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Another Way to Blame Women for Being Paid Less

This week is full of commitments and deadlines. Rather than try to meet all my blogging commitments with new work and failing, I’m pulling out some old posts. Given how my audience has grown, most of you won’t have read them at the time. This post was originally published here.

This afternoon, Crommunist tweeted me a link to this post about a Reddit contributor begging women to negotiate salaries:

In general, the women I have negotiated with will say 45k is not enough and they need more, but not give a number. I will then usually give a nominal bump to 48k or 50k. Company policy wont let me bump more than 5k over the initial offer unless they specifically request more. On the other hand, men more frequently will come back with a number along the lines of 65k to 75k, and I will be forced to negotiate down from there. After this phase, almost all women will take the offer or move on to somewhere else, not knowing they could have gotten more if they asked.

At the end, most of the women I hire make between 45k and 50k, whereas the men make between 60k and 70k. Even more crazy, they ask for raises far less often, so the disparity only grows.

I don’t know if this is at all helpful, I feel most of it is common sense, but I see it all the time. How can I help?

What follows is a set of bullet points telling women what they “need” to do to get fair pay. The blogger who posted this also posted several comments agreeing and offering more advice. All lovely and useful and practical.

And bullshit.

Dear manager who is paying his or her female employees less than the males: You’re discriminating against women. Worse than that, you know you’re discriminating, and you’re blaming the people you’re discriminating against.

It doesn’t matter that this is policy. In fact, that makes it both worse and a point of legal weakness in the HR policy at your company. A policy that creates gender disparities in pay that isn’t based on job performance is a big flag that says, “Sue me, ladies!” And nothing about negotiating one’s pay is job-related. Nothing about needing to ask for a raise instead of receiving them as part of regularly conducted job reviews is job-related.

It doesn’t matter that everyone else is doing the same thing. There was a time when everyone fired women as soon as they confessed to being pregnant, too. That practice is now illegal, and some company had to be the first to get sued over it and make case law. The only way to make sure that first company isn’t yours on a practice like this is to knock it the fuck off.

There are a ton of “resources” available to tell women how to get along better in the workplace. However, as Pascale Lane pointed out just today, many of these pieces of direction consist of little more than labeling behavior that is stereotypically female as a problem to be fixed. The fact is, however, that working styles more generally related to women improve the workplace and work groups, rather than being a handicap.

You want engaged women in your workplace. You want your hires to stick around and not cost you one and a half to three times their salary to replace them (far more than that annual pay gap between genders). Making your female employees fight for anything approaching pay equity is not the way to make them happy or make them want to stay with you. On the other hand, judging by the example that Saturn set back in 2003, adopting a no-haggle policy can mark you as the place for smart women to be.

So, concerned hiring manager, if you really want to answer, “How can I help?” try fixing the problem instead of the people hurt by it.

Update: Any time you see advice for women on negotiating pay, remember two things. First, women are more likely to be pushed into situations in which they have to negotiate raises. Also, they are more likely to be judged harshly and punished for asking.

Comments

  1. rpjohnston says

    So, concerned hiring manager, if you really want to answer, “How can I help?” try fixing the problem instead of the people hurt by it.

    So what exactly should the negotiator DO to fix it? I notice you’re just blandly directing him to do something without suggesting anything of substance he can do.

    Should he make a starting offer to women that’s 50% higher than the one he makes to men? That would probably alleviate the disparity, but I do not know if that would be legal, let alone ethical, and almost assuredly would not be approved by the company.

    Should he go against company policy and bump his second offer far beyond what he is allowed, to a level a man would usually ask for? This would certainly not be approved by the company and would likely have him reprimanded or removed from the position.

    You do mention one concrete action that can be taken: “adopting a no-haggle policy can mark you as the place for smart women to be”. However, this policy is not up to the hiring manager, and even if he, specifically, practiced it (and somehow didn’t get sacked), other hiring managers wouldn’t, and there’s little he can do beyond suggesting to HR that they adopt it.

    So, again, would exactly would you have the “concerned hiring manager” do? What, that is WITHIN HIS POWER, is he able to do…aside from give advice to women that they shouldn’t accept the shit offers?

    What can HE DO to stop discriminating?

  2. Brad says

    Protip for anyone in that reddit person’s position: Find the last payphone (kids, ask your parents) left in your city, call the woman (hell, no reason to punish unassertive men either. call them too) who asked for the raise and tell her about the HR policy. You stay anonymous which keeps you out of trouble, you do your part to close the pay gap and you’re less of an asshat.

  3. says

    What can HE DO to stop discriminating?

    I love how you come up with a bunch of ideas and then ask, “What can he do?” I also love how you assume every one of those ideas is doomed (DOOMED!!!) to failure.

    And by “love”, I mean I’m laughing at you.

  4. says

    Freedom of information should allow salary details to be extracted for private companies so they can be shamed into making the difference go away. I worked for IBM and there salary is a closely guarded secret as there are massive disparities in pay for people at the same level. Notionally this is because pay is ‘performance related’ but then disconnecting pay from performance and making ‘level’ performance related is surely much more sensible?

    To give a couple of examples, I was told by my IBM manager that I needed to threaten to leave to get a pay rise. I also knew a number of my fellow male colleagues who had done this and were paid substantially more. I spent a lot of time saying this was a crap way of rewarding the ‘squeaky wheels’ in the organisation and likely to be inherently sexist. I got no where and it was one of the reasons I left IBM. (Could be different now as this was 2 yrs ago)

    A much better model is used by Accenture, they offered me a job so I know a little about the way they structure pay. If you are at a particular level or point between levels then you are paid a fixed amount. This is solely related to your performance reviews and did you meet your targets. So no rewarding crappy blackmailing behaviour or rewarding those who ask for pay rises.

    I’d love to see the relative disparities in male and female pay in those two organisations as I may be wrong but I bet IBM comes out worse. Of course IT is probably not the best case given the small proportion of women in my industry…

    HR policies have got to be under the control of the organisations but it is a concern of society that women are not discriminated in this way. So I’m all for making pay differences very transparent as the first step to getting this changed.

  5. ibbica says

    I’m in the middle of a job search, and I *love* no-haggle salary policies! I fail to see a good reason to reward (potential) employees for negotiating money out of their employer.

  6. reliwhat says

    This has nothing to do with gender. I’m a guy and everytime i got a job interview, they had not previously posted what the salary was, and asked me how much i’d like to be paid. The whole point is that they’re hoping you’re gonna ask for a lower price. They get you to work there, but still save money because you didn’t ask for enough. I find this tactic annoying, i mean, how are you supposed to know? so yeah, it’s bad, but it’s not sexist. And as far as your:

    “Any time you see advice for women on negotiating pay, remember two things. First, women are more likely to be pushed into situations in which they have to negotiate raises. Also, they are more likely to be judged harshly and punished for asking.”

    goes, well, the problem isnt what you described in the article, so why talk about it?

  7. rpjohnston says

    I also love how you assume every one of those ideas is doomed (DOOMED!!!) to failure.

    Hm. Well I admit, I do not actually know anything about negotiating, or even salaries in general; I work in overnight logistics at a retailer and am paid an hourly rate, and have never been salaried. So I assumed that my suggestions were, in fact, doomed to failure, out of what I believes common sense rather experience (I figured that the repercussions would be harsh for contravening the company’s policy, let alone any applicable laws).

    As I said, though, this isn’t an issue I can argue from experience on, so if it isn’t too much to ask, would you be able to dispel my ignorance? Specifically, you’re implying that the methods I suggested were in fact viable; can you tell me why I wrongfully assumed they were unviable?

  8. F says

    Yeah, I recall this, and it is bullshit. Even ignoring the cultural barriers faced by women or other groupings, why not just fucking pay people for what their work is worth from the start? (Which would be a lot more for a lot of people, and a helluva lot less for a tiny percentage.)

    Stripping out the cultural bigotries and inequalities in “performance reviews”, as well as the personal preferences of managers would also conform to the supposed objectivities of market competition and meritocracy, and would be better for everyone in the (not really all that) long run.

  9. Tracey says

    My first job out of college, in the 1980s, was in a huge national company with a very clear pay band structure. If you had X and Y and Z qualifications, you were in Band 1. The more qualifications, the higher the band. Everyone knew everyone’s salary and job reviews were five-minute meetings with the boss once a year where you either met or did not meet the requirements for your pay band. Everyone got the same yearly raise if they met the requirements for their pay band.

    Since then it’s been the Wild West of salaries. I’ve worked in managerial positions and have been just stunned by the inequities in people’s pay, and I’ve learned that it’s not what you can do, but whether your bungie-boss-of-the-moment likes you, that determines your yearly review. I’ve seen it myself; I spent a year in a position that was just horrific and I was branded everything bad, even though I’d had more than a decade of really good reviews. I was moved to another position, and suddenly I walk on water. My performance hasn’t changed, just the perception has.

  10. Maureen Brian says

    No, rpjohnston. Let us begin at the beginning and do this logically.

    You have a position to fill. Before you begin interviewing you will, presumably, have drawn up two sets of notes – the ‘job spec’ which describes the work to be done + responsibilities and the ‘person spec’ which describes what level of education, experience, inter-personal skills someone needs to do this job.

    You then work out what having that job done well is worth to your company. If information is available you compare with the local rate for the job but that’s often not available. You do all this as though people came in only one gender, rather than several.

    Only now does it become slightly tricky – how are you going to make known that the job is available? Most jobs are heard of first by word of mouth so what steps will you be taking to ensure the word gets beyond the boys’ network? Do the women in your organisation get to hear of it? If you go for an online ad, where are you putting it? How are you wording it?

    So now you can confidently offer anyone you take on the rationally derived rate for the job, perhaps less 3-5% for an initial short training period.

    You’ve done it! Award yourself a cigar and sit back confident that you are not only obeying the law but far less likely to take on duds that if you recruit and reward in a haphazard manner.

    No, it doesn’t always happen like that but, from experience, that’s how it goes in companies which want the best possible staff and the least hassle from the lawyers.

  11. rpjohnston says

    @ Maureen:

    So what’s your point? I assume that what you’ve described is the no-haggle policy that Zvan and several others have mentioned. It sounds like a good system to me. Thank you for explaining it to me, this is not knowledge I had before.

    It’s also irrelevant since we were talking about hiring for positions that DID use a haggle policy.

  12. says

    It’s also irrelevant since we were talking about hiring for positions that DID use a haggle policy.

    Well, no. That may be what you want to talk about. If you read the post, you’ll note that what we are actually talking about is the fact that a policy of requiring haggling or asking for raises is inherently discriminatory.

  13. Maureen Brian says

    You said you had no direct experience. I do have that experience so I described it to you. No big deal!

    Have you stopped to consider that at some stage, when people get around to enforcing the no-discrimination laws, a judge with some sense will decide that pay rises which depend upon the ability of the worker to stage a tantrum are inherently discriminatory?

    Right now such behaviour may be see as the high point of masculine masculinity. One day it will be seen in the same light as pay-rises depending upon one’s willingness to do sexual favours for the boss.

  14. rpjohnston says

    @ Maureen: I see then. I was actually asking Zvan (or whoever could do so) to explain how the suggestions that I had in my original post were viable, hence my confusion. Thanks =)

    I certainly hope that such a ruling would take place – especially as we still have a culture that encourages women to be passive and take what is offered and sees demanding more is out of place (but the ideal in men). Though the cynic in me believes that day is still a long way off unfortunately.

    Zvan: Actually what you were talking about was directly addressing a hiring manager and holding him personally accountable for a policy that I have contended he had no control over. Had your post been about “the fact that a policy of requiring haggling or asking for raises is inherently discriminatory” I would have simply agreed and continued lurking, but instead you made your post about the hiring manager’s PERSONAL discrimination and exhorted him to vaguely “try fixing the problem instead of the people hurt by it”.

    Which is why I am asking you to state what HE PERSONALLY can do to fix the problem.

  15. says

    What the hiring manager PERSONALLY did was go onto Reddit and tell women the discrimination they face as the result of this policy he implements is their own fault, which is what I held him “personally accountable for” in the post. He can make a damn good start by knocking that off, as I suggested in the post.

    Beyond that, as I noted in the post, he has data showing that the policy he is implementing is discriminatory on the basis of gender. As I also noted in the post, this is a problem for the company he works for. If he does not bring this information to the attention of those in his company who are responsible for creating those policies, he’s being a crappy employee.

    This isn’t hard, you know. This is basic responsibility. There is no “Aaaah! People must go on hunger strikes and immolate themselves to make positive change!” going on. They just have to acknowledge reality and act accordingly.

    There is also no excuse for ignorant you coming along to state, in ignorance, that I’ve set some Herculean task. But no, you had to show up and declare, in your ignorance, that I didn’t know what I was talking about and the whole thing was DOOMED!!! because you, knowing you were ignorant, decided nothing could be done. You couldn’t just ask. No, that would be accepting that I might just know what I’m talking about, particuarly relative to some random, ignorant guy on the internet.

  16. rpjohnston says

    What the hiring manager PERSONALLY did was go onto Reddit and tell women the discrimination they face as the result of this policy he implements is their own fault, which is what I held him “personally accountable for” in the post. He can make a damn good start by knocking that off, as I suggested in the post.

    Hmmm. I can see how you can see it that way.

    As I see it, he went on Reddit to tell women how to beat the system. In fact that’s probably the only thing he CAN do. So, rather than get information out to women on how to beat the discriminatory policy, you would rather he stay silent and simply be a pawn of it? I would have to disagree on this tactic.

    As I also noted in the post, this is a problem for the company he works for. If he does not bring this information to the attention of those in his company who are responsible for creating those policies, he’s being a crappy employee.

    I agree.

    I don’t see anything in his post indicating whether he has done that, or even scouted the possibility of talking to HR, or been shot down, or taken any other action withing his company. If he hasn’t, then yeah, he sucks big time; but that’s not something that either you or I know.

    But no, you had to show up and declare, in your ignorance, that I didn’t know what I was talking about and the whole thing was DOOMED!!! because you, knowing you were ignorant, decided nothing could be done.

    Are you done caricaturing me? Ahem.

    Yes, I originally posted some suggestions that, relying entirely on what I believed common sense, were doomed. To which you surprisingly (to me) implied that they were not doomed, twice now. And so I stated that I may, in fact, not know what I am talking about, that you may know better than me, and proceeded to ask you to explain how they were not doomed.

    You couldn’t just ask. No, that would be accepting that I might just know what I’m talking about, particuarly relative to some random, ignorant guy on the internet.

    At which point you have apparently decided to lie. Well, perhaps we can restart the discussion.

    So, would you like to explain to me why my ideas, which I thought would be ridiculous, are in fact viable?

    Yes, it’s brash for some random ignorant guy on the internet to ask you to explain to them, and if you don’t want to I can’t demand it, though I would think it polite to answer it after you accused me falsely of not asking before.

  17. says

    I can see how you can see it that way.

    Because I quoted him doing just that.

    So, rather than get information out to women on how to beat the discriminatory policy, you would rather he stay silent and simply be a pawn of it?

    Fuck you.

    Are you done caricaturing me? Ahem.

    Ahem. No.

    If he hasn’t, then yeah, he sucks big time; but that’s not something that either you or I know.

    Actually, we can be pretty damned certain that if he even considered the possibility that the policy itself was discriminatory, he would have framed his suggestions quite differently.

    At which point you have apparently decided to lie.

    I’ve done no lying here. You did not “just ask”. You went on a little rant of doom. Then you asked.

    Yes, it’s brash for some random ignorant guy on the internet to ask you to explain to them, and if you don’t want to I can’t demand it, though I would think it polite to answer it after you accused me falsely of not asking before.

    If you wanted polite, you’d have shown up being polite. Instead, you mansplained all over this thread, then accused me of lying. You’re done abusing my hospitality.

  18. ilex says

    I went to a talk on negotiating recently. It was definitely a “how to game the system if you’re a woman” talk, punctuated by frequent statements of outrage that society works this way. I found it valuable, as did a lot of other women in the audience, simply because a number of us didn’t know what would be expected of us in a negotiation situation. Some of us didn’t even know that this was going on, much less that it is the norm. And we were all women in our late twenties or early thirties!

    Salary negotiations like this should go the way of haggling over food prices: at most supermarkets, it’s simply not done. In some rare situations, negotiating a salary is warranted. The woman giving the talk had been a negotiator for some rather terrifying financial firms, so her ability to advocate on her own behalf was part of her job interviews. Some amount of flexibility is also good so that the parties involved can work out a more individualized employment package… but even small percentage differences in raises add up hugely over the long run! Gaps this large are unconscionable when a) they’re not performance related and b) the employees aren’t getting anything in return.

    I’d also like to see the taboo on talking about money loosened up a bit. I know that won’t happen until people stop judging one another on the size of their paycheck, but it would be a lot harder to pull off discriminatory practices like these if all of those employees knew what each other was making.

  19. says

    Unless a job position is for some sort of negotiator, I can’t see how negotiating should be a part of the hiring process. If businesses are, as this individual states, losing qualified candidates they’d like to hire, because the initial offer is too low, that’s not just the woman’s problem, that’s the business’s problem. If the women are leaving because, for their qualifications and experience, they are underpaid, again, that’s not just the woman losing out, that’s the business.

    However much this guy might like to frame this as a shortcoming of women, which needs to be trained out of them, the truth is he is admitting to using hiring decisions based on factors that have nothing to do with the applicant’s qualifications which is bad for people applying and bad for people running the business.

    The same is true of raises. These shouldn’t be something coerced out of management, they should be something awarded based on merit and, if appropriate, tenure at the position.

    I’m a relatively risk averse person who doesn’t care to haggle. If I were looking for work, the benefit of finding a job and taking slightly less than I could haggle for, would outweigh the risk of losing the offer by out pricing myself from consideration. Perhaps in an employees’ market, I might be willing to take more chances, but I can’t imagine employing this man’s advice, right now, even if I thought it was anything more than patronizing.

  20. says

    How can I help?

    Seems like an easy answer. Step 1: take it to HR and point out that their policies are resulting in discrimination. If that fails, move on to step 2: call your lawyer because there’s some whistle to be blown.

  21. Damien says

    I was just reading the original Reddit thread, when I saw this gem in amongst the comment threads, written by the OP:

    “My only complaint is that it’s not really exploitation. I mean they are not asking, and the rules are the same for everyone.”

    Not exploitation? Just because it relies on the candidate’s proclivities?

  22. reliwhat says

    Wow, i’ve just read the discussion between Stephanie Zvan and rpjohnston. I gotta say, rpjohnston was polite the whole way, he made points that were fair, conceded points and accepted criticism, whereas stephanie just attacked him and completely disregarded everything he said. Her reaction was strongly exaggerated and irrational. I do not understand why anyone would react like that to someone who acted as pacifically as rpjohnston did.

  23. carlie says

    whereas stephanie just attacked him and completely disregarded everything he said. Her reaction was strongly exaggerated and irrational.

    Gosh, when women simply defend what they’ve said and explain what they mean they seem so irrational. So… hysterical. I have no idea why they don’t stride in to their employers and demand raises and fight for their own self-worth in salary negotiations, though. I’m sure it would go well!

  24. reliwhat says

    @ carlie

    “Gosh, when women simply defend what they’ve said and explain what they mean they seem so irrational”

    i never implied that her behavior had anything to do with the fact that she is a woman. She behaved irrationally and i would have pointed it out just the same if she had been a man.

    And since when is saying “fuck you” a good way to defend one’s point?

  25. says

    reliwhat, suggesting that it’s polite to show up ignorant of a subject, make a bunch of ignorant arguments, refute them, and use your own refutation of your own ignorance to claim your host is wrong is…well, it’s a lot like claiming that Canada is some sort of female-supremacist wonderland for STEM. It’s a bunch of a yapping with no thought behind it. It also seems to be your specialty.

  26. reliwhat says

    @ stephanie Zvan

    It really seemed like, instead of engaging in a rationnal debate, you were getting in a fight. He made a lot of decent points, and yeah, you can disagree with them, and they might even be wrong, but why attack him like that. He wasnt being impolite, showing up ignorant on the subject isnt impolite, especially when you are ready to concede that many points and accept criticism. On the other hand, you were pretty impolite, it feels like, the second you knew he wasn’t on the same page as you, you were ready to punch him in the face. Show some patience and understanding, no one can be right all the time.

  27. says

    reliwhat, if you don’t like the way things work around here, there’s a whole rest of the internet for you to go tell you think feminism is a crock. Enjoy it.

  28. reliwhat says

    Well, its a free thought blog, so i was expecting some good, old fashion, well structured argumentation. I was hoping that, as a group of skeptic, logical thinking atheist, you could deliver on that, but i guess not. I will not take my business somewhere else tho, i’ve recently read a pretty good article that has restored my faith in this site. here’s the link

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/10/if-your-speech-reveals-you-to-be-a-loathsome-creep

    Also, i have not stated my opinion on feminism, so i dont see why you would think i’d think its a crock.

  29. says

    Well, its a free thought blog, so i was expecting some good, old fashion, well structured argumentation.

    But only from me, and you ignored it where it existed in favor of focusing on everything else. Yep, no bias there.

    Also, i have not stated my opinion on feminism, so i dont see why you would think i’d think its a crock.

    Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps because I can see every comment you’ve left here?

  30. reliwhat says

    @ Stephanie Zvan

    im sorry, i do not quite understand that sentence “But only from me, and you ignored it where it existed in favor of focusing on everything else.” My english isnt perfect.

  31. reliwhat says

    @ Stephanie Zvan

    i guess ill comment on what i understand of the statement (sry for my impatience).

    1. I do not expect it only from you, but from every blogger on this site. It is, to a certain extend, your trade (not sure if i used this expression correctly).

    2. I have no opinion on feminism, mainly because i have very little knowledge of its main theories. You see, it’s pretty easy to study philosophers because they have an objective philosophy, feminism on the other hand, is so big and diversified that it’s hard to really know what is part of it and what isn’t.

  32. says

    From 1995 until 2002 I worked as a technician in the R&D lab of an electronics factory. CAD, prototyping, testing and constructing and maintaining specialised test equipment.

    In my final year there, I brought home just shy of £10 000 (that’s pounds, in 2002, and after tax); in the meantime, during those seven years, a number of technicians came and went, and every one of them was set on at a higher starting wage than what I was earning at the time.

    There were times when I literally had to decide whether I was going to (a) catch the bus home, (b) walk home and have the fire lit, or (c) walk home and eat. I found myself borrowing money from friends who were on the dole. If I hadn’t had a little racket on the side doing a spot of illegal retailing around the production lines, I would have starved.

    I tried asking for a pay rise, and my boss laughed me out of the room. I even tried booking an afternoon off and turning up that morning obviously dressed for an interview. (There wasn’t one, but that was my little secret.)

    Shortly after that, I received an offer of a better job, out of the blue. I did not need telling twice …..

    At least my replacement at the old company started on twice as much as me, so I cost them more by leaving than staying!

    But really, it’s time that the amount that a person gets paid for doing a given job was fixed by law. That decision is just way too important to be left to employers.

  33. Brad says

    But really, it’s time that the amount that a person gets paid for doing a given job was fixed by law. That decision is just way too important to be left to employers

    How would that even be possible? The value of labor is affected by market forces, the value of someone braiding horsewhips is subject to (relative to government) rapid changes. Not to mention the incomparable variety of jobs that exist even in tiny countries. I’m strongly in favor of collective bargaining (especially collective bargaining) and no-haggle policies, or even no-haggle laws, but having the government set wages would be terrible, even if it had the time to do it. The best possible government could improve on the current situation, but any likely government would do much, much worse

    Now if you want to have something like the star trek future where survival is decoupled from laboring, that’s a different matter entirely, the sooner we get there, the better.

    I hope the wankers you worked for got hit by a lorry.

  34. says

    @reliwhat

    I don’t know what your views are on other things, but let’s assume you are at least a strong supporter of evolution and let’s imagine you write a blog about science, — biology in particular –and the topic of evolution comes up frequently. Are you obliged to treat everyone who drags out the same tired creationist misrepresentations and lies, with utmost respect and gentle care? Do you need to explain why the claims of irreducible complexity, that hitler was an “atheist darwinist” that darwin was a racist and that evolution can’t explain the origins of life, are all nonsense and irrelevant?

    I’ll bet that if you did this daily, or several times a day, there’s be a point where you’d tell the next person who brought up irreducible complexity to shove off. There’s a point where the same tired points are so obvious and the person’s ignorance on the subject so apparent, that you already know it’s a waste of both your time, and waste of all your blog readers’ time, (the people who have all seen these conversations before) to go into minute detail about why those theories are still just wrong.

    And you know what? You, as the owner of the blog, are under no obligation to make sure that everyone who comments likes your tone. If someone doesn’t like your tone, your responses or views, they are welcome to close the window and go somewhere else.

    Coming here to admonish the blog owner for tone, makes you look patronizing. It’s irrelevant your gender. Women spend so much of their time being told how to act. This is a blog post about men telling women they need to act differently, need to be more assertive and haggle and be more like men are. Then someone comes here and tells the female blog owner that she needs to be nicer. Can you see how you’ve only served to underscore the main points of this blog post?

  35. says

    @Brad, #34: I’m not quite sure how it would be done either, but it’s obvious that market forces can’t be trusted. And anyway, it’s the business of government to sort stuff like that out (or at least, to appoint civil servants to sort it out). It shouldn’t be that hard, in principle, to draw up a table showing how much each particular job is worth. It would have to be kept up to date, of course; but that creates work, which is a good thing.

    The point is that employers are already in a position of power over their employees, and that power is frequently abused. And it’s always the most vulnerable people who suffer.

    With a £27 550 mortgage hanging over my head, and a fixed interest rate of 8.4% p.a. (which was not actually a bad deal, in 1996; since then, houses have become more expensive and mortgages have become cheaper) my options basically came down to put up with it or risk homelessness. I was just supremely lucky to find a better job, within walking distance, when I did.

    On the upside, I did learn a lot about surviving while next to skint. And there are people out there who are a lot worse off than me.

  36. says

    Well, its a free thought blog, so i was expecting some good, old fashion, well structured argumentation.

    Where have I read that sentence before? I believe this person has just outed themself.

  37. Wicknight says

    Legally fixing a job’s salary at a particular price is a terrible idea. It would be like fixing the price of a house to a particular value. At the end of the day the “value” of a job is a combination of what someone is prepared to offer to do the job and what someone is prepared to take to do the job (just like the value of a house is what someone is prepared to pay for the house, not some mythical notion of what the house is worth to the buyer)

    Salary negotiations are simply a way of both the employer and the employee working out what the particular job is actually worth at that time and two the people negotiating. Jobs, like houses, have no intrinsic value.

    The idea that we should go on what the company initially says the job is worth is ridiculous, it is like saying a house is worth what the seller says it is worth or some arbitrary value the government comes up with (probably based on heavy lobbying from people who’s interests are not those of the buyer).

    The advice in this guys reddit post is nothing that everyone going for a job shouldn’t know. It was taught to me and my class mates in secondary school by our career councilor. Such negotiations actually ensure you, the employee, get the best deal you can.

    It was never presented as a gender thing to us, it was never “Now girls you need to know this, boys you probably already do”. I’ve no idea if this actually is a gender thing, as the Reddit poster suggests. I’ve never come across it that way in my years of hiring. I’ve met both men and women who seemed clueless as to how to negotiate a salary and ended up with less than what my company probably would have been prepared to pay them.

    People might complain that this is unfair on them, but think of it this way. If you were selling a house for $300k, thinking you might be lucky to get $200k would you turn down a offer of $275 because someone is foolish enough to make that offer. I doubt it. Equally if you got a good deal on a house by negotiating low would this be considered rewarding “bad” behaviour? Should you just be quiet and pay what the asking price is or walk away, as if that is some how the intrinsic value of the house?

    The company is not your friend. They have their interests, you have yours. It is a professional relationship. But then I would be quite surprised if most professional women didn’t already know this. Are there actually statistics to support this guys assertion that women don’t negotiate salaries more often than men. If that is actually the case I would look to why women are not getting the correct career advice that men are, and tackle it that way.

    A woman should have the right to negotiate a better deal for herself just like men do.

  38. says

    Salary negotiations are simply a way of both the employer and the employee working out what the particular job is actually worth at that time and two the people negotiating.

    You understand that this is ridiculous on its face and already addressed in the post, right?

    The company is not your friend. They have their interests, you have yours.

    They also have obligations under the law to not discriminate. That they frequently have to be forced into that is a simple fact you seem to be overlooking or ignoring.

    A woman should have the right to negotiate a better deal for herself just like men do.

    A woman should get paid the same wages for the same work as a man. Negotiation, as already addressed in the updates at the bottom of the post, doesn’t accomplish that. That’s not a “right”. That’s discrimination.

    It’s like you didn’t take a moment of time to consider the argument presented in the post, just decided I knew nothing about business. Imagine that.

  39. Wicknight says

    They also have obligations under the law to not discriminate. That they frequently have to be forced into that is a simple fact you seem to be overlooking or ignoring.

    I’m not over looking it at all. I’m disputing the idea that the way to deal with this is to fix salaries. This was the conclusion from the article you linked to

    Bowles said. “The point of this paper is: Yes, there is an economic rationale to negotiate, but you have to weigh that against social risks of negotiating. What we show is those risks are higher for women than for men.”

    How is the solution to this to remove the right to negotiation?

    Its like saying some people selling houses won’t sell to black people so we should fix all house prices to what the seller asks for.

    The act of negotiation is not inherently discriminatory to women. The attitude some employers have to women who negotiation because they are women can be, and if there is a solution to weed this out while still enabling negotiation I’d be all for that.

    So far the proposals though are little more than cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    A woman should get paid the same wages for the same work as a man.

    Men don’t get paid the same wages for the same work as other men, so how would that work? A company will pay what someone is prepared to work for, again jobs have no inherent value.

    Women should not be discriminated against by gender during the negotiation process. That doesn’t mean you throw out the negotiation process, any more than saying race should have nothing to do with selling a house means you set all house prices to that of the seller’s initial asking price.

  40. says

    I’m disputing the idea that the way to deal with this is to fix salaries.

    What do you think “fixing” salaries entails? I work for an HR consultancy. Our business is understanding this stuff. We don’t do negotiation because it’s a lousy way of paying for performance, which should be how labor is differentially valued if we’re going to value it differentially. Negotiation is differentiating pay based on something completely irrelevant to the work involved, as has already been pointed out.

    How is the solution to this to remove the right to negotiation?

    You continue to call individual negotiation a “right”. What “right” would that be? Do you not work for a no-haggling company that offers a fair wage with regular increases because they’re violating your rights? Are you pretending that there is only one employer involved, so the only way for workers to have any input on pay is to individually negotiate with a single company? You do understand there are other options, yes?

    Women should not be discriminated against by gender during the negotiation process. That doesn’t mean you throw out the negotiation process….

    Women are discriminated against in individual negotiations. That alone doesn’t mean you throw out individual negotiation. You throw out individual negotiation because it’s a basis of determining pay that has nothing to do with the value of the work provided and it’s discriminatory. I already told you this in the post.

    You know, I understand that this is all foreign to what you’ve been told about how business works. Take some time to think it through if you need to.

  41. Martha says

    We don’t do negotiation because it’s a lousy way of paying for performance, which should be how labor is differentially valued if we’re going to value it differentially.

    Yes, this! As an academic, the main recourse I have for salary negotiation is to get an outside offer. Even if one discounts that this mechanism leads to further salary discrimination against women (and I don’t discount that!), I can’t see that this is in the best interest of anyone but shameless self-promoters. If a faculty member has to be invited to leave to be rewarded, s/he will eventually leave. And then the university has to expend a much higher cost to replace the faculty member than a reasonable compensation package would have cost.

    I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts at some point as to how alternative strategies could be brought to bear to reward good primary and secondary school teachers fairly. It seems to me that neither side of that issue has it quite right yet.

  42. Wicknight says

    I work for an HR consultancy. Our business is understanding this stuff.

    Lol … oh sorry, you were serious.

    Women are discriminated against in individual negotiations. That alone doesn’t mean you throw out individual negotiation. You throw out individual negotiation because it’s a basis of determining pay that has nothing to do with the value of the work provided and it’s discriminatory.

    No it isn’t. It is differentiation pay based on how little an individual is prepared to do the work for, and how much the company is prepared to pay them to do that work.

    You seem to be completely ignoring the central point wholesale, that jobs have no inherent value, that they are “worth” what someone is prepared to pay and what someone is prepared to work for. You aren’t simply disagreeing you are ignoring it completely, instead talking about “fair” salaries.

    Fair by who’s standard?

  43. says

    Lol … oh sorry, you were serious.

    Right. You’re done. Ta.

    Fair by who’s standard?

    Fair by the “equitable” definition of the word, which is really pretty easy to deduce from the fact that I keep saying that people performing the same work to the same standard should make the same pay. Not hard to understand if you work at it the tiniest bit, which you’ll now have plenty of time to do.

  44. brucegee1962 says

    OK, I’m in academia too, so all this “negotiation” business seems pretty foreign to me. I expect to be paid the same as everyone else of my rank and experience — it wouldn’t seem right to me if I wasn’t.

    HOWEVER, it seems to me that the no-negotiation model mostly makes sense in a business, like mine, where there is a big cohort of people who all do more or less the same job. In a smaller business, what do you suggest if there aren’t really two people who are doing exactly the same thing? What do you recommend when someone’s job description is “You do some of this, a little of this, and maybe this every once in a while if it comes up”? If that person’s salary isn’t determined by negotation (which presumably involves the employer and the employee comparing similar positions in other businesses), then how is it supposed to be set?

    I’m not trying to be a troll, I just don’t quite understand the model you propose.

  45. says

    @ wicknight, #38:

    Legally fixing a job’s salary at a particular price is a terrible idea. It would be like fixing the price of a house to a particular value.

    You say that as though you think government fixing house prices would be a bad idea.

    House prices are spiralling out of control, which is leaving young people unable to buy anywhere to live. The two-up two-down Victorian terraced house which cost me £29 000 in 1996 (and is all mine now, since I paid off my mortgage) is now worth four times that. Over the same interval of time, my wages have less than doubled. That isn’t healthy.

    Nowadays the only way young people can afford to buy a house is as a couple, in which both partners are working full-time. And when a relationship like that has run its course, people end up becoming homeless.

    Salary negotiations are simply a way of both the employer and the employee working out what the particular job is actually worth at that time and two the people negotiating. Jobs, like houses, have no intrinsic value.

    Bollocks. Houses do have intrinsic value, and so do jobs.

    The fallacy that house prices will always appreciate indefinitely caused the sub-prime crash. Unscrupulous lenders realised that the costs incurred in repossessing a house from someone unable to keep up repayments were less than the increase in value over the interval in question. So they lent money they hadn’t got to people who they knew wouldn’t be able to afford to pay it back, on the basis that they could recover it all and make a profit by the simple expedient of making someone homeless. (Which, unfortunately, isn’t a crime.) For that to work requires it to be a negligibly improbable occurrence, and it broke down when it ceased to be rare enough.

    A woman should have the right to negotiate a better deal for herself just like men do.

    Ah, here we go with the weasel words. What use is a “right” to negotiate a salary if (perhaps as a consequence of all prior experience teaching you to keep your trap shut and be grateful for what you’ve got) you haven’t the wherewithal to negotiate a salary? It’s like telling someone who can neither speak nor hear that they have the right to a phone call, then saying it has to be a phone call and not a text message. It wouldn’t be “special treatment” in that case, because there is a legitimate reason to treat that person specially.

    You can argue that prior experience teaching passive, meek behaviour is the problem, and I would not dispute that. But fixing it for the next generation isn’t helping anyone actually in the situation of not feeling they can legitimately ask for more, now.

    The point of having a government is to maintain the benefits of a civilised society by protecting the vulnerable from those who would abuse the power they have over them. Or, to put it a bit more bluntly, government is about protecting the weak from the strong.

    Here’s the reality: Right now, labour is in surplus; which is to say, there are more workers than jobs. An employee doesn’t have the luxury to pick and choose where they work; rather, employers have the luxury to pick and choose who they hire. Withdrawal of labour is no longer an effective weapon: we need our jobs more than our bosses need us.

    And where there is such an imbalance of power, governments have a responsibility to intervene.

    Even if government does not end up setting pay scales, employers should be obliged to publish them to all their employees. Because everyone with the same job description is doing the same work, and they should be paid the same amount for it.

  46. Martha says

    Ophelia’s recent post about sexism in science made me think about stereotype threat. The notion makes me a little uncomfortable, and this post has helped me understand why it does. I remember hearing six or seven years ago that women don’t ask to be promoted as often as men, and the implication was that all we’d have to do is ask. You know, like negotiating over salary! I suspect that advice had the causal relationship wrong: women weren’t asking as early as men because they knew damned well they needed a stronger case for promotion than a man in the same position would. Or if they hadn’t made that connection, they were probably discouraged by mentors and department chairs.

    The way I look at it is that asking for promotion is necessary but not sufficient to solve the problem. Thus, those who advise us just to ask as if that would solve problem are blaming us. I worry that the same thing will happen with the notion of stereotype threat. Yes, it’s great that girls perform better on math tests if they’re told beforehand that the stereotypes are wrong. Wonderful. On the other hand, consider the recent study that showed that women don’t speak to their male colleagues as intelligently about their work as they do to their female colleagues. That’s the case even if the male in question is not being hostile in any way. I’m absolutely sure this true.
    My concern is that women will be told to stop sounding so stupid about science to their male colleagues. After all, the study found that women sounded confident about personal discussions, and probably about things like teaching, too.

    But that advice ignores the source of the women’s behavior. Could it be that we do this because quite a few men– both older and younger– do speak to us in an unnecessarily confrontational way? And that we get little support from most of our other male colleagues if we point this out? Or could it be that we see sexist behavior in faculty meeting after faculty meeting, and that very few of our male colleagues even notice it? And even those who do rarely call their colleagues on it? My point is that it’s entirely reasonable that women in science become less trusting of most of their male colleagues. We’re not threatened by the notion that men have this stereotype. We’re threatened by the experience of it!

    Okay, sorry, I’ll hop off my soapbox now! Thanks for helping me understand and articulate my views on this issue.

  47. hectormunoz huerta says

    I understand the purpose behind your suggestion is to achieve equality but I think you are putting the cart before the horse.

    One thing is to set equal conditions for everyone to compete under fair circumstances and another is twisting everything around to achieve an artificial state of equal results for everyone not regarding their individual qualities and efforts such as in radical socialism.

    Negociation is a key part of any agreement. Companies will always try to keep costs down and part of it is trying to keep salaries fairly low. On the other hand the worker will always try to get the most benefits. Negotiation is the process by which both parts balance their wants to achieve the best possible result for both.

    Eliminating negotiations will result in companies single handedly setting low and rigid salary rates.

    I think that a better solution for woman is encouraging them to be more assertive negotiators. This will benefit them not only on the work place but in all aspects of their lives.

  48. says

    @hectormunoz huerta

    That’s like saying that stores can only function if they allow for haggling since it gives them a chance to make more on each sale. Sure, there are things you buy (cars are a good example) where haggling is generally expected, but for the most part, you can’t walk into a grocery store or a clothing store and haggle for a better price on merchandise. Just because there’s a long history of something, and just because some people benefit from it, doesn’t make it inherently the best system. If businesses can sell their product at a set price then they can hire people at a set salary based on responsibility and qualifications.

  49. hectormunoz huerta says

    Hi Marnie and Stephanie.

    As Marnie pointed out, there are instances of trade or agreement where negotiation is relevant and another instances where negotiation is not relevant.

    Whenever the market offers fewer options and more difference between options negotiation rises in importance because it is much harder to establish an standard value for each option and to enforce this value in the market.

    If you have only four or five viable candidates for a specialized job (a common case in white collar jobs), candidates will not have the same value to the company even if they perform the same job: some will have better preparation, offer more stability, have more experience or better personal traits than others. The company can make more out of them.

    These individuals can negotiate a better payment if they want, because the comapny values them more and prefers to pay them extra than hiring a less profitable candidate. There is nothing inherently wrong with this.

    The opposite case rises when for example you are hiring people to work on Mc. Donalds. The market is full of candidates that offer the same value to the company. In this cases salary negotiation is non existant, anyone will do roughly the same.

    Instead of twisting the world to ensure an artificial equal outcome out of salary negotiatins it is better to encourage people to be more assertive because negotiation happens in many instances of life beyond salaries. It will empower them so much in other areas of their life.

  50. says

    @hectormunoz huerta

    How is setting payment based on skills, experience and responsibility, limiting anyone’s ability to offer someone more who brings more to the table? How is being skilled at negotiating relevant to one’s worth at job that requires no negotiating skills? You still haven’t argued for negotiating for higher pay as being anything other than a reward for a behavior that is in no way reflective of a person’s ability to do the job.

  51. hectormunoz huerta says

    Marnie, the point is that a company will try to hook you for the minimum possible amount, this won’t ever change, your only chance is to negotiate if you have something special to offer. Negotiation is good for applicants because it gives them power.

    People who is not that assertive can learn to have more power and get better deals through negotiation without having the whole world bent in knees for them.

  52. says

    @hectormunoz huerta

    If negotiating isn’t a skill needed for the position, it’s still rewarding a skill that isn’t relevant to the position in the same way that asking people to sing, if they aren’t applying for a job as a singer, only serves to find you people who are talented at things that don’t relate to their position. And there are many companies, including a large number that have unions or are government positions, where pay grades and salary ranges are clearly posted.

    I understand the point you are making, that everyone should negotiate. What I’m arguing is that negotiation skills neither secure a company the best candidate nor do they reward the best employees. Salary and raises should be skills/experience/merit based, which just seems obvious to me. Forget about whether it favors one gender or another, it simply fails to match up the best candidate with the best job and keep him or her there long term. Instead, it makes it all about who games the system best.

  53. Forbidden Snowflake says

    If you have only four or five viable candidates for a specialized job (a common case in white collar jobs), candidates will not have the same value to the company even if they perform the same job: some will have better preparation, offer more stability, have more experience or better personal traits than others. The company can make more out of them.

    These individuals can negotiate a better payment if they want, because the comapny values them more and prefers to pay them extra than hiring a less profitable candidate.

    How does this require negotiation?
    A company seeking to draw the best candidates can simply establish a higher no-haggle salary than its competitors pay for the same position. A valued candidate would have more potential employers to choose from, and will be able to choose one with better conditions.

  54. hectormunoz huerta says

    Snowflake, this requires negotiation because altough the candidate might be more valuable and thus capable of obtaining a better salary, the company will try to hook him by the lowest possible cost. The candidate has to negotiate in order to obtain a better deal, even if he wants the job he won’t settle for the minimum offer if he knows he can get more. The company on the other hand won’t spend more on an employee if it can pay less.

    This is not sexism, sexism would be treating people different regarding their sex or twisting practical reality just to help one sex achieve an easy advantage over the other.

    Learn to negotiate, be assertive, that is empowering for women.

  55. says

    Snowflake, this requires negotiation because altough the candidate might be more valuable and thus capable of obtaining a better salary, the company will try to hook him by the lowest possible cost.

    You don’t pay the first bit of attention to the business literature on salary, do you? Best practice is to reward high performers and high-potential employees well, because companies that do that fare better. High performers can afford to look for a company that understands that and isn’t trying to nickel and dime them from the start.

    Stop throwing around your naive impressions of business as though they were gospel. They’re not. Nor are they any more convincing than your asseretion that negotiation is “empowering for women”, left in the comments of a post that provides evidence to the contrary.

  56. hectormunoz huerta says

    Stphannie, I can see you are angry from my opinions. It’s not my intention to disturb you but I really think that the idea of removing salary negotiation from job interviews is detrimental for candidates and that it is better to encourage people to improve their negotiation skills than artificially truncating the hiring process to benefit one sex over the other.

  57. says

    No, I’m not angry because of your opinions. I’m angry that you think it’s a good idea to spout uninformed opinions on a subject that affects other people’s lives. That sort of thing makes me testy.

    Also, everything about a hiring process is artificial.

  58. ThoughtfulOne says

    A good example of how deep and ingrained sexism is in our culture, in such subtle ways.

    It’s a case of women being discriminated against not precisely becuase they are women per se, as was the case formerly, but because they exhibit “stereotypically feminine” qualities. They’re expected by culture to be meek and self-effacing, not “rock the boat” with hard-assed negotiations. Of course this is not true for all women, and it is true for some men who do exhibit stereotypically feminine qualities.

    Sadly, the law is way, way behind the reality that employers and employees are not equally positioned in terms of bargaining power. “At-will” employment survives again and again in the courts. A lawsuit would not work here with current law and precedent, as long as (which seems to be the case) the starting offer made to equally qualified male and female candidates is the same. The employers would argue that they are employing some females for less only because they are willing to work for less, not specifically because they are female, and the situation would be reversed if males instead were willing to work for less.

    Then again, the only way to overturn precedents is by filing lawsuits.

    There are a ton of “resources” available to tell women how to get along better in the workplace. However, as Pascale Lane pointed out just today, many of these pieces of direction consist of little more than labeling behavior that is stereotypically female as a problem to be fixed. The fact is, however, that working styles more generally related to women improve the workplace and work groups, rather than being a handicap.

    Perhaps you didn’t mean to be gender-essentialist, but this comes off this way. “Stereotypically female” != “more generally related to women”.

  59. hectormunoz huerta says

    ThoughtfulOne, under this logic it would only be fair for men to receive lower punishments than women for violent crimes because they are more generally related to men.

    This way the tendency to punish men with capital punishment much more frequently than woman for the same crime could be reversed.

  60. says

    Actually, yes. It is still a matter of prejudice, both in terms of what is considered women’s work but is unpaid and in terms of what behaviors, while not contributing to productivity on the job, are considered relevant to pay. Nice of you to try to keep explaining it all away, though.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] As with salary negotiation, this is an argument for more standardization of pay and benefits across a work force so that more than just a company’s interests are represented in its policies. It is also, perhaps an argument that it’s time our society stood up and said that it’s critical that the people doing this important work not lose by it economically. [...]

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