Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Except not.

I was thinking the other day about some of the articles in newsweek regarding the gender gap in pay and promotions.

Studies show it doesn't have anything to do with women having children and the dual role many women find themselves in, but I think I disagree -- it is because women with children are balancing two major roles and whether or not the husband does equal share, for most women (and really just ask most women) they take on the family role in ways that can't always be measured, but have an effect on work.

I think it's still only a small percentage of men that leave the workforce to raise a child, and we live in a culture that has taken a turn toward placing more value on moms that stay home -- it's okay now to take a few years out of a career. This is a good thing, but it does mean going back into a career can be a bit dicey, and the income you earn may not be as high as if you hadn't, and in some cases, as when you left. Here's a few non-statistical reasons the gender gap could still exist:
  • Many women take on jobs and careers, but put a lot of effort into balancing the two -- this balance often leads to women not working overtime as much, not doing the political-social games work requires as much and having to take time off to be with a sick kid. Whether or not the father is doing the same is moot. When a women leaves work to take care of a sick kid she's a 'mom' first.
  • Women without children are still expected to leave the workforce and have a baby by their male counterparts -- think I'm kidding? I worked in a largely male environment and when new woman came onto the team through conversations she let people know she had no desire to have children. I was flabbergasted when through casual conversations, many of the men (young men, mind you, who should know better) still believed that in a year or so she'd end up wanting a baby. What they told me? All women come in saying they don't want kids, but most really do and they'll end up getting pregnant and leaving.
  • Women who have babies are considered 'questionable' after their pregnancy/maternal leave is over -- this is called risk management, and probably affects every pregnant working woman. The risk is that the woman will decide she doesn't want to return to work after maternity leave, even if she says she does. Some women do find they don't want to return to work, so despite what the woman says, the possibility still exists she won't return. Therefore, a pregnant woman will find that key projects, roles or responsibilities don't land on her plate.
  • Women often have multiple priorities in their life -- this is the biggest one I think. Women aren't just living in a world where the top of the ladder is the goal. They are looking for that plateau with a wonderful view where they can both work and raise their children. This means they may not climb as ambitiously as some men might, or it may mean they take a year or five off to raise young children. Or it may mean that they have other goals and desires not met by their career.
I'm not trying to make a statement here. But I think until women get to a point where the rules of the workforce work in our favor (and ultimately in mens' favor), where there are many different routes and options to success than one ladder up, and where taking time off isn't the death knoll it currently is, the gender gap will exist. We still live and work in a very patriachal culture that views work as one big game of King of the Hill.

1 comment:

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Here in Britain, work genders are pretty much equal.