Monthly Archives: October 2012

Are Women Valued Less for the Same Work? Part 2: Wage Gap

The wage gap seems to be something that is thrown around a lot these days. There is the famous statistic that women make 79 cents of the dollar that every man makes. The straight comparison is concerning, but is it realistic?

The Skeptics

There are arguments against the 79% statistic. This video link sums up many of the arguments out there. These range from women choosing lower paying jobs to women having babies and wanting more time to spend with the kids. Yes, there are women who choose to work part time to spend more time with kids. There is nothing wrong with choosing to spend more time raising children, although we should be more accepting of men who choose this route as well. Certainly, the female role in the family may account for some of the wage gap, but can we assume it fixes everything?

A More Realistic Comparison

A recent study compares male and female college graduates one year out of college. This is a demographic where child rearing is not yet a large factor in career choices. Still, just one year out of college, female students were earning 82% of what male students were earning. Now, I know what you are thinking. The women chose lower paying majors and the men chose higher paying career paths just as many skeptics argue, right? Wrong! In fact this was a wage gap that was seen across all disciplines, even the female dominated field of education.

In a study by PayScale, the salaries of men and women were compared. A wage gap was clear between the two, but then adjustments were made for hundreds of factors. These adjustments allowed for a more reasonable comparison, for instance a male nurse and a female nurse at the same work level, or two engineers at the same level. These adjustments actually did correct for the wage gap in lower level jobs, but there is still a distinct wage gap in high-level management positions. Women who have made it to the top make 87% of what men do, and there do not seem to be factors which account for this.


There is more to the story though. When adjustments are made for an apples to apples comparison, it accounts for people at the same job level. Where a contributor to the wage gap may lie is in promotions and specific positions. For example, engineering companies have very specific engineer levels and pay grades within those levels based on numerous factors. Of course if you compare a male and a female at the same engineer level and pay grade they would be paid exactly the same. Where the problem may lie is that women and men are not climbing the pay grades at the same rate. Could women be promoted to higher up positions less often than men? A great piece in the Economist discusses how women are actually far and few between in executive and CEO positions.

There are probably many factors that lead to differences in pay and women making it to higher paying positions. Still, it makes one stop and ask, “Why are there still differences?”

Are Women Valued Less for the Same Work? Part 1: Employment

How many times have you been in a discussion and felt that you weren’t being heard or your views were being overlooked? Have you ever had the strange sense that your opinions were just slightly less important than other people in in the room?

A study was recently published in PNAS in which a fictional candidate for a science faculty position was created. This candidate was made into a male or a female with all other qualifications being the same. Then, faculty members at several different universities were shown one of the candidates and asked to rate the qualifications and name a starting salary. Across the board the female candidates were ranked lower in qualifications and given a lower starting salary than the same exact male candidate by male and female faculty members alike.

These results, while validating some of the experiences we have in male dominated fields, are also a wake up call to the biases that still exist in our culture. Often times, sexism is thought of as something blatantly obvious, like a male making an inappropriate comment about a female. Yet, we forget that both men and women can be sexist, and even more importantly that people are not even aware that they are sexist. My guess is that the faculty members used in this study would make an attempt to judge both candidates fairly regardless of sex. The results are not pinpointing sexist faculty members, they are a window into the greater problems which lie within our society. On the average, are women who do the same job as a man seen as less competent?

Happy Day of the Girl!


Today is the first international Day of the Girl!

A New NASA Spacesuit

NASA is in the process of getting a new space suit design for the Constellation program. The program aims to send humans deeper into space and eventually to Mars. Currently, there are two prototypes for new suits, a slimmer and maneuverable version launch and spacewalks, and a heavier suit for walking on the moon. The designs will allow for more protection and mobility in future missions to come.

Random Knowledge:
Did you know that astronauts wear diapers under their suits during spacewalks?

A great overview of spacesuit evolution over the years can be found here.