A Lot of Factors Go into Male, Female Pay Disparity
“You’re the first woman I’ve seen at one of these things that dresses like a woman, not like a woman thinks a man would dress if he was a woman.” – Jack Trainer, “Working Girl,” 20th Century Fox, 1988
A few months back, enough U.S. Senators pooled their votes and defeated the equal pay bill saying, “The disparity exists because a female social worker makes less than a male engineer.” O.K., maybe you shouldn’t expect much heavy lifting thinking from people who want to guide your government, but really? Still, laws can’t eliminate discrimination. However, as Neil deGrasse Tyson has pointed out in the recent science documentary series “Cosmos,” humankind is still in the early learning stages. Since females represent roughly 50 percent of the world’s population, logic says that some want to do more than just social work…and expect to earn more. That should especially be true in the technology industry. Industry executives are quick to say qualified female technologists – engineers, programmers, developers – are in very short supply. They say the fault lies with schools, parents or society in general that don’t encourage girls to pursue technical fields. The truth is that technology is a sexist, alpha-male culture. When a guy disagreed with that assessment, Tess said in response, “You want another answer, ask another girl.”
She’s a Computer
But according to Ruth Oldenziel, a professor at Eindhoven University of Technology, that hasn’t always been the case:
- Ada Lovelace, a mathematician in the 1800s is often referred to as the world’s first computer programmer
- Rear admiral Grace Hopper developed the first compiler
- Six women programmed the 30-ton Eniac computer – one of the most famous systems in history — for the Army
Since the industry estimates there will be more than 1.2 million new computing jobs available in the U.S. (many more in other countries) and universities are only producing 39 percent of the graduates needed, maybe it’s time for females to take back the industry lead. Even if they get to that stage, there is still the issue of equality of respect – for their intelligence, expertise, opinions, professionalism — and pay.
Why is It – Spiderman, Captain America, Batman and other male superheroes are great formulas for box office hits but female heroes are few and far between. Megan Gale, Scarlett Johansson and Halle Berry are just a few that can stand toe-to-toe with any man. Let’s overlook the pay equity thing for a moment and focus on the fact that women are finally making gains in senior management positions without being superheroes. A Forbes Insights report found that globally, 24 percent of senior leadership positions were held by women. As Tess said excitedly on the phone, “Cyn! Guess where I am…” The Grant Thornton’s report showed that the top five female positions were CFO (31%), HR (30%) controller (14%), CMO (13%) and sales director (13%).
Office Females – The path to management positions for females has become easier in recent years because they are asserting themselves more and organizations are realizing they are wasting valuable talent by not preparing them and opening opportunities for qualified women executives. Interestingly, China led the way for the world with 52 percent and all of the AP (Asia Pacific) region had 29 percent of women in senior positions compared to 25 percent in the EU, 23 percent in Latin America and North America 21 percent. Why the increase?
As the Board Secretary of the China Financial Futures Exchange noted; their talent, intelligence are more respected at higher-level positions. Perhaps Chinese are more enlightened because they see the importance/benefit of diversity … diversity of thought. A global study by Zenger Folkman found – not too surprising – that men dominated the higher leadership positions (78 percent) and they tended to have “compatible” top managers – 2nd tier (67 percent), 3rd tier (60 percent). Overcoming the alpha male culture isn’t easy! But it is being done. Women are asserting themselves and agreeing with Tess, “I know what I’m doing.”
Effectiveness Results – It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at the key leadership traits that are important to make companies and industries grow and realize that women have a decided edge in almost every category. Maybe alpha males have it all wrong. Still, stereotype qualities surrounding female leaders – nurturing (developing others, building relationships) seem like a good thing … at least to me. In addition, Zenger Folkman found they were more effective leaders at almost every level.
Hard Core Talents
And we’re not talking soft areas but rather the general competencies people commonly accept as outstanding leadership capabilities – taking initiative, driving results, self development, high integrity/honesty, champions of change, communications, innovation, technical/professional expertise. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg is partially right in her book “Lean In” that women have to quit second-guessing themselves and be more self-confident; but it goes beyond that. The same qualities that make them ideal for leadership positions also help them define their personal success differently. Claudia Goldin, a Harvard labor economist, noted that females don’t crave/thrive on the adrenalin rush of power, fear of failure, mind games or personal agendas. Instead, they prefer recognition for their work/achievements/contributions and the chance to make a change/make a difference. That’s probably okay; but with all of those really desirable leadership traits, there is still a gender/pay gap … even for men/women in the same field.
Gender Pay Imbalance – Despite their education and experience, many women continue to earn less than their male counterparts; but at least it is more equitable in the technology fields. Women in the technical fields fare better than many – software engineers (12 percent lower), hardware engineers (16 percent lower).
However, Dr. Goldin said the pay will probably never be completely equal because there is another unstated consideration … people are rewarded more for longer hours in the office, being on call. So those females who are career-focused probably/possibly earn the same or more than their male counterpart. Which means those who juggle career and family should probably get paid by their partner for their second job – cooking, cleaning, washing, handling the kids, paying bills, etc. Crud … I’m more in debt! Of course, today many females are thinking like Tess, “I’m not gonna spend the rest of my life working my ass off and getting nowhere just because I followed rules that I had nothing to do with setting up.” Especially in today’s online age. No one knows if you’re a dog or an ***…until you Tweet that Tweet, upload that selfie, post that Instagram. Then, the only thing you can do is run for Congress.