The Wage Wall

Rather consistently we hear mentions to the gap in pay between women and men. The line that is most often use is that women make $.75 for every man’s dollar. This of course has been soundly refuted by a number of studies that show the apparent difference in pay is more a result of career and life choices than systemic oppression.

What I find more interesting than the truth of the statistic, is it’s persistence. You would think if there were such a noticeable difference, it would be clear as day. And yet the effects, if ever there were any, remain invisible to us. We need the use of sophisticated statistics to show what should be everyday common knowledge. The wage gap is supposed to be pervasive meaning people should be able to tell if they are direct victims of it or not. But we can’t and the reason for that is much more dangerous that the issue of the wage gap.

Employers work hard to obfuscate wages. Culture has a shyness towards discussing the topic of wages. Everything in society is fashioned around the idea of keeping wage information compartmentalized and isolating workers. Let’s imagine that there was a wage gap, it would be great for employers. If they could cut costs on personnel by 25%, you bet they’d do it, sexism or no.

The ability of employers to segment their workforce and manipulate wages without transparency should worry everyone, not just women. and this is where I see the divide between process thinkers and outcome thinkers.

Right now the outcome is being shouted from the roof-tops and presidential podiums – It’s bad that employers are paying women unfairly. The acceptable solution to this is that women not be paid unfairly. A mandate might be put in place that wages not be assigned with any knowledge of the employee’s gender. There might be audits to asses any statistical preferential treatment of one sex over the other. It’s possible that there is a good solution to fix this exact problem.

But the process thinker is more concerned with how the problem might come about in the first place. Why are employers able to operate with such impunity that they could segment a half of the workforce into a lower wage bracket? Why, on a case by case basis would workers accept these lower wages? Why is the force of the free market favoring job creators over job workers?

The most robust answer to all of these questions is that we have begin wage comparison. It needs to become not only acceptable but encouraged to discuss wages with one’s peers. This will not only fix any sex wage gap that might exist, but any race, orientation, marital status, and what not discrimination.  Most importantly, it will put a stop to the A/B testing style wage assignment.

 

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