A study this month in Health Affairs found that the gender pay gap for starting physicians had widened from $3600 to nearly $17,000 over the last ten years (after adjustments for specialty and hours worked). The authors hypothesized that the main reason for this was that women are intentionally choosing lower-paying jobs because these jobs provide greater flexibility and family-friendly benefits. Though they do not deny that gender discrimination may exist, they have doubts that it has gotten worse in the last decade.
“If a male and female both apply for an important position (suppose, a physician at a hospital, or CEO of a large company) and they have the exact same qualifications, and perform exactly as well as each other in the interview, (and seeking the same salary, if this is negotiable)…
As the employer, who would you hire?
For a female, the opportunity cost of childbearing (i.e. working for your hypothetical hospital / company) represents a huge loss of utility for you, the employer. She would be unable to work during the final 6 weeks of her 40 week gestation (and will most likely have maternity leave for much longer than that). Furthermore, the hormonal and mechanical factors of childbearing will greatly reduce her ability to perform at her best during weeks 28-34 of gestation (e.g. going to the toilet every 30 seconds).”
“- The employer has the right to decide his (or HER) own strategy for choosing the “BEST” candidate. This is what I believe a rational employer MIGHT do (for a position such as a physician or a CEO):
– If a male and female candidate had the SAME qualifications, SAME interview performance, and are negotiating for the SAME salary – and everything else is equal – then without further information (about future childbearing status), I would DEFINTELY choose the man. (Because they have equal likelihood of having a child, but if/when it happens the woman will require more time off work).
– If I knew the female had a Tubal ligation (but I am clueless about when/if the man intends to father a child) then I would DEFINTELY choose the female. (i.e. I am choosing the “sure thing” over a risk)
– If I knew that neither of them intended to start a family, then I would be INDIFFERENT.”]
Some commenters agreed with this biological rationale:
“I’m not saying sexism doesn’t exist, but like the first commenter… intelligently said I believe this difference in pay check has more to do with pregnancy and the inevitable loss of money and utility for the company than anything else…. After all, if equality is what you are looking for, you can not work less than a man and expect the same pay check just because you are a woman. So, because of the biological diferences between men and women, I think job opportunities, salaries, roles, and available activities for both men and women will never be totally equal, and that has nothing to do with sexism but biology.” [Comment #2]
“I think the only way a woman (or a man, for that matter, if the idea of paternal leave is a policy) could demand equal payment with the other sex is to prove that they are incapable of having children….which is fairly extreme. I’m very sensitive to the equality of women, but we must also be careful about ‘overswinging’ the pendulum.” [Comment #8]
“There are dozens, literally, of other factors that congtribute to salaries in addition to simply hours worked. It is the misunderstanding of this issue, or the failure to recognize the true nature of this issue, then causes people to scream sexism… Of course there are those people who want to see sexism every where because it helps explain their own lesser position.” [Comment #6]
“Here is my question for the self-titled “hyperfeminist”, sexual organs aside, do you believe that men and women are different? If not, I have no further comment. If so, do these characteristics differences translate to some sort of difference in their ability to perform work?” [Comment #32]
“Men are judged solely on how much money they make and therefore work harder to make more money. Women are not judged solely by their salaries and numerous studies that are not ideologically biased have shown that women make different choices in where they study, what they study, how long they study, what extra work they do, etc that all explains the gender gap in salaries. Work done by Professor Stephen Cole at SUNY Stony Brook shows that there has not been gender bias in medicine since the 18th century… look at med school admission rates that far back and it has been proven.” [Comment #4]
“I completely agree, after reading this article I feel that these feminist views further support my belief that no matter how equal job opportunities, salaries, roles, etc becomes, certain women will never be satisfied. I feel “Hyperfeminists” are the reason why some men make sexist jokes or feel that women are treated unfairly well (i.e. admission into higher education is highly favorable for women at this time).” [Comment #3]
But when does a preference for particular individuals constitute an “ism” (which we have laws against)? As the original poster pointed out:
“You want to hire a junior doctor at the local hospital. Two candidates – Andrew and Brett, are applying. They came from the same medical school, with the same marks, and perform equaly well on the interview. They desire the same, fixed salary.
During the interview, you are impressed that Andrew is an extremely talented violinist in his spare time… and you are equally impressed that Brett is an extremely talented vert-ramp skater (i.e. “skateboarder”).
However, Brett reveals “I am very passionate about my skating, and don’t think I will stop any time soon. I’m always very careful, but there is a 50% chance that I’ll have a fractured tibia in the next 10 years. It’s a risk that I’m willing to take, and life is all about risk – however it means I might be out of action for 4 months”.
Moral question: is it fair to choose Andrew over Brett for this reason alone? (All else equal).”
“Reading this thread I am impressed by the amount of tacit sexist comments and thoughts made by supposedly intelligent, ‘progressive’ students. I think it partly explains why we see this widening of the gap- just bringing up the idea of gender equality elicited such responses as, “we must also be careful about ‘overswinging’ the pendulum,” (um, aren’t we talking about how we’re actually moving in the opposite direction?), and “there are those people who want to see sexism every where because it helps explain their own lesser position” (the entitlement of this comment makes me nauseous). Even more troubling is that these students seem to lack the awareness of how their comments come across, as if they wouldn’t consider themselves sexist in the first place. I’m grateful to see some responders on here that seem as equally appalled as I, but the ratio of ignorant sexist comments to intelligent ones is disheartening.”