Sunday, June 29, 2008

Stick A Sock In It Tim!

Having just read this and spat half my tea over my computer screen, let me count to ten, breathe deeply and say the following:

1) I don't know how the women in work commission get their theory that only 5% of the pay gap is a result of direct discrimination (the link he provides leads only to a front page but most of the links there are broken) but speaking as a women who worked 8 years in the financial services sector - a woman with no particular propensity to get sick and who during that time never had a baby or so much as a dependent goldfish -the pay gap is alive and well and all about direct and indirect discrimination. Neither kind of discrimination is acceptable.

Now I will accept that deliberate, conscious under-paying, under-promoting and under-recruiting of women is rare. But there are lots of other ways women miss out. To list but a few:

- Not having our ideas taken seriously at meetings.
- Women being recruited for looks rather than abilities and then being unable to keep up with male colleagues.
- Missing out on networking opportunities that take place in strip clubs, etc.
- Being criticised over our appearance, while male colleagues are not.
- Being unable to take part in business trips to places like Saudi Arabia where women have restricted movement.
- Being mistaken for administrative staff and given paperwork instead of proper work to do.
- Having unpleasant sexual remarks made about you within earshot.
- Being criticised for being too pushy while male colleagues are congratulated for sticking to their guns.
- Being told how lucky we are to have got the job in the first place.
- Being excluded from team banter.
(I could go on all week)

Even if this mystical 5% number had any truth in it - what is so wrong with wanting to close a gap that by your own admission is directly caused by outright prejudice?

2) Discrimination against women because they take maternity leave and have more domestic responsibilities is still not acceptable. If we are to insist that it's ok to underpay women because they have wombs and (shock horror) might use them then would infertile women be afforded a pay rise on bringing in a certificate of hysterectomy? Or indeed, for dramatic effect, their removed womb in a freezer bag?

And do we actually want to live in a society where people with children are deliberately underpaid in case it affects their work? How will that affect the next generation?

3) As to the notion that part-time workers deserve mistreatment because they are less useful and require more training: most part-time workers I know are women who have gone back part time after having a child. They therefore needed no additional training, they all work more hours than they are paid for and they all afford their employers flexibility because they can adjust their schedule to accommodate busy periods (e.g. working an extra day at month-end).

In short, Tim, when you say in your title "Not All Discrimination Is Bad" - remember the definition of discrimination:

Discrimination: (n) treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.

Yes all discrimination is bad. People deserve to be judged on their individual skills and merits - not on prejudice about how they might behave because they happen to have a cunt.


Tim Worstall said...

"what is so wrong with wanting to close a gap that by your own admission is directly caused by outright prejudice?"

So you missed the bit where I say this then did you?

"I'm all for continuing to wipe out direct or taste discrimination"

"Discrimination against women because they take maternity leave and have more domestic responsibilities is still not acceptable."

Why is this unacceptable?

If the result of this is that such women are less productive in the work that they do why is it unacceptable for less productive workers to be paid less?

Of course, if such absences from the workforce do not reduce productivity then it would be that direct discrimination that I'm already agreeing we should be trying to get rid of. But if productivity does fall, then why shouldn't the less productive be paid less?

Should unproductive chefs be paid the same as productive ones? Lawyers? Accountants? Yes? No? And if no, then why shouldn't this extend to each and every worker?

"Yes all discrimination is bad."

Bollocks: you don't even believe that yourself. Your next sentence:
"People deserve to be judged on their individual skills and merits"

Distinguishing between individuals' skills and merits is discrimination. One is discriminating between those skills and merits.

I'm suggesting exactly and precisely the same thing. That all should indeed be treated as individuals and that their pay reflect their skills and merits....and the choices that they make.

If that means that those who take some years out of the labour force get paid less than those who work straight through, well, that's just discriminating on the basis of individual skills and merits, isn't it?

Cruella said...

Cool that you responded Tim! However I think you really misunderstand the nature of prejudice.

Lets start at the end of your comment where you say:

"Distinguishing between individuals' skills and merits is discrimination."

No it's not - no-one is going to accuse you of hiring practices which discriminate against the lazy and inept. Prejudice is when you make an assumption about someone's abilities based on a group that they belong to. Black people - on average - have less management experience than whites, but if you were recruiting for a position that required management experience and you put "whites only" on the advert you would quite rightly be taken to task for it. You have to recruit on the basis of the actual qualifications and skills that the job requires. Men are on average physically stronger than women but that's no reason to recruit only men to jobs requiring physical strength, you simply hire candidates who are strong enough regardless of gender.

Now as far as discrimination against women in the workplace goes you appear to have broken it down neatly into two piles: direct or "taste"-based discrimination and discrimination based on maternity leave and family commitments. There is a lot more to it than that - starting with pretty much every item on the list in my original post.

I still can't get to the data you mention on the equalities website - none of the links work. But I think you are misunderstanding their explanation. Because discrimination is indirect does not mean it makes economic sense.

So there's two issues here:

1) Does 95% of gender discrimination make economic sense and

2) Should we allow discrimination to take place where it does make economic sense?

Well here's the answers in my opinion:

1) You absolutely can argue that some discrimination makes economic sense. For instance given the amount of time it takes to identify, advertise to, test and interview new recruits for senior management positions you could absolutely argue that resources are saved by simply not interviewing black candidates who will on average have less experience. Similarly women are more likely to need time off to look after children so you can argue it makes economic sense to recruit only men and women who can bring proof of infertility, hysterectomy or menopause.

Personally I think the economic disadvantages of hiring women are massively overplayed. There are actually lots of advantages to hiring women. For instance since they are more likely to have family commitments, in times of economic down-turn they are much more likely to be open to the idea of reducing their hours worked. For instance again women with families are more likely to go home after work, put the kids to bed and then go through some paperwork. Men are more likely (much more based on my experience of the city) to go out drinking with their mates at 5.01pm, leave the paperwork they meant to do in the back of a late night mini-cab and roll in the next day at half nine with a stinking hangover.

I strongly suspect that the idea that women present a huge economic burden to industry is in itself a form of indirect prejudice. When a guy needs time off to play golf, it's seen as reasonable, but if a woman mentions school sports day some sort of sub-conscious alarm starts clanging away. Articles like yours do a great deal to encourage this sort of sub-conscious prejudice.

And remember all the other items in the list I gave you - do all these things really add up to 5% of the problem while 95% is down to having children? If that were true why is it that the most successful women in society are not childless (Segolene Royal, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, Marjorie Scardino, Dorothy Thompson and Linda Cook all have kids)?

In reality it may be that in some industries a small amount of the pay gap is down to real economic reasons. 95% is not the right number.

But on to...

2) My belief is that even in those rare cases where adopting a prejudiced approach to hiring, pay and promotion appears economically justified, we should still strive to avoid it.

Firstly lets remember that economic good and good are not the same thing. We could boost the UK economy massively by legalising the sale of child pornography. Let's not eh? Similarly we could really boost the UK's economic prospects by encouraging hunting pensioners for sport (how many seconds til someone finds my blog by googling the phrase "hunting pensioners for sport"?!).

In the case I suggested above where it saves time and money not to interview black candidates - lets make the effort not to go down that road.

Now I do fully support the notion that companies struggling financially to support women taking maternity leave should be able to apply for government assistance. And indeed the same for companies coping with illness and disability. That seems obvious.

But to just start demoting and docking pay from mothers (although oddly you do not mention single fathers) when they need to spend time with their children seems like a sure-fire way to get kids left at home or on the streets unsupervised and thus breed a new generation of delinquents.

What we need to do it launch a full-on broadside attack on direct and indirect prejudice in the workplace. And in the rare circumstances that that genuinely threatens to place companies at an economic disadvantage, address that directly through financial assistance.

Alanna said...

Assuming we want to carry on the human race, women need to keep having kids. Less dramatically, and more practically, society needs women to have kids in order to sustain the workforce and economy. Therefore, women should not be penalised for doing so. Family and workplace models were created by and for men, at women's expense. Now that women have taken roles in the workplace both areas need to change. Men need to take responsibility for child care, and workplaces need to be more flexible, ideally with free onsite childcare where possible, in order that people with children - men and women, but primarily women as long as we continue to shoulder the burden of childcare - can work.

Preventing women from working to the extent and capacity they want to due to outdated ideas about childcare and responisbility is discriminatory (hint: that means unfair) and it needs to be stopped.

Jackart said...

I think I can work out why you at least didn't get your ideas taken seriously at meetings.

Tim Worstall said...

"But to just start demoting and docking pay from mothers (although oddly you do not mention single fathers) when they need to spend time with their children seems like a sure-fire way to get kids left at home or on the streets unsupervised and thus breed a new generation of delinquents."

There's a very basic misunderstanding at the heart of your thoughts here.

I'm not advocating that women with children get their pay cut. Nor that they get demoted. Nor that women as a group get discriminated against and certainly not that the possession of a fertile womb means second class either citizenship or economic value.

Remember, I'm not advocating these things.

What I am doing is looking at the world as it is and noting that, on average, women with children are indeed paid less (that gender pay gap is as I've pointed out, really a childcare pay gap). And then gone on to look at the research which tries to figure out why this is so.

The result seems to be that from the point of view of companies actually doing the hiring, women with children are less productive than either women without them or men (with or without children). This lower productivity seems again to come from two major causes: the first is the time taken out of the workforce to have and to raise said children. The second is in the choices made (and I agree, that choice can be societally imposed rather than it being any biological necessity) about full and part time work, committment to career etc while those children are being raised.

I'm most certainly not shocked by the idea that less productive workers get paid less than more. Indeed, I can't think of any way in which a market economy could work without this being true.

Remember, I'm not advocating these things: I'm not saying that this is the only way that society can work. I'm saying that it is the way that our own (and, in fact, just about every other rich country society. The gender pay gap in Sweden is 15% to our 17%, not much difference)does in fact work.

We've moved from "women get paid less because men are sexist pigs" to " women are paid less because of the choices that they make about child rearing" if you want to put the whole thing into a nutshell.

Good, now we've identified the causes of our pay gap we can do two further things. The first is work out whether we either want or need to do anything about this, the second is what?

Now, given that I'm a liberal, I'm entirely happy with differences in outcomes that result from people being able to express their own liberty. If people desire to raise their children at the expense of their career, great, good luck to you. If people desire to pursue their career while farming out their children for others to raise, or for their male partner to, excellent, that's also just fine and dandy by me.

So I don't think that there is anything that needs to be done here. The results we're seeing are (with that small amount explained by direct discrimination which I've already agreed, in the original piece, should be done away with) a result of people expressing their liberty. Excellent, that's what a free society is supposed to do.

BTW, the thing about that report: in my original draft of the piece I did note that the site is down. Odd that a government site which contains the information to refute a Minister's statements should be down the day she makes such statements, eh?

Cruella said...

Ok Tim - we disagree over the breakdown of the pay gap into "direct", "indirect" and "economically justifiable". And with the website down it is not easy to see the numbers (although as I mention I can tell you from direct experience that as a childless, very hard working woman, I was generally paid a lot less than similarly qualified men I worked with, including those who took big chunks of time off and worked much shorter hours than me).

It also appears that while you accept that some discrimination is "direct", you do not support Ms Harman's efforts to combat that. Equal pay audits - which her measures touch on - are the only way we can weed out and deal with unequal pay.

Now I understand you're saying it's ok to pay women less who choose to work shorter hours, etc, and I think often that isn't as economically justified as you think.

But are you saying it's acceptable for companies to pay me less than an equally qualified man because I MIGHT have a child one day? Economically if you believe maternity leave is crippling businesses (clue: it's not) then you could easily argue that it's just not worth employing fertile women. But that's not paying me less because of MY choice - it's paying me less because of other women's choices. I might well have chosen not to have kids. Can I get an exemption certificate to your double-standard pay scheme? Do I need a hysterectomy to get it?

Of course what we haven't gotten on to is those women who would probably love to be able to work part time and look after their kids but who can't because of the way the government forces single Mums back in to full-time work and fails to chase up absent fathers to pay child support costs... Apparently some of these women are under such pressure they don't even have time to dress up as "Captain Conception" (really!) and climb on MPs houses.

Jackass - if you disagree with my points go right ahead and explain why. Otherwise I think your remarks make it very clear how women are treated in your workplace, and it stinks.

J said...

The idea that men are succeeding because they are willing to put in the hours and sacrifice family, whereas women are not, is flawed for the following very simple reason.

Most men who are successful in the corporate world want families and children as much as do women. They want their children to be brought up well and be brought up preferably a parent, as much as do women. The difference is that because of societal pressures which are gender-discriminatory they farm the parenting out to their (mostly female) partners, whereas women cannot do the same.

If men were not able to farm out parenting to women, companies would not be able to reap the benefits of the greater productivity of having male workers who would put in long hours, since these male workers would not be able to put in these long hours (given their priorities include having children who are raised by the parents of said children). The productivity of these workers is directly related to the availability of unpaid labour in the care of their children.

Therefore, employers profit directly off the gender-discriminatory norms whereby women are given disproportionate responsibility for child-rearing notwithstanding the fact that child-rearing benefits men as much as it does women.

If no such reliable gender norm existed, companies would have to accept that they could not, when hiring someone, generally expect them to abandon the investment of time into their family lives to the degree that they currently do - unless they also had the correspondingly decreased productivity associated with a demoralised worker who had no family to begin with.

Employers therefore generally also have an economic incentive to pressure women out of the workforce.

Alex Brew said...

Tim - Men also combine family and work. They also make choices to have a life outside work. They also want little cute bubbly babies sitting on their knees. It's not just women making these decisions. If you're saying that women who make the choice to have children should be penalised by our system then you're going down a dangerous route. More and more women in the richest countries are in fact choosing to have no children or to have children much later. I wonder why!

Shannon said...

I agree with you Kate: at meetings, it is as if a woman with a good idea is 'highjacking' a meeting, while a man with a good idea is just being a good member of the team. It seems to me that women's ideas are often interpreted as tangential or 'off the agenda', whereas a man's fresh idea is interpreted as just that!


Tim Worstall said...

"But are you saying it's acceptable for companies to pay me less than an equally qualified man because I MIGHT have a child one day?"

I'm not saying that it's either acceptable or unacceptable. Those are value judgements, quite outside the scope of economics.

I am saying that this is what happens, yes. But please try to understand this point about morally acceptable behaviour: that's not what I'm trying to define nor am I interested in trying to do so. I am interested in looking at the incentives that people face and the actions they take as a result of those incentives.

Women who drop out of the workforce to have and raise children are (in general) less productive than people who do not do so (whether male or female). It is therefore entirely rational that they get paid less (again, in general).

This does indeed move around a bit in time. Those who might in hte future leave the workforce for this reason will be seen by employers as likely, in future, to be less productive. They will thus, again rationally, be paid less now to cover this risk to the employer. There will also be less training, less promotion and also depress wages.

Whether it is "right" or "wrong" that this behaviour exists is an entirely different question from whether it does in fact exist.

So, now that we know what is actually happening we can indeed turn to hte question of whether this is what we want to happen. You clearly don't: OK, so how are we going to change people's incentives so that it doesn't?

Equal pay audits? To be honest I really don't care: I don't think it will have much effect in any direction and will just be more paperwork. But there are things that could be done: for example, how about allowing people to write their own employment contracts? You can have one that says that yes, you might indeed want to have children, to take maternity leave. Another that says that you don't. That would deal with some of the problem, certainly. (Note, for example, that lesbians seem not to face a gender pay gap: at least indirect evidence that those thought unlikely to have children don't suffer from one). But of course it's illegal to ask a potential employee what her breeding plans are.

We could lower the amount of maternity leave: that would lower the pay gap.

We could even say that no, we want to keep the maternity provisions as they are and as a result we'll just have to put up with the fact that there's a pay gap.

But the thing that we can't do is refuse to note why there is a pay gap and then try to solve it. Because unless we acknowledge why there is one in hte ffirst place, we'll never be able to even discuss what we might do about it, if indeed we want to do anything at all.

Jackart said...

OK then, I will. Two words: Victim mentality. I've worked with lots of girls. The successful share a trait with successful boys. If knocked down they get back up. You seek someone to blame: patriarchy, discrimination, biology whatever.

Anyone who seeks to use the state to demand audits and such like to prove an unprovable negative, and refuses to accept that many women make different life choices to men deserves little respect.

Furthermore to take some to the evidence on the tiny "Discrimination" proportion of the GPG and dismiss it on your own personal anecdotal experience is just pathetic. It's the classic "lalala it's not happening" leftie wishful thinking

"but speaking as a women who worked 8 years in the financial services sector - a woman with no particular propensity to get sick and who during that time never had a baby or so much as a dependent goldfish -the pay gap is alive and well and all about direct and indirect discrimination"

Your belief that everything boils down to discrimination means that you weren't taken seriously in meetings, because it's ridiculous and pathetic. Because you're ridiculous and pathetic, you were paid less. YOU were discriminated agaist, not your gender.


butterflywings said...

I completely agree, Kate.

You so get it. Discrimination isn't some guy with a cigar going Ha ha I'm a big sexist and proud of it. It works indirectly and subtly.

Tim - try_to_understand_how_discrimination_works. And don't be so patronising to Kate. She's a bright woman. (And one who can more than stand up for herself).

You betray your sexism in every word, all while denying it. Lesbians don't suffer a pay gap? Got any evidence, other than your own anecdotal - and you say "at least indirect evidence that those thought unlikely to have children don't suffer from one" - i.e. only those who are clearly lesbians i.e. butch, presumably more feminine lesbians who can pass as straight still suffer from the pay gap? And how about infertile women, Tim? Can an employer divine that a woman has some sort of condition that makes her infertile, or has been sterilised? See, that's why discrimination is wrong - it is NOT rational. You argue that interviewers should be able to ask these things, but you can shove that. No-one should have to disclose such personal things as whether they are gay, fertile or intend to have children to get a job. Would you answer such questions? Oh no, but men get to have rights.

You assume also that someone who takes time off to have kids is less productive, all kinds of unwarranted assumptions there. I plan to post on this on my own blog, in which I will explain further.

Try reading what Kate wrote and digesting it.

jackart - shouldn't that be jackass?

phoolani said...

Really, Tim Nice But Dim, this is all so much rubbish, I don't even know where to begin. I'd start you off reading some Catherine MacKinnon - that'll set you off on the right path. Suffice to say, Kate, that I agree with you entirely.

Cruella said...

Tim, you just lose me when you say "Those are value judgements, quite outside the scope of economics.". Yet as I mention selling child pornography makes a great deal of economic sense. We can't sit back and say "well, you can see why it happens", we have to get up and do something to stop it.

And Jackass, I don't even understand how you can use an offensive phrase like "victim mentality" - no-one makes themselves a victim - those who commit crimes against you make you a victim. We cannot blame victims, that's just sick. And you make out that I spent my time in finance complaining about the pay gap - nothing could be further from the truth. I did the job, and I did it really well (I won awards and stuff ok...?) and at the end of the day I missed out on promotions and pay rises and heard on the grapevine weeks later that they'd been decided over drinks in a strip club to which I hadn't been invited. And the longer women shut up about discrimination because bigoted bullies like you accuse them of meaningless term like "victim mentality" the longer the vicious circle continues. We need more women to speak out - not less.

Jackart said...

We need more women to speak out, not less...

or maybe 'fewer'.