Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Gender Gap Only Matters If it Hurts Society as a Whole, Over Generations

There is a well-known gender gap in the average pay of men and women. Likewise, there is a gap in the proportion of men and women at the top of most occupations.

People whose main conviction is for equality look at the gender gap and see something bad because men and women aren't the same.

People whose main conviction is for liberty look at the gender gap and see something potentially good because men and women get to choose what they want.

Most of these gaps come from the differences between married fathers and married mothers. Married men respond to parenthood by working more and seeking more money, status, and power. Married women respond to parenthood by working less and trading money, status, and power for greater time to raise their children.

From the perspective of the good of society as a whole, both equality and liberty are means to a greater end. Neither equality nor liberty are ends in themselves. In order for there to be society at all, there have to be children. Having some educated women choose to have children and invest themselves in them is a good thing for society.


Debbie said...

I'd be interested to know the following: 1) of the women who are in top-level positions, is their pay the same as that of men in similar positions? 2) of the proportion of women who apply for jobs, is a similar proportion hired?

If the answers are generally yes, then I'd say that we don't have an equality problem. And I'm all for liberty!

If the answers are no, however, then we still need to work on equality, while allowing for liberty.

The problem is that people want to make things too simple. They need to factor both issues together.

Debbie Berkley
Bellevue, WA

Gruntled said...

I don't know the answer to the second question, which I think would need to parsed several ways before it could be meaningfully answered.

About the first question, I do know that women are likely to be promoted faster. This puts them on the same level with men who have been there, and with the company, longer. The men are paid more for their seniority. This appears to show, though, that women are paid less for their sex.

One fine test that Warren Farrell uses is to see whether men and women entrepreneurs in the same field with the same size business pay themselves the same. On average, women pay themselves less than their male counterparts do.