Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Gender Pay Gap Grossly Underestimates Women's Economic Inequality

The gender pay gap is standard measure of women’s economic inequality. At the dawn of second-wave feminism, it was 59 cents: women earned 59 cents for every dollar men earned. Today it’s up to 77 cents, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. That’s progress, right? Here’s even more rosy news: women without children now earn over 90% of men’s wages. So maybe it is time to stop worrying about women and economics.

Not so fast. Let’s start with the 90% statistic, which describes childless women at age thirty. Conservatives like to point to that one, concluding that what ails mothers is not discrimination but their own choices.

In fact, I have argued, what the 90% statistic really means is that women, if they want equality, should plan to die childless at thirty. Such women have earnings nearly as high as men’s because most have not hit either of the two major forms of workplace gender bias.

The single strongest bias is the maternal wall. Motherhood triggers powerful assumptions that mothers are less competent and committed to their jobs. “I had a baby, not a lobotomy,” protested a Boston lawyer, voicing the experience of many who find that, upon their return from maternity leave, they are given less work, no work or dead-end assignments. The resulting bias is a powerful drag on women’s prospects: mothers are 79% CHECK less likely to be hired, 100% less likely to be promoted, offered an average of a whopping $11,000 less in salary, and held to higher performance and punctuality standards than men, according to a study by Shelley Correll and co-authors.

Most women at age thirty haven’t hit the other major form of gender bias either: the glass ceiling. Glass ceiling bias reflects, first, that qualities associated with leadership–assertiveness, self-confidence, directive behavior — are linked with masculinity. So women who exhibit them often are seen as socially clueless. To compound the problem, glass ceiling bias also means that women often have to prove themselves over and over again before they are even considered for leadership positions. Contemporary studies by social psychologists show that the glass ceiling is alive and well.

So the claim that fact that childless women at age thirty make nearly as much as men does not prove that women have gained equality. Neither does the gender pay gap. Although it is standard measure of women’s economic equality, that statistic grossly overestimates women’s economic equality. Why? Because it compares men who work full time with women who work full time. This is an accurate picture of men, but it is an extremely partial description of women. Fully one-quarter of employed women work part time.

The penalties associated with part-time work are an important contributor to women’s economic inequality. The penalty for working part time in the U.S. is enormous: seven times as high as in Sweden, and twice as high as in the U.K., according to Janet Gornick and Marcia Meyers. A recent report by the Joint Economic Committee documented that two-thirds of part-timers are women, and that part-timers in sales earn only 58 cents on the dollar, as compared with full timers.

The last time I looked, when one compared all employed women with all employed men, including part-timers as well as full-timers, women only earned 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. Now that’s a sobering statistic.

The old-fashioned gender pay gap statistic embeds the assumption that it is somehow “natural” and uncontroversial to impose sharp penalties on those who don’t work “full” time. But what, after all, is “full” time? As Alice Kessler-Harris pointed out long ago, its definition has changed a lot. The one thing that has remained constant is that “full time” has always been defined as the amount of time a man typically works.

From the start of the Industrial Revolution until today, men have been able to work more hours than women outside the home because they work fewer hours inside it. And women still do twice as much housework, and four times as much routine housework, as men, according to Suzanne Bianchi and her co-authors. They also do three hours of child care for each hour men do.

Of course, women could just stop changing the diapers, doing the laundry, cooking the meals. But no one wants them to, because that kind of unpaid work is every bit as crucial for sustaining a productive economy as paid work is. So it’s time to document, and to challenge, the highly artificial penalty imposed on anyone who does not work a full time schedule. The recent report by the Joint Economic Committee is a good first step. The second crucial step is to change the way we measure the gender pay gap, and to compare employed men and women, rather than restricting the analysis to full-timers. Only then can we get an accurate picture of the yawning gap between the earnings of men and those women.

This piece originally was published in On The Issues

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Equal pay for women not likely till 2067, says research

Katie Allen
The Guardian, Thursday 19 August 2010
Article history

An equal part of the job but not an equal pay packet. Photograph: Ryanstock/Taxi/Getty
Working women who thought they might live to see Britain’s pay gap finally close will have to hold out another 57 years, according to research published today.

Forty years after the Equal Pay Act was passed, the study shows that the gender pay gap remains stubborn and that male and female managers will not be paid the same until 2067.

Women have also been harder hit by the recession, with more female workers than men being made redundant in the past 12 months, the research by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) shows.

The findings will intensify calls from campaigners for the new government to do more to ensure equal pay in the UK, which has one of the biggest gender salary gaps in Europe.

“Girls born this year will face the probability of working for around 40 years in the shadow of unequal pay,” said CMI’s head of policy, Petra Wilton.

“The prospect of continued decades of pay inequality cannot be allowed to become reality. We want to see the government take greater steps to enforce pay equality by monitoring organisations more closely and naming and shaming those who fail to pay male and female staff fairly.”

The group’s survey shows that women’s salaries increased by 2.8% over the past 12 months, compared with 2.3% for men. But with the average UK salary for a male manager currently £10,031 more than that of a female manager, women face a 57-year wait before their take-home pay is equal to that of their male colleagues, says the report, compiled with researchers XpertHR. Its findings, from more than 43,000 employees in 197 organisations, showed male pay still outstrips female pay by as much as 24% at senior level.

At junior level the gap also persists, with male junior executives receiving £1,065 more than female executives.

Despite four decades of equal pay legislation, Britain has one of the worst gender gaps in Europe. Women in the UK are paid 79% of male rates, while across the 27 countries of the European Union the figure is 82%, according to a report earlier this year from Eurobarometer.

Gender equality groups such as the Fawcett Society blame the UK’s poor record on a culture of secrecy around pay. They point to examples such as Sweden, where more transparency has resulted in falling pay gaps. They want the coalition government to set a deadline for closing the gap, make laws more transparent, and force companies to audit their workforces for unfair gaps more regularly.

For women unhappy to sit out the 57-year wait, the CMI report highlighted some of the better-performing sectors and regions of the UK, as well as the worst.

Women in the Midlands fare the worst, taking home £10,434 less than men, while those in the north-east fare the best, where the gap is smallest at £8,955.

Different sectors also varied greatly and women hoping for equal pay were advised to think twice about jobs in IT or the pharmaceutical industry, where the gaps were the largest, at £17,736 and £14,018 respectively.

The report suggests that stark differences in pay are seeing some women leave the workplace. It notes a dramatic increase in resignations, particularly at director level, where 7.7% of female directors voluntarily left their posts in the last year, compared with just 3.6% of men.

Women were also more likely to be made redundant. Over the year, 4.5% of the female workforce lost their jobs compared with 3% of men.

CMI has launched an “ambitious women toolkit” with practical advice on asking for pay rises, how to challenge unequal pay, and tips on returning to work from maternity leave.

• This article was amended on 19 August 2010. The original headline said, “Equal pay for women not likely till 2057, says research”, which has been corrected.


Rihanna and Eminem on domestic violence

Rihanna’s newest song out (that I know of, being a bit of a musical snob. I’m more Patti Smith than Rihanna really) Love the Way you Lie (here for those who are blessed enough not to have heard it yet)


is accompanied by the above music video and deals with an issue which pretty much everyone who has seen a gossip mag in the last year or so knows is pretty relevant to Rihanna’s life. Which is why I find it interesting that it completely glamourises (in my opinion) something which is far from glamorous: domestic violence. The chorus runs “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn, that’s alright because I like the way it hurts”

Really Rihanna? Is that the message you want to be sending women about domestic violence? Eminem loves to take the issues no one else sings about and turn them into his own tortured bonanza – as he did with the obsessive ‘Stan’ in the song of the same name – but what he’s doing is not necessarily giving us an insight into the issue but making it cool.

As Randy Susan Meyers pointed out in this article in the Huffington Post, the music video shows Eminem spewing out the usual justifications which abusive men use to excuse their behaviour, while Rihanna erotically sings straight into the camera.

Overall I find this song/video to be a really quite despicable use of a real, horrific issue to sell music (and sex) to a huge number of young men and women.

Also, as an aside it’s really annoying. Not as annoying as Umbrella though.


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Girly Phones?

I saw this article on Stuff this morning and thought it was interesting – there certainly are some products which are considered girly and some which are considered blokey (for example a banged up holden ute versus one of those dusty pink smart cars I see all over the place).

At the end of the article there’s a list of phones with pictures and the author asks us to think about which we would consider more appropriate for one gender or the other. I found all of them pretty easy to categorise (except, interestingly, for the iPhone which I find to be extremely gender-neutral – an advertising coup for Steve Jobs?), but I’m not sure what it was that tipped it either way for each phone.

The comments are interesting too, take a look.

If you’re curious, my answers are: 1) feminine, 2) neutral, 3) feminine, 4) feminine, 5) masculine, 6) masculine, 7) masculine, 8) masculine, 9) feminine, 10) feminine.

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United Colours of Benetton- Uniting Women or Marginalising Women?

Image source

This is one of controversial advertisements I have come across in my lifetime. It came out in 1989. But when I say that first statement, after spending about three weeks in this course, I wonder what is it that makes me subconsciously think that this ad is controversial. What seems obvious may not be that obvious. The contrasting skin colour is one of the many things that grabs my attention at first. Why is it that a Black woman is shown breastfeeding a White infant? Upon researching further, I found an abstract about this particular ad and a little bit of history of UCB campaigns.

Race is one issue that this ad is perhaps attempting to deal with. But embedded within that frame is the image of a woman holding an infant in her hands and this double framing is what problematises the perception of what it means to be a woman. Is being a Black mother to a White child a social problem? What if it was the other way around: a White mother to a Black child? What I have to question about this ad is the framing of woman as an entity that is often rendered anonymous in the wider political discourse most of the times. The controversial and sensitive issue about race is being dealt with in this ad through the image of a woman perhaps so as to not appear controversial. We do not see her face or herself as whole and the infant’s face is turned to the other side of the viewer.

The notion of patronising women discursively is, as seems to me, a way of marginalising women as someone who is weak and the only times a woman can contribute significantly is by appearing to be weak/vulnerable or not appearing at all. If being a mother is supposed to be one of the amazing things in life then why the anonymity? As Shepherd states that there are three discursive practices: i) biologically determined seperatism, ii) question of boundaries and political space and, iii) the role of ‘the child’ as metaphor and physical embodiment of vulnerability, I see elements of each of the three weaved in this ad. Often, women are made to appear in groups as if individuality is not something they will be able to carry off well. In this ad, the body is the site of contest. It struggles to find meanings for itself within the context within which it is presented. The context is complex in nature and it makes the struggle political. Even though this is a print ad, the image of the woman, as if she was real, goes through an ideological conflict in our minds as we process our perceptions/ideas as we read the ad.

It once seemed to me that images of naked people were things that one should not look at, at all. Then when I first saw this ad, that perception altered. Nudity is a privilege but the social benefits of it in terms of construction of one’s identity is debatable. Why is there nudity in this ad? Initially, I would think that, upon reading the history of UCB campaigns, the ad is trying to show a human interest side to the issue- whatever that might be. Or, alternatively, is the ad attempting to subvert the notion of a woman being a mother merely by highlighting it?

What do you think is happening in the ad?


L.J. Shepherd. 2010. ‘Sex or Gender? Bodies in World Politics and Why Gender Matters’. In Gender Matters in Global Politics: A Feminist Introduction to International Relations, ed L.J. Shepherd. London: Routledge, pp 8.


From: Ipshita.

"Women will suffer most from the next round of job cuts"

This article discusses the Tory-Liberal budget cuts to the public sector in England. It shows a clear division of labor as women are claimed by the author to be over represented in the public sector; which is set to be ruthlessly hacked at by the new government. While one may want to question the assumptions which the author makes in explaining this statistical discrepancy (or the stats themselves) the article gives a good example of macroeconomic policy having a gendered effect.

Original main article can be found at:

Secondary article discussing the same topic:

One could be forgiven for imagining that shadow welfare secretaryYvette Cooper is actually the only person in Her Majesty’s opposition at present, so busy is she, as she hammers away at the iniquities of the coalition budget. This makes it all the more unsettling that she is not herself contesting the Labour leadership. Still, Cooper has explained with perfect clarity the reason why she is not standing. She has small children, and it is a big job.

It is notable, of course, that the same small children are no bar to the desire of her husband, Ed Balls, to secure the same big job. But that’s only because this illustrates something that is perfectly well known – a “working mother” is someone who is fulfilling two roles, possibly to the detriment of both. A “working father”, by contrast, is so unremarkably natural and normal that the phrase “working father” hasn’t even had to be invented, let alone heavily freighted with socio-cultural significance.

Nevertheless, Cooper is the exception, rather than the rule. Only 18% of women work full-time while their children are younger than three, as Cooper did. The rest work part-time or not at all. This makes it all the more remarkable that there is now such a small difference between the number of men who work overall and the number of women. Office of National Statistics figures from March 2009 confirm that there is now a difference of 7.7 percentage points in employment rates for men and women, which is quite a change from the 27.6 difference of 1979. The bulk of that switch occurred in the 1980s, as male-dominated industries collapsed and female-dominated industries thrived. But the gap has continued to narrow, at a slower rate, ever since.

You could be forgiven for imagining, therefore, that the last 30 years have seen a huge increase in the financial independence of women. Sadly, that is not the case, as the diligent Cooper has inadvertently shown. This week she published a gender audit of the budget, commissioned from the House of Commons library, and showing that the burden of an astonishing three-quarters of the coming budget cuts would be shouldered by women. Cooper’s political point is that the budget is unfair, because it punishes women so disproportionately. But the really rotten thing that this analysis displays is the massive extent to which women have become dependent on the state, either for benefits (especially when they are mothers) or for employment.

Men lost more jobs than women in the recent recession because they tend to work in the private sector, which shrank, while women tend to work in the public sector, which continued to expand. Women will be taking the next hit, as jobs in the public sector start to be winnowed out. It’s a delayed consequence of the recession, but an inevitable one nonetheless.

It’s easy to explain why more women work in the public sector, of course. Largely, it is because the public sector tends to provide the vocational jobs – teaching, nursing, social work, child care – that women are still far more likely to do. But it is also linked to the fact that the public sector tends to be more progressive on flexible and part-time work, and in Britain’s part-time sector (which is disproportionately large in comparison with those in other similar countries), women dominate hugely.

It is interesting that part-time work among women is not as closely correlated to “working motherhood” as might be expected. About 44% of women who work part-time do not have dependent children. Further, women are over-represented in lower-paid occupations (and there are plenty of those in the public sector, despite the perception that wages are generous).

Of course, for decades there has been much concern over the gender pay gap, which has remained a stubborn problem, even though the Equal Pay Act came in 40 years ago. Likewise, it has long been acknowledged that mothers are more likely to hold down part-time jobs and lower-paid jobs. Still, Cooper’s analysis reveals the huge extent of female vulnerability in the workplace, and suggests that state support for unskilled working women has actually helped to create more low-skilled, low-paid jobs and more “in-work poverty”.

Greater access to education, a change in social attitudes that assumed that a woman would give up work when she married, more widespread provision of childcare: these were supposed to deliver equality, and independence – even liberation – for women. The reality is that while this has indeed been the experience of many women, another trend has pushed females into poorly paid, low-value, insecure work that offers little or no career progression. At this end of the market, increased female employment has expanded the unskilled jobs market and made it more downwardly competitive.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation warns that it is the nature of the UK jobs market itself that creates and fosters a “major barrier to further progress on poverty”. Its research suggests that the British jobs market is becoming increasingly “hollowed-out”, with the polarised development of one strata of jobs that are highly skilled and highly paid, another of jobs that demand few skills and are poorly paid, and with little in the middle offering progress up a career ladder. This is a dismal prospect, because it promises exactly what political rhetoric is always warning against, “a two-tier system”.

My feeling is that the expansion of the public sector over the last 13 years, and the focus on getting mothers into work, even if they need a great deal of state support, has merely disguised the degree to which such an economy has already developed. (Unskilled men have been left to their own miserable devices far more, in part because of the lack of cultural focus on fostering “working fathers”.)

There has been much fretting about gender inequality in the boardroom, or in the City of London, and much attention paid to how well or badly women are doing in the race to the top. At the same time, however, the influx of women into the labour market has been significantly characterised by a race to the bottom that has been hugely preoccupied with what single mothers and feckless fathers are up to, when the real problem is a horribly divided economy in which a whole swathe of unskilled men and women are blamed and pilloried because they live in a society that denies them any opportunity at all. Labour dressed this up with its financial interventions, which was perhaps understandable in the humanitarian respect. But it also helped to disguise the retrenchment of a class system as rigid and socially immobile as the one Labour was founded to dismantle. The disguise is being taken off now, and what’s underneath is pretty ugly.



Pay Equity

The Quarterly Employment Survey has just released figures about the Gender Pay Gap and it’s not pretty – it has jumped from 11.94% in March last year to 12.81%. In times of recession, women seem to be hit harder than men, an issue which the Minister of Women’s Affairs and the National Government have completely ignored.

Well, actually, maybe if they’d just ignored it instead of actively working to set the Pay Equity fight back a few years we wouldn’t have this problem.

But anyway, I digress into political attack, so I leave it open for discussion. Here are some responses to the figures:

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