Monday, November 16, 2009

Gender Pay Gap

Paycheck The New York Times' Economix (they seem to be having workplace day today) has a post on pay inequities between men and women.  The post discusses data from a salary-tracking company (PayScale), so the findings aren't scientific, however they are interesting.  The bottom-line is that the study could explain away most pay disparities in jobs earning under a $100,000 a year by factoring in various factors such as education, location, experience, and many others.  But above the $100,000 line, those factors couldn't explain away as much of the gap:

So what is so magical about crossing the $100,000 salary mark that allows men to earn so much more than equally qualified women?

Surely everyone will have a pet theory. [PayScale's Al] Lee, for his part, suggested that higher-paid jobs often have less concrete or quantifiable measures of productivity and duties.

After controlling for outside factors, some of the biggest gender pay gaps are in jobs like chief executive (in which, after PayScale adjusted the data, women earn 71 percent of what men earn), hospital administrator (women earn 77 percent of what equally qualified men earn) and chief operating officer (women earn 80 percent of what equally qualified men earn).

In each of these jobs, performance quality is a relatively subjective measure. Compare those jobs to positions like engineers, actuaries or electricians, where the criteria for a job well done might be relatively more concrete or measurable — and where the salaries earned by men and women are roughly equal.

In other words, theorizes Mr. Lee, jobs in which quality is easier to measure are more likely to be compensated based on merit, so equally qualified men and women are likely to receive equal pay. On the other hand, in jobs where quality measures are more subjective, meritocracy may not rule, and men may be better compensated for reasons other than their qualifications. For example, perhaps men are subconsciously viewed as more competent than women, or are more adept at negotiating for raises.

Not a definitive study to be sure (as the Economix notes with further detail), but it certainly raises some interesting questions.

-JH

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