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More on the 'Gender Paygap'

FriedmanThis issue simply refuses to die, and the amount of misinformation, distortion and plain lying seems to increase over time.  Rather than return to the issue every time feminists need a boost and raise it up the agenda again (seems to happen every 2 years or so) I am going to post a fairly comprehensive look at the issue which I can refer to as needed.

Firstly let's be clear about terms. When we talk about a gender pay gap this does NOT refer to women earning less than men FOR THE SAME, OR EQUIVALENT WORK.  That was made illegal over 4 decades ago and almost never happens.1.  What the term means is the difference in mean (average) earnings between men as a group and women as a group.  The simplest version - that also produces the largest disparity - is to compare global average earnings for men with women - either by country or by occupation.  Usually a figure of 30% or more can be arrived at using this method, but the figure is next-to-meaningless. Firstly it takes no account of the different work choices made by men and women. Women tend to opt for jobs working with people - teaching, nursing, social work, human resources etc. They also tend to avoid physically demanding or hazardous job. Women also tend to restrict the amount of extra time they work. These considerations clearly have an impact on earnings but are matters of personal choice rather than any symptom of inherent gender bias.  Women are also much more likely to be in part time jobs and are more likely to take time off work. When we correct for these differences the supposed pay gap (it is actually much more fairly described as an earnings gap) shrinks significantly.

A good illustration of this can be had by examining the figures for EasyJet. Companies are now legally obliged to produce a breakdown of their employees pay by gender. When we look at the EasyJet breakdown we see a large gender difference.  The preferred metric for these new reports is to divide pay into 4 groups  (quartiles) representing the highest to lowest bands of pay, with an upper and lower 'middle band'.

For EasyJet it looks like this:

So clearly women dominate the lower pay quartiles - but is this indicative of gender bias or discrimination? No. It is indicative of the fact that pilots earn more than cabin crew or admin workers.  Women pilots are paid the same as men, as are cabin crew and every other type of worker within the organisation. It just so happens, however, that most of the pilots are men.  Is there a gender barrier to prevent women becoming pilots? There is no evidence to support that assertion. It seems, rather, to be a matter of personal choice - women generally do not choose to train as pilots.

So when we actually dig into the statistics what we see, in all cases, is that the majority of the supposed pay gap is due to different career choices.  Where there ARE differences across similar roles, the majority of any difference is usually down to the fact that men tend to work more overtime and take less time off.

The most detailed study to date - which attempts to correct for variables such as job type, age, experience etc, was done in the US by the Consad Research Corporation for the U.S. Labour Department.  The conclusion was that the difference is about 5%, after adjusting for all variables.  It is likely that even some of this is due to uncontrolled variables in the study and the real figure is probably closer to 3% - far from the nonsense headlines of 30% and similar.

The most significant factor when looking at higher paid jobs/careers, particularly in the professions, is that of childcare.  Women are still much more likely to take significant time off work as children arrive.  Provision for paternity leave seems to have had little impact here, with most women unwilling or, at best, reluctant to allow their partner to become the full time carer/parent at home.

Another consideration - particularly when looking at the very highest paid jobs - is that men are much more willing than women to devote ridiculous amounts of time to work.  Many top executive posts involve working double, treble, or even more, the usual 40ish hours per week which is more usual.  Women are generally unwilling to devote such a large chunk of their life to their career and usually strive for a better home-work balance.  Who is to say that this is wrong? Not me.

Finally, many bogus claims are made by feminists in support of their campaign for equity. One I commonly hear is that the evidence shows that companies with more women on the board do better than those with less. This is simply not true and seems to be simply made up.  The evidence that does exist actually shows nothing of the sort.2

So, let's now consider the calls for equality of pay across genders in light of these basic facts.  What would actually be required for men and women, taken as a whole, to earn the same?

  • 1) Women would have to be forced, somehow, into higher paid jobs, and/or men prevented from entering such jobs.
  • 2) Legislation would be needed to ensure more paternity leave and less maternity leave is taken, with the consequent impact on career and future earnings being more evenly spread between genders.
  • 3) Women would need to be paid more per hour than men for equivalent work in order to cover the fact that they (on average) spend less time at work.
I suggest that these options would be political suicide for any party to suggest seriously - but without them I cannot see how 'equality' of pay can be achieved.  Whenever we move from an equality agenda (equality of opportunity) to an equity agenda (equality of outcome) we find similar problems - significant state intervention is always required to force the same outcomes.  To paraphrase the famous quote by Feagler:

Equality of opportunity is freedom but equality of outcome requires repression.

Feminist ideology denies that there are any significant differences between genders and asserts that whatever differences ARE observed are due to conditioning and bias in upbringing. This is flatly contradicted by reams of scientific data which shows that there are indeed 'innate' differences - as one would obviously expect given the different reproductive roles in our evolutionary past.  A rather simplistic but reasonable summary would be that women generally prefer people and men generally prefer things. Men are also much more likely to take risks generally.  (Obviously there is huge overlap and many 'thing minded' women exist, just as many 'people minded' men exist - but statistically the generalisation holds true and is supported by a huge body of evidence - as well as studies in non-human primates which show the same thing).

Given such differences it is unlikely that pay equity would ever occur naturally - even if all possible bias and discrimination were eradicated totally. Dangerous and dirty jobs need to pay a premium to reflect the danger, and since these jobs are overwhelmingly done by men, and since women show no sign of wishing to do such jobs, expecting pay equity is actually rather odd.

1. There are still arguments over which jobs are functionally equivalent to others and feminists claim that a cleaner, for example, is little different to a caretaker and should be paid the same. I disagree and I believe most of the jobs where there is genuine comparability have now been addressed. For the few remaining examples these matters are decided in the courts.  It is important to note that no company would wish to pay women less than men for equivalent jobs. Aside from being illegal, it would be devastating, in terms of bad publicity, were such a policy to become public.

2. Click HERE for a Forbes article summarising the issues around claims made for Women on company boards of directors.
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