Crossroads of Civilization
Sep 26th, 2010 by H. M. Stuart
H.R. 12: Paycheck Fairness Act
S. 182: Paycheck Fairness Act
A bit of each?
Something other than either?
Is this anything?
H. M. Stuart
Tags: earnings, income, Paycheck Fairness Act, Politics, women
Posted in Culture
Okay, here I go…
Someone needs to convince me that wage disparity exists and that it’s because of sexism. I’m willing to believe that overall by the end of their lifetimes women take home less money than men. And that women may have difficulty pursuing careers in male heavy industries, and they may not receive promotions as readily or break the glass ceiling, but that’s not the same thing as saying, “…many women continue to earn significantly lower pay than men for equal work.”
I do see that women often choose their families over their jobs in small and large ways that might affect their incomes and future employment. But I’m really tired of hearing the “lifetime comparison,” which is where I think this Fairness Act is really coming from even if it doesn’t state it explicitly. Why is it always women-with-children versus men? What about women-with-children versus women-without-children? If you take off 2 to 5 years, or even 2 months, to spend time with your kids, why on earth should you still receive equal pay as me, who has continued to gain experience and provide valuable service to my employer during that time?
If a man took off a few years to be a house husband would you expect him to receive promotions at the same rate as other men? I don’t think so. It looks like women are being “punished” for having children in ways that men are not, but that’s because not as many men quit their jobs. BECAUSE MEN DON’T PUSH HUMAN BEINGS OUT THEIR VAGINAS. They don’t need two months off. I guess it’s unfair in the cosmic sense, but it’s also unfair to expect to receive the same reward (money / promotions / recommendations) as the people (men and women) who didn’t stop working to could indulge in the the joys and challenges of parenthood.
I’m particularly bitter this week as I’ve had to sub extra hours for a co-worker who had a baby. A man actually, but that supports my point. The more time he takes off and the more I have to sub for him, then the more money I make. AS I SHOULD. Of course I’d rather just have to do my own job instead of someone else’s, but I can’t even complain about it or I’m the bitch.
I think that was a rant. Thank you. Good Day.
I once read that some men were complaining that it is unfair for women to get maternity leave when men don’t. Sara has already given an appropriate graphic response to that. I would favor gender-neutral language to provide that any man or woman who is carrying a pregnancy can qualify for pregnancy leave. I don’t expect any men to apply, but that’s not because they are men, that’s because they are not carrying a pregnancy in their nonexistent uterus.
AFTER a baby is born, I think it is quite appropriate that both a father and a mother qualify for family leave – preferably taking turns to maximize the time baby has one or both parents available to bond with.
I would like to see intense pressure to “put the company first” eliminated from our culture. I’m not sure that can be legislated. If it could be, I would be for it. NEITHER gender should be unduly penalized for future advancement because they took time off for their family. On the other hand, promotion may come a year or two later, because there does need to be work performance and accomplishment to evaluate. Family leave doesn’t cancel that.
That was a good rant, Sara.
This issue has been a vast playground for the use of statistics to tug at the emotional strings of every ideological and economic group impacted by wages. It should surprise no one that it has been spun so many times in so many ways that the basic, rational facts are useless as rebuttals.
1) Women are absent from their jobs for pregnancy and childbirth. Men are not. The Family Medical Leave Act made it possible for men to share those periods in a woman’s life, but nothing can replace the physical facts of pregnancy and childbirth. The most important equity issue there was the statute that requires employers to give the returning woman first priority in returning to active employment with that employer, instead of the previously prevailing practice of just cutting such women loose and filling their positions as quickly as possible. Women having children acquired a choice they did not have before.
2) Until the last two generations, higher education simply promoted men over women. This fact is going away, more and more. Women currently in the workforce may not like their restricted choices, but their sisters coming up will have them, in increasing proportions. The only valid change in this is gradual change. One cannot take a 45-year-old woman with a bachelor’s degree and suddenly make her a PhD. This generation of women is getting a “soft” benefit, their work experience is gaining more equity with men’s work experience, and they are increasingly able to compete for jobs on that basis.
3) Sexism is embedded in human nature. This fact is the one most often shouted down. It’s only remedy is socialization. I leave it to the reader to explore that dynamic, and to understand the very long precedent of social attitudes changing not one whit because a law is passed, the most prominent example being Brown v Board of Ed. and the need for armed troops so children of color could attend a public school. We’ve come a very long way from there, but the passage of time is the biggest reason of all.
Legislation can be an effective tool for change. It just cannot be expected to effect change just for its mere passage. We are social creatures every day. We are legal creatures only when we can’t avoid it.
Thank you Franklin,
You sound more reasonable at 8 am than I sound at 1 am.
1. “The most important equity issue there was the statute that requires employers to give the returning woman first priority in returning to active employment with that employer…”
Yes, and that was an important good thing. And a very specific item which could be legislated. We can keep women from losing their jobs, which I’m glad for. But we can’t keep them from the other “consequences” of not working for a period of time. We can’t make up a negative. Being free to make choices means making choices, not having it all.
2. The only valid change in this is gradual change.
Exactly. It’s not that I live in a fantasy world where there is no sexism. I work with roadies for pete’s sake. I just think positive change is inevitable at this point and each generation of women will have more options and choices than the ones before. If we’re going to legislate it needs to be about very specific situations.
3. Sexism is embedded in human nature. This fact is the one most often shouted down…It’s only remedy is socialization.
Mmm…can’t agree with that one. I’m more inclined to think sexism is created by socialization. Either way, the process of socializing ourselves out of sexism will be a gradual process.
I’m more inclined to think sexism is created by socialization.
This is definitely an arguable point from both sides.
I take the starting point of gender as the first definition. I look at the exceptions (I see myself as one of them) and I believe it begs the question: Are variations due to nature — the individual is born with “something” that causes or facilitates the difference — or are they learned?
I maintain that my exceptional position is due in very large part to having three sisters, two of them older, and a mother who never considered gender in any case as a reason or an excuse. Parenting is a good example: I was raised to believe that a man can do everything for a baby a woman can do except give birth and lactate. We may never know if my nature made it possible for me to believe that, or if my upbringing was sufficient to override my nature (I don’t have a twin). All I know is that up to the point where they had the cognitive wherewithal to know the differences (semantic/abstract), all three of my children called me “Mommy” enough times to validate my belief.
The more general point comes down to whether or not society is going to fight, facilitate or just be passive around changes. My personal view is that “fight” is by far the most likely response to change.
Bah. I earn a lot less than a lot of people in my field because it’s a startup and I’ve been around since forever. They’ve come to rely on my tolerance for a mediocre wage for immense amounts of work. The same goes for all of the non-designer hires I work with, male and female.
My other employment experience also leads me to believe I was either given A) what the work was worth or B) less because of non-gender-related reasons.
My personal experience allows me to neither confirm nor deny allegations of unfairness. It also does not find me well read enough on the topics of wage and gender to give a proper objective commentary on the necessity (or lack thereof) of such a law. Just being female does not, I feel, entitle me to speak on behalf of everyone who shares similar genitalia and hormone patterns.
I will say that those who take time for their families should be neither punished nor rewarded for doing so. The Family Medical Leave Act should cover that just fine, if I understand its basic functions correctly.
I like what Sara says about having children being unfair in a cosmic sense – yes it does sort of suck that if you want to bear children you’ll almost certainly have to sacrifice some or all of your working life. However, with many resources available, including the support of one’s significant other (who should be as “on the hook” for care as the child’s vessel into the world… see the It Takes Two or a Turkey Baster to Tango rule), women who want to work will probably be able to find some way of achieving balance. A woman unable to find suitable work/childrearing arrangements is unfortunate, but it’s not the job of the state to correct that.
An elective mother’s net gains may be less over a lifetime as a result of breaks in employment due to pregnancy, but that’s to be expected and it isn’t a punishment, simply a fact. If you take time off above and beyond what your PTO or benefits cover, you will make less money as a result. Period.
Mind you, I’m assuming this unpaid leave of absence is WHY there may still be wage disparity. I’d like to think there are very few places in the western world where wimmins ain’t worth payin’.
I suppose in cases where that may be true it’s helpful to know there’s a way to deal with it legally, but at the same time how do you prove it? You’d have to have a man of equal stature within the organization, with equal qualifications, who receives more pay as a point of comparison. It seems a law ripe for abuse if there’s any significant amount room for interpretation on what isn’t “fair”. Or it’s a complete waste of the courts’ time in analyzing that no, Virginia, you aren’t worth as much as you think you are because of X,Y and Z legitimate professional factors.
Furthermore… grants for negotiation training for girls/women? Summits? Awards for crying out loud? Training material to be disseminated to small businesses? It seems like pushing the envelope from ensuring that we’re equal before the law into “here honey let me fix that for you” territory. I don’t know of any special men’s club where they tech y’all how to negotiate for better pay. Nor do I see anybody getting patted on the back for making sure you get your fair cut. Neither do I see any kind of special training material for how to make sure you’re well taken care of by your company. It’s $15,000,000 (bottom of S. 182) of special treatment things… and a few provisions for redressing instances of genuine imbalance (once again, assuming you can prove it). All in all, it smacks of BS. The kind of BS we all need to grow up and set aside.
Can’t we just all agree that if you’re suited for the work, and you show up and do the work, you’ll get paid well for it?
I don’t know of any special men’s club where they tech y’all how to negotiate for better pay.
That would be the Old Boy’s Club. I’m not joking actually. This discussion has come up many times amongst my professional friends. Men sometimes help out younger people professionally – they mentor. And often they mentor other men. Not because of a dislike of women, but in an uncle kind of way – looking out for you, giving advice, etc.
I have never had a more accomplished woman take any interest in my professional career, and my women friends say the same thing. Somehow we grew up this idea that women were going to help each other out in small ways. The reality was that older women ignored us. Sort of a sink-or-swim-like-I-did mentality. I believe not having any connection with older women in my field did keep me from doing as well as I could have starting out. (I should note there have been older gay men who have advised me and taken an interest, but that doesn’t get women off the hook.)
So we make a special effort to help out women who are younger than us (intern superstars, friends of friends, relatives). We keep an ear to the ground for job opportunities for our young friends, collect and pass on their resumes, invite them to work social functions, etc.
That is an advantage some men have today, but it’s not one that can be legislated. It’s one women must take on themselves.
Ah yeah the Old Boy’s Club. I’ve heard of it, not so sure I believe in it though. Or, well… I don’t know that it’s so universal a practice among males that it’s worth making it a generality. But the fact that we could even suggest it, as a proper noun no less, strikes me as social dysfunction between men and women, and women and women.
There have been two women who actually did their best to give me support and guidance towards better success. And a few males who, though lacking in worthwhile advice, were helpful/supportive. They were all really exceptional people on the whole, though. (In fact to this day I regret not jumping on Catherine’s offer of assistance, but I am nothing if not terrified of being held to real corporate standards and loath to commute.) I have ALSO known a few women who were actively sneaky, self-involved, and highly difficult and controlling. They were perhaps worse than the men who were of the same character because as females they would play the bullshit sisterhood card if and when it suited them, or break into catty superficial behavior much more readily.
It’s been an inconvenience more than anything, because I really just do not have the time for such reindeer games.
Still, I do my damndest to be helpful to everyone I work with, and my friends/family. My ability to provide advice and assistance to those of my gender, particularly of the younger generation, is hampered by not really knowing any. I’m the oldest of a set of four siblings, and the rest are all male. My cousins were too far away or my age already (and frankly more successful in a corporate sense), and I never managed to have many girl friends. Maybe I’m out of touch with my gender or whateverthefuck, but I’d really rather just have a general, HUMAN philosophy of gratitude and helpfulness than a females-first-just-because-I-am-one attitude.
Ah yeah the Old Boy’s Club. I’ve heard of it, not so sure I believe in it though.
I suggest that it’s lack of exposure, for you.
Active (if never examined in this light) discrimination has long been a fact of life in the working world. My personal POV is that women were not necessarily targeted for their gender as they just ran into an existing situation and were treated as another group of outsiders.
Men found ways to discriminate against other men. Being a man was a slim advantage because a man could break through the discrimination eventually. Because gender was such an obvious and easy criterion for discrimination, women couldn’t break through at all (for a very long time).
It’s part and parcel of the “she’s like a man” syndrome. I’ll leave that catch-22 for another day and thread. :-)
Yeah, I suppose you’re right. I’m grateful that I either haven’t run into, or have been able to go through life blissfully unaware of, an Old Boy’s Club situation. Truthfully I’d just sort of assumed that sort of behavior only occurred at higher income levels, where camaraderie may be less of a necessity and more of a tool for leverage. Although exclusionary behavior happens at all levels of the pecking order, for sure. Old Boy’s Club always evoked a sort of bitchy, affluent image of old guys in suits with cigars telling the young pups in vague parables how this mean old world works.
Gender roles and the subsequent misunderstandings they engender (HA HA! uh…), e.g. “she’s like a man”, is not a fun subject. Mostly because the most common ones aren’t terribly generous to anyone.
“Can’t we just all agree that if you’re suited for the work, and you show up and do the work, you’ll get paid well for it?”
Ha! You’ll get paid as little as they can get away with! We should legislate against personism.
Eeech, you got me there.
I need to stop posting A) early in the morning and B) at work. I just re-read this and I am SUCH an asshole… probably more so than if I’d taken real time to think about this.
“I’m more inclined to think sexism is created by socialization.” Since we will never be able to raise kids in perfect lab conditions WITHOUT socialization, what difference does that make?
But in real life, women lose out in the paid work force because they have domestic obligations that their husbands, if any, mostly don’t share, AND they tend to take on those obligations at least partly because the “opportunity costs” of doing so are less for them than for their husbands. Which is to say, they are discriminated against at work because they are discriminated against at home AND VICE VERSA. This sounds like a con game to me. Or at any rate, it suggests strongly that we are discriminated against BOTH at home and at work because we belong to a lower caste than our menfolk.
But aside from that, the Act misses out on something I would have loved to see after the Ledbetter case, namely a requirement that no employer can raise a timeliness defense against such complaints unless they have made the salaries of all their employees known to every employee. That would have enabled a LOT more people to find out about wage discrimination, not only for gender but for race, disability, age, and so on and on and on.
It doesn’t really. Except it sounds more possible to socialize our way out of a problem created by society than to socialize our way out of a problem that is inherent to human nature. I did say, “Either way, the process of socializing ourselves out of sexism will be a gradual process.”
But in real life, women lose out in the paid work force because they have domestic obligations that their husbands…sounds like a con game to me.”
But how is that the government’s job to solve? We’re supposed to legislate our way into fair relationships? And it’s not 1850, if a woman is unhappy with her marriage, she has options.
I just read the first line: “To amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes.”
More effective remedies to victims of discrimination…. that sounds good to me! Now, will the amended Act be truly effective? Even if I read the whole bill, I might not know without asking questions of experts.
But to answer your question, “Is this anything?” I say, “Yeah, it sounds pretty cool!”
(And btw, boys, it could help your fathers, or even you, if you’re in a traditionally female field and your pay is/was lagging. It doesn’t happen very often, but in the past, it has happened to male nurses.)
if you’re in a traditionally female field and your pay is/was lagging. It doesn’t happen very often, but in the past, it has happened to male nurses
And male prostitutes.
“Equal pay for equal ‘jobs’ – even hors d’eserve* it.”
*Now that’s what I call an amuse-bouche - The Vlasic Pickle Stork After Dark.
“But in real life, women lose out in the paid work force because they have domestic obligations that their husbands…sounds like a con game to me.”
“But how is that the government’s job to solve?”
Oh, I guess for the same reason it was the government’s job to solve racial discrimination? Because underuse of the talents of such a large portion of our population is a loss to all of us?
“…many women continue to earn significantly lower pay than men for equal work.”
THAT is such a loaded statement.
For instance, in ALL Civil Service jobs ALL people are paid the same at the start. After that, promotions and special details impact earnings….and yes, time away from the workforce dramatically impacts that.
In the private sector that same dynamic is at work.
My wife’s an accountant, one step below partner in a large public accounting firm. She does very well. We divide up the labors at home well. I am an excellent cook (learned over many years in various firehouses)…I also do virtually all of the maintainance work on the house (at least all within reason and my capabilities). During her busiest times she often leaves early and gets home very late, while I’m often working 2, 3 and sometimes 4 24-hour shifts in a given week, so I try to make sure she “has provisions” (foodstuffs).
She’s known a number of women she’s worked with who “couldn’t take” assignments overseas or across the country, but those families would often sacrifice to allow the husband to do that.
THAT person is going to get “more credit” they’re going to move up faster and ultimately earn more money…but such one-sided views discount that guy’s sacrifice and highlights “the sacrifice” of the partner afforded the luxury of staying in the home they’ve made.
Numerous studies have shown the demonstrable pay gap between women who stay in the working world versus those who don’t, which is why minority women, on average, tend to out-earn white women over the course of their worklives.
For a more in depth look at this, see Warren Farrell’s great book, “Why Men Earn More”: http://www.amazon.com/Why-Men-Earn-More-Startling/dp/0814472109/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1285734124&sr=1-1
“If you take off 2 to 5 years, or even 2 months, to spend time with your kids, why on earth should you still receive equal pay as me, who has continued to gain experience and provide valuable service to my employer during that time?” (saratoday)
That is very true.
A worker who, at 45 y/o, has spent 23 years in the field IS going to be worth more than the one who’s spent 16 or 19 years in the field.
A plan that compensates people who’ve left the workforce for their time away from work (by maintaining their compensation on pace with someone who worked the number of years they were out) penalizes those (male and female) who don’t take time away from work!
“NEITHER gender should be unduly penalized for future advancement because they took time off for their family. On the other hand, promotion may come a year or two later, because there does need to be work performance and accomplishment to evaluate. Family leave doesn’t cancel that.” (Siarlys Jenkins)
“Unduly” is the operative word.
A worker who works 15 years over a 20 year period should be paid, on average that of a fifteen year worker NOT a 20 year worker…UNLESS they’re in a field where their skills are “time sensitive” (like accounting, medicine or any field where new techniques can change the workplace dramatically)…in such instances, it’s incumbent on the lapsed worker to maintain their skill level to maintain even their fifteen year average.
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