Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Happy Pay Equality Day!

I still recommend my gender gap series (available at the website shown at the top of this blog. The empirical data in it is a bit old by now but the arguments are as fresh as ever.

Bryce has written a nice piece on seven steps which would reduce the gender gap in earnings. The first:
1. End salary secrecy. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, about half of all workers are either prohibited or strongly discouraged from talking about how much they make with their colleagues. And it’s pretty hard to sue an employer for pay discrimination without first figuring out what everyone else rakes in. So, easy task: just force all employers, public and private, to let anyone talk freely about how much they make. Americans should quickly get over their queasiness about discussing money, and employers shouldn’t care if their lower paid employees start salivating over six-figure salaries.

I can't help noticing that out of that list of seven FOUR steps (3, 4, 5 and partially 7) are directly linked to the fact that women do most of hands-on child-rearing. If that societal chore was equally divided, those steps would no longer matter for gender equality in earnings*.

This does NOT mean that women "choose" to earn less, in the sense of choosing chocolate ice-cream over vanilla, say. What it means is that policies about parental leaves and childcare are essential if one wants to fix the gender gap. Changing expectations about the role of mothers, fathers and others are also necessary.
*Gender segregation would not completely disappear but it would be greatly reduced because women would no longer need to pick occupations on the basis of how flexible they are for temporary exits and re-entries or how long the working days are. These are among the reasons which make women choose occupations where knowledge does not depreciate fast or where the expected hours of work are not above eighty hours per week. Occupations which offer the necessary flexibility also offer, on average, less pay.