Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Women's Pay: Equal Or Is Answer Elusive?

When International Women's Day rolled around in March, I contemplated the topic of why men make more money doing the same job as women. In the PR industry. Was this the truth, or had I succumbed to a perpetual myth? Or was I dredging up ghosts à la Feminine Mystique? Undeniably, some discrimination within the greater marcomm industry still exists, but is it pervasive enough these days to warrant such a generalization? From my own experience, as employee and employer, I couldn't see the pay inequality.

Demystifying the pay divide

Statistics, however, skew the results in men's favor. Spread over all industries, men simply earn more than women because they occupy a higher percentage of the highest-paying jobs. This does not suggest that there's a blatant discrimination, just that women are still playing catch-up in earning advanced degrees and breaking into the traditional higher-paying fields such as engineering, medicine, and law.

Warren Farrell, author of Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap -- and What Women Can Do About It," asserts that women are still more comfortable moving into jobs that promise the more flexible hours required by the primary family caregiver. While this point makes me a bit squeamish, I can see the merit in such a position -- not that women are assuming their "traditional" (barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen) roles -- but because a good number of women I know do, in fact, plan for a future with children and move toward flexible careers. Which, unfortunately, can preclude them from those that are higher-paying.

Another possibility is simply a chicken versus egg scenario: maybe the more flexible jobs -- traditional jobs that women excel at and gravitate toward -- have undervalued or pay-discriminated against women for so long that low pay has become standard pay?

Regardless, the answer is elusive.

So what about the PR industry?

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