Article #25 From the "What If ..." Library on Salary Negotiation

What If ...

I'm Paid Less As A Women?

Thanks to Marty Nemko for the heads’ up on this book and this Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap.

For decades, we in the media have reported that women earn less than men. As a result, we've created a generation of angry women and self-conscious men.

A 2005 book, "Why Men Earn More," by Dr. Warren Farrell, shows we've been dead wrong: For the same work, women earn more than men. His findings are based on a comprehensive review of government and other statistics.

Farrell is no right-wing misogynist. He ran for the Democratic nomination for California governor. He's the only man ever elected three times to the board of the National Organization for Women in New York City. And he's no intellectual lightweight; the Financial Times named him one of the world's top 100 thought leaders.

The book's main message is good news for women: If women do one or more of the 25 things men more often do, women can earn more than men.

Farrell does not encourage nor discourage women from doing these 25 things: "Each of the 25 usually requires trading quality of life for money. I just want women and men to be aware of their options so they can craft a life rather than just accept what drops in their lap."

The 25 can be reduced to three:

1. Choose careers that pay more. Because of supply and demand, you'll earn more by choosing a job that:

            •is in an unpleasant environment (prison vs. childcare facility);

            •requires harder-to-attain skills (hard science vs. liberal arts);

            •requires longer work hours (executive vs. administrative assistant);

            •is unrewarding to most people (tax accountant vs. artist);

            •demands financial risk (commission-based sales vs. government job);

            •is inconvenient (traveling salesperson vs. teacher);

            •is hazardous (police officer vs. librarian).

Many more men than women are willing to accept such jobs, even when women are paid more. For example, women sales engineers earn 143 percent of their male counterparts' salaries, yet less than 20 percent of sales engineers are women.

2. Put in more hours. That's obvious, but key. For example, Farrell cites research that "Fortune 1000 CEOs typically paid their dues with 60- to 90-hour workweeks for about 20 years. Yet women are less than half as likely as men to work more than 50 hours a week. And women are less likely to agree, every few years, to uproot themselves and their families to far-flung places to get the necessary promotions."

Why? Because women, on average, are more involved in childrearing and other domestic activities. So, if a woman (or man) expects to rise to high-paying jobs, she may need to push harder to get hubby more involved in those activities, pay for childcare and domestic services, or decide not to have children.

Nemko asked Farrell, "But shouldn't workplaces not expect a woman (or a man) to work so many hours that family life is undercut?" He responded, "Yes, absolutely, but we must be gender-fair. If a male corporate manager chose to take care of his children, we'd applaud him but not expect the workplace to promote him as quickly. Yet when women do the same, women's advocacy organizations often expect just that. Both men and women must accept the consequences of their choices."

3. Be more productive in the hours you do work. If women produce as much as men, the good news is they will likely be rewarded. For example, women's advocacy organizations complain that female professors earn less than male professors, but Farrell cites research that among professors who produce an equal number of journal articles, "men were likely to be paid the same or just slightly less than women."

I asked Farrell, "But apart from the 25 nonsexist reasons men earn more, isn't sexism still a factor?" He responded, "There are instances of discrimination against both women and men, but on average, no. If you knew you could hire a woman for less than an equivalent man, you'd hire women to get a price advantage over your competition. Do you think businesses so hate women that they hire more expensive men even though they'd lose so much money?"

Rather than denigrating men for earning more, should we respect them for their willingness to do unpleasant, but necessary, work that few women will do such as roofing, coal mining or guarding a prison -- often working themselves into an early grave. There are four widows for every widower.

And men, you might learn a lesson from women and consider trading money for quality of life.