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Why the pay gap persists

A new Government Accountability Office report, highlighted at a Congressional hearing this morning, finds that female managers earned just 81 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts in 2007, compared to 79 cents in 2000. Women make up just 40 percent of this country's managerial ranks, little changed from the 39 percent ratio in 2000. And working mothers with children under the age of 18 account for an astonishingly low 14 percent of all managers, a number that hasn't changed since 2000.

Countless attempts have been made to explain the persistence of the wage and gender gap in management, which has hovered at around 80 cents on the dollar for so long that the number has become conventional wisdom. It's discrimination, women's groups say. It's education, others argue. Women don't negotiate well for raises, some say. Or, my personal favorite, they simply aren't tough enough to reach the highest levels of corporate power.

The GAO report does not make an effort to explain or analyze its findings, which largely reveal that despite relative economic health (the new numbers are for 2007, remember), little has changed. But it does, for the first time, take an in-depth look at the impact of motherhood on the pay discrepancies of male and female managers, which offers revealing clues for the primary reason this perennial leadership issue remains.

Let's take a look at the common explanations one by one. Discrimination surely plays a role, and it's one that shouldn't be discounted. But years of diversity training and equal-opportunity policies have barely moved the needle on the pay-gap issue. So while discrimination's still alive and well in many offices, it's only one reason, and likely a small one at this point, for why the gap persists.

Education is finally out as a rationale. Last year, women earned more PhDs than men for the first time. For every two men who graduate from college or receive a graduate degree, three women do, this story in Time reports. That's the inverse of the ratio in place when the baby boomer generation headed to college. The GAO found similar improvements: among women aged 25 to 64 in the labor force, the proportion with a college degree roughly tripled from 1970 to 2008, it reports.

And yes, it's true that few women have reached the highest levels of corporate power: the numbers become far grimmer when you examine just the executive ranks of managers. In 2009, just 13.5 percent of executive officers in corporations were women, according to the nonprofit Catalyst. That same year, only 6.3 percent of the top earners in business were women. And an amazingly low 2.6 percent of CEOs among the country's 500 largest corporations are women. In raw numbers, that means just 13 women have reached this high echelon of corporate power.

But while some women may not negotiate well, and others may shun the hot seat, I'd argue the main reason few reach that top rung of the corporate ladder is instead that the extraordinary demands on executives' time, or even on senior managers' time, are not compatible with raising a family. In a corporate world that demands 24/7 hours and far-flung globetrotting, many women--and increasingly, men--decide the sacrifice is not worth it.

The struggle to balance work and family is apparent in the GAO's numbers--remember it found that just 14 percent of all managers are women with children under the age of 18. And it helps decipher the pay gap, too. Working-mother managers make just 79 cents on the dollar, compared to their male peers, lower than the 82 cents that non-mother female managers receive. Recent studies have shown that-- thanks largely to education gains--young, single, childless women actually out-earn their male peers by a median 8 percent. After that point, female managers with children are simply more likely than men to scale back their hours or be the ones who have to miss the important client dinner, all of which can result in fewer promotions and lesser pay.

The incredible persistence of the wage gap is a complex issue, one that involves all of the above issues in some way. But I'd argue that until leaders truly adopt family-friendly policies and workplaces--much progress has been made, but more is needed--and until more is done to support working mothers with greater childcare resources, the wage gap isn't likely to budge much more.

By Jena McGregor

 |  September 28, 2010; 12:11 PM ET |  Category:  Career Management , Corporate leadership , Getting Ahead , Leadership development , Personal Leadership Journey , Women in leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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"Money is an essential part of attracting a mate for men. How is it, I would ask, that every 70 something millionaire who chooses to do so can walk with a young woman on his arm? Is this purely by accident?"

A perception of extreme inequality, as going by median income/opportunity, does tend to create a class of "nuissance suitors." These are men who THINK they have options in who they are going to date but do not actually clear the dating market at the high price they are setting (generally a girl who is much more attractive than they are). I am sure just about every woman has been approached by older guys who she is not at all interested in. Often they aren't even conventionally attractive.

As for education, I agree apples and oranges comparisons don't work. As a female with a math degree I really don't appreciate being compared to people who studied sociology (often other women). However there is some descriminiation towards women because some managers are old fashioned and some low end industries thrive on inimidating their workers and making their workers feel replaceable. Maybe places like walmart feel that women are easier to bully. I am sure that notion has occured to some businesses and managers higher up the food chain as well.

The trick in a less regulated market (like we have currently) is to aim high and let the market figure it out. Some companies have started to realize that women have caught on and that they will have to be nimble to recruit younger women who have the skills they need as well as high end male workers, before the high end workers of both sexes end up as competition! Companies can discriminate but only to the point where their workers are easily replaced, when this becomes more difficult it is prudent to follow other strategies.

Posted by: persimonix1 | October 6, 2010 6:14 PM

Women learned long ago that sacrificing family for work is not worth it. Men having caught on, are starting to find out that when they ask for more flexible schedules, or time off for school activities, they are getting resistance just like women.

Posted by: moebius22 | September 30, 2010 12:38 AM

I don't believe that self-selection because of child care responsibilities explains the wage gap. The majority of men in my law firm leave to attend school conferences, coach sports, pick up kids, etc. on a regular basis, but those absences are not viewed as showing a lack of full commitment to work. I am a mother, and when I run out at 6 p.m. to grab dinner, when I will be working until 10 or 11 p.m., I get comments in the elevator about how I must be running home to the kids.

We live in a competitive society and people (both men and women) will use the tools at hand that will advance themselves and their careers. If that means relying on stereotypes, such as "mothers are not as committed to their jobs as other workers", many people will use that to their advantage. For others, it may just be easier not to challenge the stereotype.

I think this author is living in a privileged world where women can choose to opt out or select a cushier career path. That's nice for her, but many of us do not have that luxury. We are either the primary breadwinner or we are in dual-income households where there is no way that our family could make it without our salary and continued career success. We don't have the option of self-selecting an easier career path as the author presumes, and yet we are burdened with the stereotype and corresponding hit to earnings which flows from the stereotype that we are not committed workers and not interested (because we are mothers) in career advancement or success.

Posted by: fish58 | September 29, 2010 11:23 PM

The author notes a survey that shows more women earned PhD's last year than did men. But she failed to note that women took their doctorates in fields like education, social sciences, and environmental sciences. men dominated in engineering and the hard sciences -- where the bigger money is. So comparing PhD's without the context of the subjects studied produces stilted results.

If you want to know why the pay gap exists, you need to determine why women, exercising their own free will, choose majors and professions that are less lucrative. When you can figure that out, you will crack the code on the so-called "pay gap."

Posted by: mandog | September 29, 2010 8:36 PM

I object to the biases being expressed against working mothers. I worked full time through and after two pregnancies. There was no "down time" - yet I was discriminated against both in pay and in promotions.

The reality is that the pay gap is discrimination against women - and all the excuses given above by both men and women are just excuses for promoting biases and prejudices that hurt - REALLY HURT - women and their children and their spouses.

It is time for it to end.

Posted by: mgd1 | September 29, 2010 6:51 PM

If someone earning 81 cents is truly producing as much as someone else earning $1, businesses would fire all the 100 percenters and hire nothing but the eight one pecenters.


It's really that simple.


Posted by: Hawaiian_Gecko | September 29, 2010 4:06 PM

I'd argue the main reason few reach that top rung of the corporate ladder is instead that the extraordinary demands on executives' time, or even on senior managers' time, are not compatible with raising a family.

The argument is meaningless without some statistics on the pay differences between women with children and women without. Too often, arguments like this are used by social reactionaries to wrongly claim that mothers shouldn't be in the workforce in the first place.

Posted by: Carstonio | September 29, 2010 11:46 AM

The only way to end this ancient inequity is to pass laws making performance based pay illegal and instead make pay solely dependent on gender. Women should get paid more than men in the same profession until women make up for all the centuries they've been paid less than men.

Since ending performance based pay/reducing incentives paid to men may make the U.S. economy less competitive globally an iron wall of tariffs will need to be erected to keep out foreign goods from countries with more efficient economies.

Professional sports shouldn't be exempted from these equal pay/equal opportunity laws as there's no rational justification for treating the NFL or NBA differently from any other businesses.

Now those are some real time ideas which would actually get the job done.

Posted by: politbureau | September 29, 2010 5:37 AM

Wallenstein said:
--Loss of experience due to maternity time
--Self selection away from some demanding and thus higher paying jobs
--Women still have greater tendency to follow spouse's career; follower spouses regardless of gender tend to have lower salaries than their peers due to mismatches between their skills and the job market where their spouses land them

I'm a single woman who pursued a career as a computer programmer. I would like to say my colleagues rarely were sexist, but some of the men doing the hiring -- who often did not understand computers or programming at all -- were. I was often hired as a junior programmer because as a single woman, I had no fallback for long periods of unemployment and would rather work than take the risk of having to be unemployed again. I've seen men come in and completely blue-sky the timeframes for completion or the number of hours needing to be worked, and been told that as a woman I was being too conservative in my estimates. By the time I was proved right, I was already out of a contract.

Were these my choices? Somewhat. I chose to pursue programming. I chose to be as honest in my estimates for the time a project would take as I could be. But the fact of the matter is, in many cases, non-programmers don't perceive women as effective with something logic based and will hire according to their prejudices rather than the facts in front of them.

Posted by: Fabrisse | September 28, 2010 6:27 PM

Great article but I have to say I don't think it is lack of good affordable child care alone that accounts for pay discrepancy. France has unbelievable child care, maternity leave, and early childhood education assistance and the same pay gap exists there between men and women at the managerial level.

Reading workinghardforaliving's post took me back 25 years, when my child was born and I had to decide whether I was going to step off the managerial track and lose both momentum and income. With college tuitions looming for my husband's 3 daughters and a child of our own to raise, I continued in my career and became an executive before our son turned 3. But I barely kept a work-life balance;life was reduced to work and family - there was no time for anything else. I also was never paid at the level of my male counterparts even though I was equally if not more effective than any of them. (Yes, I even had the president of one company ask me why I was asking for so large a raise since my husband was in a well-paying profession. I sure hope those days are over! And I did get the raise. . .) After 10 years as an executive, I decided to start my own business with a colleague. Fifteen years later we have a thriving enterprise and employ about 60 people to whom we provide a great deal more work/life balance than we ever had (not to mention pay equity, benefits, and profit sharing). Even though I worked even harder starting my business, I had much more control over when I worked and actually was able to spend more time with my family. And once the company got off the ground the financial reward was much greater than if I had continued to work for companies owned by others. Having one's own business is scary and exhilarating and may not be for every woman, but it is a great way to eliminate pay disparity, create a work environment more conducive to having and enjoying both career and family, and not be dependent on any outside party for career advancement.

And to hookedonthepost: I did it all with a BA in French.

Posted by: mbarker1 | September 28, 2010 6:25 PM

I worked at a fortune 500 company for 28 yrs. By accident I learned that a man I had trained was earning more money than me.
I emailed my female manager who ignored my email. I then went to the Eoc dept. of my company who asked me if maybe this man was not smarter than me. My response was that after the Northridge earthquake I was the one put on the plane to advance the company disaster relief plan.
I was given a salary increase, but it was to late for me to recoup as I was about to retire.
The ending story is the man who I had trained thought of me as a traitor when I used the inside information. He really thought women should just shut up and not cause waves.

Posted by: JillCalifornia | September 28, 2010 6:00 PM

Women outlive men. Would they give up 5 years of life in order to pursue the rat race of work, the way men do, in order to attain higher pay? Full time work with benefits is tough to find for anyone, but women can also obtain part time work more easily than men. The pay not be high, but it's something, and better than the dark choice between crime and jail some poor males face.

Posted by: jkoch2 | September 28, 2010 5:47 PM

It's really not a mystery anymore. We don't need regular articles on why it persists.

Labor economists have been studying this for decades. There's no need to speculate. Just report on the thousands of pages of literature that has pretty much reached a consensus on this.

--Loss of experience due to maternity time
--Self selection away from some demanding and thus higher paying jobs
--Women still have greater tendency to follow spouse's career; follower spouses regardless of gender tend to have lower salaries than their peers due to mismatches between their skills and the job market where their spouses land them

Those are the biggies; several other rational explanations have been identified as well.

Posted by: Wallenstein | September 28, 2010 5:17 PM

To sum this up, Jena McGregor feels the only way for the wage gap in managerial pay to be overcome, is for the work place to better suit a woman's life style choices.

Posted by: moebius22 | September 28, 2010 5:17 PM

Some interesting comments have been posted - special thanks to HEBE1 for "Popping out kids doesn't make one better or worse than another" with respect to working women.

I'm a married woman without kids who is tired of hearing about "family-friendly policies and workplaces" when it becomes discriminatory to those without children.

Can I pass on working late to go see my *nephew* in a school play? Not work on a weekend because of a volunteer commitment? Flex my work schedule not because of my kids' summer camp, but because *I* want to take some personal enrichment class? Ha!

Equal pay for equal work, right? Even if that were achieved, there are still benefits people with children get that the rest of us don't. I wish my employer would kick in for my nephew's or niece's tuition, or a child I've mentored, but no, they're not my own.

We make choices in life, and for most people who have children, it was a choice. Please don't penalize me for making mine, either.

Posted by: smiles4sunandrain | September 28, 2010 5:15 PM

My husband and I are both civil engineers. We both got our master's degrees from the same school, but I graduated first so I have 2 more years experience than he does. We don't have any kids so there are no gaps in our resume. Until he changed jobs recently, we both worked for different private consulting engineering firms in the same city. Even though I have more experience and was successfully managing larger, more complex (expensive) projects, my base pay still was still $5-7K less compared to his per year. So, in my case, the pay difference can't be explained away by education, family leave, or any other easy excuse. I only earn more now because I stayed in the private sector and he now works for the government. I also still have people trying to push clerical/housekeeping duties on me because I am the only woman in the office.

Posted by: NASC2000 | September 28, 2010 5:10 PM

As a working mom who has in recent years "slowed down" my career in order to have children, it is a personal choice that I made. I do not expect to receive the same promotions and raises as a peer with a similar job, education, and yrs of experience, who works the extra hours and puts in the extra effort. Every man and woman makes choices. These are choices that, ideally, are made as a couple/family. In our family, I have accepted that I will slow down because my husband has more career growth opportunities right now. I accept that while I have young children that I will not advance and that these choices will have longer term consequences on my growth and income potential. We all need to take responsibility for those choices (though i recognize that for some these aren't real choices due to cost of child care and other circumstances, etc.)

Posted by: dragonfly1 | September 28, 2010 4:55 PM

DAN4, you hit on an excellent point:

How about women executives who are married to stay-at-home dads?

What is not mentioned here is that men actually earn more with each child, while women earn less with each child. Many men are able to reach the upper levels because there is a woman taking care of everything else in his life. A working woman most likely has a working spouse and even if they do not have children, she is most likely doing the additional work around the house.

ThrityYearResident - its only women who want kids? Last time I checked, it took 2. Also in my experience more men want children than the women I know. Of course! They don't have to do anything! Most men would never agree to be the stay at home parent, yet are very happy to have a housewife to take care of him.

I do not like that this focuses so much on the child issue though, because everything I have seen shows that the pay gap is smaller for women without children, but it still exists. Also, while I agree with creating more affordable child care options, using this as an explicit solution to the pay gap simply is upholding the exist idea that children are a woman's issue/responsibility.

Posted by: EAR0614 | September 28, 2010 4:45 PM

I think the comment posted suggesting that men need money more than women is interesting and worth considering. Women who have a choice almost always choose a mate who makes more money than another guy. The first thing women want to know about a man someone is seeing is, "What does he do?". Money is an essential part of attracting a mate for men. How is it, I would ask, that every 70 something millionaire who chooses to do so can walk with a young woman on his arm? Is this purely by accident?

As for those who believe that sexist attitudes still reign supreme, I would suggest that because of the highly competitive nature of American society, that people are always looking for ways to lower, even harm, those who work around them. For the first ten years, I was always considered too young to be doing what I was doing. Comments were made, behind my back and to my face, about a "kid" taking such positions. The point is simply that people are always looking for something, anything, by which they can bring another down, if only psychologically.

As for the poster with two masters and a Ph.d. working in a hostile environment, I would suggest that perhaps you are working for the wrong employer or perhaps wrong field. Maybe people are attacking you because they fear your degrees make you look far more qualified than they do. In any case, you should document the occasions of outright mistreatment and then, perhaps, sit back and consider their meaning and value. A good strategy is often to let them wallow in their ignorance while you go about your business and do a good job.

While I support equality of opportunity, the cries of sexism at every turn have grown a bit over used. Women have been so conditioned to believe that the world is against them that, I believe, they look for every sign of proof. When my daughter was in middle school, one of her best friends, a girl, caught the feminist attitude and, thereafter, everything was the result of sexism, except, perhaps, the weather.

Could we maybe grow up a bit? The world is not a perfect place, nor was it supposed to become perfect just because we arrived here. There are problems that need to be addressed and solved, but many of the "studies" showing discrimination, bias and mistreatment are not entirely free of bias as well. If you see a wrong, come up with a specific program and set of ideas to make it better and announce it to the world.

Doug Terry

Posted by: terryreport | September 28, 2010 4:36 PM

Taxguru: And conversely, men find women who make money unattractive?
If I'm not allowed to make a decent living as an educated individual, then I have to find a male that makes money.

I didn't get married until I was 30. Not because of kids, but my career. That and the fact that men do NOT feel comfortable in relationships with women who are highly intelligent. It's an absolute handicap in society and always has been for women. I'm pretty, but I was very fortunate to find a man secure enough in himself to love me for who I am and not "put me down" so I could be more manageable.

Not everyone is a working mother complaning about the cost of childcare, (which IS high and incidentally why I can't afford kids)and wanting credit for their homemaking and childrearing abilities in the workplace. We're not comparing the salary of a pilot to that of a stewardess.

You men are absolutely right about women not being as fiercly competitive and striving for top dog no matter what the cost. I'd rather work with my co-workers to achieve more than one person alone can achieve, than step on their heads and cheat and crush people in my wake all for the glory of the position of CEO.

Women are not encouraged to stand up for or assert themselves in business; because it's interpretted as complaining or being b!&chy when a woman does it, though it's fine for a man.

Posted by: hebe1 | September 28, 2010 4:28 PM

This can't be true. Oprah's salary is enough to balance out any perceived inequalities.

Posted by: forgetthis | September 28, 2010 4:19 PM

The equal rights commision needs to adress the serious disparities between men and women in the health/human services and education industries. Those statistics clearly indicate that policy needs to be enforced to allow more men into those areas or outreach needs to be considered to equalize the gender disparity.

Posted by: mark0004 | September 28, 2010 4:17 PM

Several years ago, we represented a company in a commissions dispute with a former salesman. The salesman had what I would describe as a not uncommon sales resume: 1 year of junior college, followed by some years of sales experience. The associate (male), who was one of the smartest persons ever to work in our office, was genuinely shocked -- I would say even offended -- by the fact that the salesman made 3 times as much money as he (the associate) did, despite the fact that the associate had almost 6 times as much education. The fact is that in almost every business some people are worth more to the company than others, and that usually depends on the nature of the business and the employee's skills. This type of across-the-board comparison of "managers" is far too inexact to conduct any real analysis or yield any real conclusions.

Posted by: willdd | September 28, 2010 4:14 PM

Gee, I wonder if the God-awful Old Patriarchs have anything to do with it? All of this effort to force society back to the “traditional family”.

Posted by: Provincial | September 28, 2010 4:09 PM

There is another factor no one talks about that probably explains a big chunk of the pay gap. Money is worth more to men than to women. A man who earns more money has more and better dating prospects. A woman who earns more receives no such benefit, and might even be seen as LESS attractive to some men. Given these different incentives, it is hardly surprising that men find ways to earn more. There is no way to legislate away the individual decisions of tens of millions of twenty and thirty something men who decide that staying late at the office or kissing someone behind is worth it if it gets them a prettier girlfriend. By the time women have kids and want to pay for their education, and are motivated to earn every last dollar they can, they are so far behind they can never catch up. It is at this point that they typically ask "why am I making less than my male classmates"? They ask it as if it is rhetorical and indicates employment discrimination. It does indicate discrimination, but not of the kind they imagine. The discrimination they will have to overcome is that women find a man more attractive if he has more money. I don't see how any employment laws or workplace initiatives will change that.

Posted by: taxguru | September 28, 2010 4:05 PM

The point that needs to be made is that this sexual discrimination angle, despite its empirical validity, misses the real dynamics at work. Women get paid less because it is profitable that they do so. Women get paid less as most Chinese workers get paid less. But where are American and European companies investing? In China. American men are losing their jobs. European men, too, are losing their jobs, but they are better protected by law and so they are not as endangered as American men.
Recessions are a good excuse to get rid of better-paid become overpaid men, and in the United States, employers have fired as many men as they possibly could. The problem is not economic per se, in the sense that the current circumstances absolutely require the reductions in staff instituted, otherwise staff reductions in the U.S. and in similar economies would be analogous. They are not. U.S. employers fired a far greater percentage of workers in this recession than elsewhere. American companies are sitting on far greater amounts of cash than elsewhere. They could hire back, spur a recovery that is hesitant, but choose not to. It is economic in that recession has been seized upon as an opportunity is to get rid of higher paid workers, i.e., men, and, after a decent interval, to replace the argumentative and expensive men with cheaper and more obedient women.
This isn't about gender discrimination, this is about wage discrimination, exploiting historical norms to screw everyone, men and women alike. One must admit, however, it is perhaps better to be exploited than discarded.
The most insane aspect to all this is that it is most staunchly men that are so blindly angry that they are determined to put the supply-siders back in the saddle, making their situation even worse.
Life is complicated. Simplistic analyses often miss critical elements. Ph.D.s and salaries have little to do with each other. Knowledge is less important than the ability to leverage knowledge; that is what is important to understand. Sometimes knowledge is cheap, especially when it is possible to eliminate an entire cadre of workers due to the great business opportunity of the collapse of the capitalist system and a government not quite ready yet for anarchy and barter.

Posted by: rarignac | September 28, 2010 3:56 PM

Women have babies.

Posted by: password11 | September 28, 2010 3:55 PM

If you do not think sexism still exists, read the comments!

Thirtyyearresident:No woman wants requirements for senior management to be "dumbed" down. I think the point the article is making by mentioning that women have more PhD's than men is that women are not stupid and do not need things "dumbed down". By the way, I think it's too bad that men seem to question their accomplishments and not focus on their worth. Just kidding; your comment is offensive.

By the way, Hookedonthepost: I happen to be one of those "dears" who earned a useless PhD in Classics; a field that is by far predominantly male. Though I do agree, that if the degree is irrelevant to the job, it doesn't add as much to the resume. Thanks for being so condescending. I've missed it.

I am one of those rare beings that is over educated and does not have children, mainly because my husband doesn't want any and quite frankly we can't afford them. I don't think exceptions should be made for working mother's other than what is already being done. As usual, there isn't a distinction being made between working mothers and the rest of us who are not mothers. Popping out kids doesn't make one better or worse than another.

Sexism is going to be around for a very long time. Women are not being promoted or considered for certain roles that are deemed "male" roles. A female secretary in her early 20's said to me once that she really thinks the HR Director should be male. Obviously, she was an idiot, which was why she was only a secretary.

Women do not always work well together. It's a fact. It's not "catty", it's called climbing the corporate ladder; it doesn't behove a female manager to promote female employees, but it does help her to ingratiate herslef with the males. This is exactly the same thing that men do, however women have a somewhat better chance sometimes with male bosses who are swayed by a pretty face or reminded of their mother/daughter, sister, etc. Until that ends, how can women expect equality? We are not just fighting against a glass ceiling; we're getting kicked in the face by everyone, male and female. Unless, of course, we can stop being so "sensitive" and be happy with what little we are able to grab.

Posted by: hebe1 | September 28, 2010 3:49 PM

When woman came into the American work force in greater numbers during the 1970s and '80s, it was immediately assumed that all practices of the older ways should be resolved, right now. Poof, gone! Of course, when a problem directly affects ME and my pay, I would like it solved before next morning's breakfast, right?

The real world doesn't work this way. Compensation is based, in part, on how much you've been earning previously. In effect, you tell the market place what you are worth by the pay you are willing to accept. Since women historically had lower paying jobs, they started lower on the ladder and often finish up there, too.

While I would never suggest that compensation is entirely logical or fair, to some degree compensation at the top rewards risk taking. While it is difficult and even socially dangerous to generalize, women tend to be less inclined to risk than men. Women, in many cases at least, tend to be protectors of what is rather than builders of what isn't. One big risk can launch a company into a new, multi-billion dollar direction and those who do so successfully get paid a lot of money.

If I am correct in this reasoning, then looking to entrepreneurial history would be one source to consider. Example: Ted Turner started CNN and created a massive new business. Where are the women entrepreneurs who have launched billion dollar businesses? I am sure there are some, but that sort of risk certainly appeals more to men than most women. Women, especially wives with families, want reliability over great, unknown rewards.

None of this means that women are not good managers or should not be paid as well as men. When you hire a man or a woman for a top job, you are getting the whole package. Men tend to drink more and run other risks that make them less desirable to run a big company. But, men, in general, are certainly driven to prove themselves and are willing to sacrifice, sometimes a lot more than just their health, to be the top dog.

Also, always keep in mind that the competition for jobs, high or low, is very intense in the US. There is always someone waiting to take your place. One pause, one hesitation and you're out. (I once took an unscheduled day off because I was unhappy with an office wide pay cut and I was replaced in a managerial job that very day. Done.)

Not all of the world's problems can be solved in a day or a decade. Right now, women are looking to come out on top in the competition for higher jobs, indeed all jobs they might want. It is just a matter of time. Men, as evidenced by the statistics on higher education, are in some sort of mysterious retreat from work and maybe life itself. I, for one, am tried of hearing about the "glass ceiling" and yet another study showing women are being treated unfairly. As a society, we should be grateful there are men and women willing to give up some aspect of their life for the good of children. Otherwise, all could be lost.

Doug Terry

Posted by: terryreport | September 28, 2010 3:48 PM

I'm a female middle manager in the IT world and I can tell you I deal with chauvinism every day. Some days it's blatant and other days it's a bit more subtle but there nonetheless. I do have 2 Master's degrees and a PhD but worked in my field while I attended school at night, my husband stayed at home to raise our children and I don't have any gaps in my employment so your reasoning donnykerabatssos doesn't work for me. The glass ceiling still exists. I hope I've made a dent for my daughter and she will make a dent for her daughter. Sexism doesn't end in a generation but in many generations. I was lucky enough to be born in time to gain from the struggle for equality and wish I was going to be around when true equality exists between genders; but that won't happen in my lifetime.

Posted by: BullyLover | September 28, 2010 3:41 PM

Lots of uninformed assertions here. The only good comment I see is from Dan4, asking if the pay gap is different for women without children, single women, or women who have stay-at-home husbands. Only then can one validate the hypothesis that the pay gap is due to women choosing to work less to raise children.

Posted by: catherine3 | September 28, 2010 3:36 PM

I would need more information than the article offers to come to a conclusion. For example, what is meant by "management"? Does that term mean corporate management jobs only or does it include any job in the entire work force with the title manager, such as store managers, copy center managers, beauty salon and barber shop managers, restaurant managers, etc.? Also, does that category include only general managers and assistant managers by title as "management" or does it also include those who have the title "supervisor" at their job and whose place in the hierarchy is above the rank and file employees yet below the general manager and assistant managers?

Posted by: SCOTSGUARDS | September 28, 2010 3:28 PM

Given that it generally takes years, even decades, to progress to management level, what is the use in citing educational achievement data from 2009?

I'm not arguing many of your conclusions, just your use of data. It is misleading to offer that women now receive more college degrees, when today's managers graduated long ago.

Posted by: paul-t | September 28, 2010 3:25 PM

The $PAY GAP is Criminal at best! - The $Pay-Gap between the $RICH, and Low Income is Criminal! -- The tooo-Bigs / $BANKsters & CORPsters - thru the ANTI-FAIR-TRADE "NAFTA" -- has sent over 15-Million $Good-Paying JOBS over-Seas! -- That was Intentional,- so to bring Wages Down here in AMERICA! -- And the U.S. CONGRESS is to Blame! -- No 'Head-of-Household' should make less than $31-34 per hour, if He/She has to pay for benefits. -- But, this Slave Labor "CRAP" is Criminal & Immoral! -- WE-the-People need this Turn-Coat CONGRESS to TAX the $Filthy RICH by 99%,- WITH NO LOOPHOLES, until the National DEBT is ZERO!!

Posted by: jward52 | September 28, 2010 3:22 PM

The term "managerial" is misleading. It's not the managing that gets you the big money. It's knowing whom to hire and how to make good financial decisions.

You don't say in what areas women are earning their Ph.d's. If they're in finance, business, or even accounting, then great. But if the Ph.d is in psychology, education (any idiot willing to plug along can get the latter), or English, then the dear she-doctor probably isn't ready to compete for a top level job.

Posted by: HookedOnThePost | September 28, 2010 3:17 PM

How are the data collected? Are these salary figures self-reported? If so, the "gap" could simply reflect a male tendency to fudge upward on certain key stats such as salary, penis length, or number of sexual partners.

Posted by: fleeciewool | September 28, 2010 3:05 PM

I would like to think this analysis is useful, but working women have had it beaten into them that they are victims of sexism for so long now that I doubt they are open to any other reasoning. Over the course of my 25+ year career I have worked with and managed many professional women (I am a man) and have seen most of them take a step back from their careers to raise families at some point. And yes, doing so has caused them to delay and/or miss some earnings and promotions, but in every case they made the right choice. In the long run, they end up happier and less prone to the burnout that their male counterparts often face, along with the stress, health problems, drinking issues and other maladies that a lifetime of putting career first can produce. In my opinion, more men should make the family choice, make do with a little less money, and enjoy their lives more. But if they're going to insist on driving themselves into an early grave, well then let them have the extra pay. It's cold comfort after the first stroke.

Posted by: allknowingguy | September 28, 2010 2:58 PM

Absolutely agree with this article. I am one of those highly educated women who made more than my male colleagues, then made the choice to stay home with my newborn for a few years, and returned to the workforce where I choose not to be promoted to management. The moment my child is off to University I will move into management and the globe-trotting that is required. That will leave me at least 20 years to be in management. I am thankful for all of the hard work by the feminists of this century that have allowed me these options.

Posted by: WorkingHardToMakeALiving | September 28, 2010 2:57 PM

Everyone's got an *opinion* on this but only real data will explain it. That's no doubt why the report did not speculate -- the data are not yet available. Opinions only reflect our own biases and perhaps anecdotes, not facts. They serve to polarize men vs. women, women with children vs. childless, etc. but they don't provide causal evidence. What's more, they reduce the issue to a search for a single factor when it's more likely a result of an interaction of factors. And if it's that, then the world would not appear so comfortably simple anymore ...

Posted by: jmfrommaine | September 28, 2010 2:50 PM


Posted by: NorplantNow | September 28, 2010 2:46 PM

Ovaries + Uterus = "Pay Gap"

Posted by: NorplantNow | September 28, 2010 2:45 PM

One word: SEXISM!

Posted by: Prakosh | September 28, 2010 2:45 PM

Ole Boy's Network - plain and simple. It is expecially disturbing the number of inexperienced, incompetent and otherwise unqualified males holding these opportunities. Friend of a friend who plays golf with the son who's father is a Sr. Manager. He gets to walk in the door with experience as a manager of Pizza Hut and get a job in leadership just short of 6 figures. SMFH.

Posted by: cymp65 | September 28, 2010 2:40 PM

We shouldn't dumb down the requirements of every senior manager job just to address the fact that women feel the need to take time out for family.

BTW - It is too bad that females always seem to question their "worth" rather than celebrating their accomplishments.

Posted by: ThrityYearResident | September 28, 2010 2:40 PM


It's interesting reading.

Posted by: Skowronek | September 28, 2010 2:31 PM

We did the cash infusion stimulus in 2009. Clearly, the 500,000 PER MONTH jobs losses of Bush / 2008 were put to a stop.

Now it is time to realize the full damage of those years. 15 million remain unemployed. Trying to cut off their stipends in service to an already exploded deficit, is not the right move for emergency times. The right step here is to keep them supported, with FDR-style public works jobs.

Community policing to reduce crime. Elder home care, child care - both are underserved and have positive social and economic impact. Badly needed infrastructure improvements. Many unemployed would be happy to give half a day to these roles as they wait for reintegration into the private sector.

Which is obviously going to take years. The solution isn't hard. Morons in Washington and a Media Inc. largely beholdened to the far right, are what is in the way.

Isn't it odd how the FDR solution isn't even on the table? Think Hoover Dam was a bad idea?

- Balkingpoints / www

Posted by: RField7 | September 28, 2010 2:30 PM

"until more is done to support working mothers with greater childcare resources, the wage gap isn't likely to budge much more."

Forty percent of managers are women but they've made no progress otherwise. It couldn't be the fault of any of the forty percent, could it?

Posted by: blasmaic | September 28, 2010 2:29 PM

Do women executives who don't have kids earn less than males? How about women executives who are married to stay-at-home dads? If so, then balancing family vs. work wouldn't be the explanation, it would seem. Maybe Larry Summers can do this statistical study after Jan, when he will have free time.

Posted by: Dan4 | September 28, 2010 2:28 PM

Experience counts when determining pay.

- Spending time getting a Ph'D isn't work experience

- Taking time off to raise small children (which more women than men do) also works against the experience factor.

- Any gap in employment time works against you.

This is the pay differential explanation, flat and simple.

Posted by: DonnyKerabatsos | September 28, 2010 2:23 PM

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