Friday, September 26, 2008

The wages of sexism

This is interesting:

Organizational psychologists Timothy Judge and Beth Livingston found that men who reported holding traditional views (that is, that women belong in the home, while men earn the money) earned on average $11,930 more annually for doing the same kind of work as men who held more egalitarian views. The reverse was true for women, to a much smaller degree. Female workers with more egalitarian views (that men and women should evenly divide the tasks at home and contribute equally to their shared finances) earned $1,052 more than women who did similar jobs but held more traditional views.

The effect was starkest, however, when researchers compared women's salaries to those of men, while also taking into account their gender-role biases. Men with traditional attitudes not only earned more than other men with egalitarian attitudes, but their annual salary was $14,404 greater than women with traditional attitudes, and $13,352 greater than women with egalitarian attitudes. Put differently, men with traditional attitudes made 71% more than women with traditional attitudes, while egalitarian-minded men made just 7% more than their female counterparts.

And here, to me, is the really interesting passage:

"What really surprised us was the magnitude of the difference," says Judge. "We suspected that 'traditional' gender-role attitudes would work against women. What surprised us was the degree to which that effect held, even when you start controlling for a variable that you think would make the effect go away, like how many kids you have, or how many hours you work outside the home, what type of occupation." When the researchers controlled for education, intelligence (based on the participants' IQ test scores), occupation, hours worked and even what region they lived in the United States, Judge found that "none of those really made the effect go away."

In other words, it's not that men make more than women because they work longer hours, are more highly educated or simply take higher paying jobs. Rather, the new findings suggest the wage gap may be largely attributable to gender-role attitudes. And the big winners, it seems, is men with traditional views. Why the gap persists, Judge and Livingston aren't sure, but Judge thinks it might be have something to do with the different ways men and women sign onto new jobs. Women on the whole are less effective at negotiating salaries than men, and they tend to be less aggressive about asking for bigger salaries, or they accept employers' offers without negotiating at all. And Judge suspects that tradition-bound women may be even worse at it than their more egalitarian counterparts: "I would posit that egalitarian women are not as susceptible to settling for less in the negotiating process," he says.

As for those money-making traditionally minded men, Judge theorizes that if they believe they are the family's primary breadwinner, they may show greater dedication to career and are perhaps more aggressive than other men in terms of salary negotiation. Compared with men with egalitarian attitudes, the primary breadwinner simply has more at stake. "Maybe the egalitarian guy thinks, 'Well, I don't have to go the extra mile because my wife and I share earning responsibilities equally,'" Judge says.

Another factor could be bias on the part of the employer. "We're learning that more and more aspects of organizational psychology are operating somewhat subconsciously," says Judge. "It may be that employers are more likely to take advantage of traditional gender-role women."

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