As a temp, I saw the stupid hiring decisions, outright hostility to anyone who was not obviously white, male, and heterosexual, 
    I ended up explaining (a lot!) that some women could do math, science, and repair work as well as some men. Y’know, like some *people* are better at math, and some *people* are better at art. Not a male/female or white/PoC thing, just Fact.

Comments are closed.