The Myth of the Gender Gap, in Pay
Carrie Lukas wrote about the class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart at The Corner on National Review Online. In her post, she provided a great summary of why the median woman earns less than the median man. Hint: it's not rampant sexism.
Women and men tend to gravitate toward different industries and even different specialties within fields. Women leave the workforce more frequently than men do and take more time off while working, and even full-time working women spend about half an hour less in the office each day than their male co-workers. These differences add up, and even liberal groups like the American Association of University Women admit that controlling for personal choices eliminates up to three-quarters of the wage gap.
It’s hard to control for all of the factors that affect earnings. In his book, Why Men Earn More, Warren Farrell looks at many factors, and notes trends that make identifying discrimination difficult. For example, women often are promoted more quickly than men. As a result, women executives often have less experience than their male counterparts and therefore are paid less. Dr. Farrell uses the example of TV news directors. Some claimed discrimination because female news directors were paid about 27 percent less than their male counterparts. Yet the data also showed that the average female news director had less than six years of experience in news, while the average man had more than 14. In this instance, who exactly is being discriminated against?
Other studies have found that women are less likely to negotiate their starting salaries or ask for raises and promotions, which may contribute to them earning less than men on average. That could be a result of socialization, natural instincts, and even the presumption that women who try to negotiate their salaries will be perceived as less attractive candidates (which studies have also found to be true).
Statistics also cannot capture the different goals that men and women have when negotiating employment contracts. While many men might focus exclusively on maximizing pay, many women focus on flexible work schedules or schedules that work with their children’s school calendars.