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Read it and weep: “the seemingly unbridgeable chasm” that is the gender wage gap

Crossposted from Heidi Li on Equality at 51 Percent.

All quotes from Why Is Her Paycheck Smaller? By HANNAH FAIRFIELD Published: February 28, 2009 – The New York Times (Click graphic to go to large interactive chart). Full story here.

Nearly every occupation has the gap — the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between the size of the paycheck brought home by a woman and the larger one earned by a man doing the same job.

link to chart in New York Times on wage gap

“There’s no measurable way to explain the gaps within occupations,” said Barry T. Hirsh, a labor economist at Georgia State University. “Other wage gaps, like racial gaps, can be almost fully explained by factoring in the differences in education, geography and age.” (emphases added)

This is economic misogyny plain and simple; embedded in our economic habits deeply and seemingly insurmountably – although with enough political and legal action not actually insurmountable is a belittling of women’s work compared to men’s. This sort of systemic, measurable inequity is, to borrow a phrase from Mario Cuomo, a “sin against equality.”

36 Responses

  1. Hello all. I urge you to click on the graphic and go to the interactive feature.

    • Wow, amazing how after all these years of trying to get progress on that front we are still so far behind … I was hoping it would be different for my daughters

  2. wow, that’s a startling graph Heidi Li. It seems like the more training and education a particular field requires, the larger the gap. That’s shocking. It seems like that would make it harder for women to pay back student loans, further limiting them economically.

    • Spot on, Gary. So women are in a vicious cycle which explains why they are worst hit (as a group) in a financial hard times.

      • International Women’s Day March 8th 2009

        We need to make some noise anyone know of any events being organized in the US?

        Thanks Heidi you are an AWESOME WOMAN WARRIOR!

        • Thank you. I just think we each need to find what sorry aspect of the human condition motivates us to work hard and then to try to do what we can to attack that condition and maybe get some help from a few friends. I honestly do not know any other way to effect large scale social change except from humble beginnings.

  3. I’d like to enlarge a copy of that graph and hang it in my den and show it to every gasbag who thinks I’m overeacting.

  4. I see that those are Census Bureau stats. I wonder how the sampling is conducted. I guess the CB publishes the sampling method, but I’m not a statistician so I wouldn’t know whether the method has problems. Women RNs earning 11% less than men is particularly disconcerting. There are more men in the field now than in the past, but I still believe the percentage of women is still high.

    • What about physicians at 40%? That is real ly unbelievable, a shocker. Are they talking about the same working hours???

      And most woman tend to their families many hours in addition without pay, besides earning less for the same work.

  5. Hmmm, I wonder how the powers that be would react if college bound women told the colleges that they would pay only 70 to 90% of the going rate due to the future wage imbalances?

    • Your comment really indicates how altruistic women are and how much the places they work depend on that altruism: very few women look at their male counterparts in their field and decide, “Oh, I’ll work only 90 or 80 or 70 percent as hard as the guys do.”

      This is why we need an ERA. Under an Equal Rights Amendment and appropriate enabling legislation, the government would be able to end wage discrimination.

      • I think pressure from both ends – the government and the education institutions would help this along. Right now the the colleges and trade schools have no skin in the game to help enforce equal pay. They get paid the same amount no matter the gender or race.

        I also notice that the education institutions are no better than anywhere else ….

  6. but, but, but… – during the primary I was told over and over again by young women who were supporting Obama over Hillary that we were in a “post sexist” world.

    Of course these young women were mostly grad students and not yet in the world. I always suggested they get back with me when they are five years into their chosen careers.

    It was a total disconnect. Will they fall hard?

    • It is the most peculiar thing in the world, this almost willful blindness. But it is also wishful thinking: one wants to believe the world is not sexist so one refuses to believe it. To have life strip you of that sort of denial is very painful, so for those young women buried in it, yes, I think they will fall hard.

  7. In some states, insurance coverage responsibility falls to the parent whose birthday falls first in the calendar year. It would be interesting to know if in the states where that isn’t practiced, how many women are more likely to be the person carrying that expense?

    I’d be very, very curious to know if the companies that are (have been) run by women also practice this disparity in pay. HP, eBay, AutoDesk, etc.?

  8. That graph is amazing. Who really knew how much we have been screwed. Thanks so much for this information.

  9. testing- i just tried to post a long comment, but it said it needed my account- that’s never happened, then it disappeared

  10. Ok, I will try to remember. I see on the graph that the disparity is within category, but i wonder if it is within job classification. I think what tends to happen in the fields I am most familiar with, health care and education, that the disparity is definitely within category, as when opportunity for advancement occurs, it oftentimes goes to the male. This seemed to actually increase in the 80’s when health care became more business based, for example, as previously most administrators were nurses or doctors, and then it evolved that many were MBA’s, who not only were less effective in giving medical care, but were more likely to be men.

    In addition, there may be subtle differences with classifications in assigning of hours, shifts, and perhaps step increases even within a job that has the same exact pay scale- I don’t know if the study looked at that level of specificity.

    • …as if the primary wasn’t a micro of this very reality. The most qualified candidate, a woman, was dismissed as a raging witch driven by mindless ambition while a pompous fool with the proverbial third leg was launched on an express track – no questions asked.

  11. interesting that the best job for women is with the post office. also interesting that jobs that have traditionally been seen as “women’s work”, like teaching and nursing, still pay men more.

    • kiki, it seems that the professions with the closest parity in pay, such as teaching, are the professions that severely underpaid, probably because it has been seen as “women’s work”.

    • …and UNTIL men entered teaching in large numbers to avoid the draft, women in the “profession” made very little money, often lost their jobs if they married and along with their sisters in nursing, abandoned their high standards to admit organized labor into their heretofore ideal-based vocations.

  12. I’ve seen these types of comparisons over the past, and yet I don’t know that I entirely buy that this is the real story. For example, in teaching, the pay is not individually established. Those are always lockstep pay increases. Some may be on the “fast track” by taking more credentials or earning the lead teacher, etc., position.

    In college teaching the issue is nearly always one of publication and how that works in taking time out for childrearing, etc. In the legal profession, it seems it has to do with making partner, and there could be sexism at work there. But in a lot of the categories, there just isn’t.

  13. In my field Heidi, albeit just one slice of the workforce, I’ve found that years of experience does not directly correlate to merit. If a woman by all measures qualifies for the same job at the same level as a man, then more years on the job for the man should not translate to 30% more income. Tenure seems to be one of the factors or excuses for holding women back on pay. In other fields, I know tenure does have legitimate bearing.

    The thing I’ve also seen are hiring managers who will opt for a woman hire over a man precisely because the woman herself positions for less money. That’s seems like a slippery slope. Contract or salary negotiations present a hidden variable to this whole discussion. Personally, I’ve always believed that with the right person, a given salary translates to a given level of talent. But companies like to negotiate, and it’s not necessarily gender driven, so I don’t know if there can be legal recourse.

    It’s interesting to see in the chart that HR managers are way down on the list of fair pay jobs. Seems to me that men and women in HR roles or who work as recruiters or headhunters should be out front on advancing parity pay.

    • The HR stat is probably based on corporation size and/or title discrepancy. In large corporations, an HR manager is a middle manager. In small corps, that’s the top position.

      I agree with you on positions that involve upfront negotiations. Women might be undernegotiating.

  14. This election taught me that women, who have the numbers, routinely sabatage each other for reasons that have to do with their character limitations.

    The successful woman who achieves pay equity has rejected the notion that determination to earn what she is worth is not a flaw in her, not an unfemmenine mutation and nothing for which she should feel guilty. Women in leadership positions are invariably blessed with a circle of gentle colleagues truly intent on getting the job done well. Seeking financial verification rather than ‘daddy’s’ approval gets her there.

  15. Thank you Heidi Li! The unfairness of this is simply breathtaking.

  16. Heidi – I am afraid that the Left is co-opted these days. But thanks for trying to remind people to work!

    I would also add that other studies show that not all wage differences along racial lines are related to nonracial reasons. Also – we should not accept that as an excuse. Employers have discovered how to “discriminate” through “neutral” criteria, which they claim relate to job experience. So police forces say you have to weigh 225 lbs or lift 225 pounds to join the force (not as much of this as in the past) — when that’s not a valid job requirement. There are so many other examples.

    The Paycheck Fairness Act goes at these things. I and others — including this blog — tried to politicize that and draw attention to this other pending legislation but no one cared. I actually posted it on Daily Kos and people said that I would have received more interest if it didn’t seem like I hated the Ledbetter Act. All I said was that, as much as I like the statute, it is insufficient. But the crowd over there is pretty much unable to criticize Democrats (unless they are in the South).

  17. Once again, the NYT brings up job and wage discrimination against women, only to once again dismiss it with vague or downright inaccurate reasons. Seems to happen whenever a certain number of women become restless and their restlessness needs to be explained away.

    “Economists say..” Well now, that’s a well thought out, properly cited argument.

    Wage and job discrimination has continued since the laws against it were first passed 40 years ago because there is no enforcement of the laws. The Times never cites, certainly never looks at the mess the EEOC became under Clarence Thomas, never fully recovering during the Clinton years and taking a nosedive again under Bush.

    The Times never looks at the rightward and often simply lawless trends of the federal and state courts when it comes to equality for working women. Laws have been made by court decisions as much as by statute and the trend of those decisions has been to undo the equal opportunity laws for women: the decisions imposing impossible time limitations; the decisions allowing meaningless physical tests, almost never enforced for men and the sole effect of which was to eliminate women, to stand; the decisions dismissing horrible sexual harassment and incredibly hostile environments for women as trivial; the decisions allowing the “personality” a.k.a. “they just didn’t like her” excuse to be the get out jail free card for employers, all considerations of competence or experience or even productivity aside. That last legalized excuse allows employers to tear apart a woman’s character with impunity in a public and permanent record, same as the “she was a whore anyway” employer defense against sexual harassment. Together those two automatic employer reactions are the strongest warnings to women to never ever stand up against job discrimination.

    “Under-negotiating” is the latest buzz phrase to excuse discrimination. Women who do try to negotiate run into the double standard that calls strong women bitches, strong men leaders and punishes and rewards accordingly. We’ve just had a textbook demonstration of that double standard over the last two years, with the NYT foremost among the name-callers.

    The phrase before that was “women choose”. Allowing employers to structure their workforce around the falsehood that all employees are childless and pushing off the necessary costs of raising children onto women is itself discrimination. The men who do it to their wives discriminate against them. This is not women “choosing” to give up a decent wage and a respected place in the adult community, this is men at all levels joining together to keep women out and keep women down. Even given this, I’ve yet to see anything that shows this as a reason for women’s lower wages in year-round full time jobs.

    But none of the facts matter when the New York Times is once again working the propaganda pump.

  18. We have to continue to attack the system that allows this — and I have personally seen no evidence that men work harder or longer than most women in any organization — even accounting for time out for occasional pregnancies. Women often are, in fact, the real backbone of many organizations. The reasons given for paying them less money are typically just age-old biased excuses. Often, however, men receive the really key promotions with less experience than their female equals in an organization. And in some organizations, such as teaching, men have tended to be in the administration, however, more and more women are moving into the principal’s office as the chief, not the secretary. I am sure that in this economic downtown, employers will make up more and more excuses to avoid equal or fair pay. And the climate that Obama set up in the primary when he dissed women has no doubt emboldened many an employer. We definitely need the ERA.

  19. Heidi, you are far more refined and genteel that I am, but this kind of stuff ticks me off on so many levels, all I can think of is “bite me,” when I read it. The article seems to come down on the side of women’s “choices,” we “choose” to work in fields that tend to pay less, because we have kids. Even when there’s no earthly reason why there should be a pay gap, like bus drivers, we “choose” to work for less. Bite me, bite me. Then, the whole, “we expect blacks and minorities to make less because they’re less qualified” thing that makes me want to say things that would get me kicked out of church. Grrrrrrr! I don’t consider myself a”feminist” or a racial activist, I don’t think you have to be to care about issues. But when I see the creeping racism and sexism invading our consciousness under the guise of sincere, legitimate, investigative journalistic research, I want to scream. This article is not explaining, or examining anything, it’s reinforcing and validating sexism and racism. Bite me.

    • You are radical, and I completely agree. That kind of stuff works at the subconscious level too.

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