Intriguing Theory on the Pay Gap

I’ve heard a number of solid hypotheses to explain the gendered pay gap: unpaid care work,[1][2] the motherhood penalty,[3] or just straight-up discrimination.[4] This one is new to me, though.

Sexual harassment is well documented across many fields but women who work in men-dominated occupations and industries experience higher rates (Fitzgerald et al. 1997; Gruber 1998; McLaughlin, Uggen, and Blackstone 2012). The likelihood of harassment also increases with exposure to a wider range of employees (Chamberlain et al. 2008; De Coster, Estes, and Mueller 1999), and is higher among single women (De Coster, Estes, and Mueller 1999; Rosenberg, Perlstadt, and Phillips 1993), highly educated women (De Coster, Estes, and Mueller 1999), and women in positions of authority (Chamberlain et al. 2008; McLaughlin, Uggen, and Blackstone 2012). Because sexual harassment forces some women out of jobs, it likely influences their career attainment (Blackstone, Uggen, and McLaughlin 2009; Lopez, Hodson, and Roscigno 2009). Numerous studies link voluntary and involuntary career interruptions to significant earnings losses (Brand 2015; Couch and Placzek 2010; Theunissen et al. 2011).[5]

I hope you see where they’re going with this. Sexual harassment causes women to switch jobs or leave the workforce, but pay is usually linked to how long you’ve stayed in your job. Professions where women dominate have less of a sexual harassment problem, but are also viewed as “feminized” and thus worth less.[6] Even within a profession approaching gender parity, like lawyers in the UK, women can be marginalized.

However, optimistic prognoses of gender emancipation are somewhat challenged when considering that the mass entry of women to this profession has been characterized by patterns of vertical stratification and horizontal segmentation (Hagan and Kay, 1995; Sommerlad, 2002; Stake et al., 2007). Women solicitors are more likely to be in subordinate salaried positions, to work part–time, to practise in less prestigious and remunerative firms and legal specialisms and, more generally, to attract lesser terms and conditions. There is a clear pattern of vertical stratification whereby a growing cohort of predominantly female subordinates are confined to ‘a (frequently transient) proletarian role’ (Sommerlad, 2002: 217) and deployed to support the earnings and privileges of a relatively prosperous and autonomous elite of predominately male partners. Women, despite representing a growing majority of salaried solicitors (over 55 per cent of associate and assistant solicitors) and new entries to the profession, still constitute less than a quarter (23.2 per cent) of partners and the average female solicitor enjoys markedly less than half the chances of a male colleague to progress to partnership (17.6 per cent of women solicitors are partners against 39.5 per cent of their male peers) (SRU, 2006c).[7]

So if women switch to a career where they’re less likely to face harassment, or even start off there, they’re paid less than men for the same amount of work. It’s a brilliant theory, and that paper does find evidence in support of it.

In bivariate analyses, women who experienced unwanted touching or multiple harassing behaviors in 2003 reported significantly greater financial stress in 2005 (t = –2.664, p ≤ .01). Some of this strain may be due to career disruption, as harassment targets were especially likely to change jobs. As shown in Figure 1, 79 percent of targets as compared to 54 percent of other working women started a new primary job in either 2004 or 2005 (χ2 = 9.53, p ≤ .01). […]
In Model 2 of Table 2, we test whether the increased financial stress reported by harassment targets can be attributed to their greater likelihood of changing jobs. Analyzing consecutive waves of YDS data, we can establish clear temporal order between sexual harassment (2003), job change (2004–2005), and financial stress (2005). In addition to having a strong direct effect on financial stress (β = .582, p ≤ .01), job change reduces the effect of harassment below standard significance levels. Following Baron and Kenny (1986), we calculate that 35 percent of the total effect of sexual harassment on financial stress is mediated through job change (…). Targets of sexual harassment were 6.5 times as likely as nontargets to change jobs in 2004–2005, net of the other variables in our model (…).[5]

They caution that their data source is from a single cohort, thus it may not generalize, but I think the theoretical axioms are strong enough that it probably will. A similar effect could be happening with non-binary and transgender/transsexual people, too.

It’s also worth underlining that it’s foolish to think the gendered pay gap has one and only one cause; an economy with millions or even billions of actors is a highly complex system, so it’s unlikely to have simple explanations for patterns on that scale. A combination of the above factors is likely driving the gendered pay gap, and we’ll need complex solutions to solve it.

[1] Ferrant, Gaëlle, Luca Maria Pesando, and Keiko Nowacka. Unpaid Care Work: The Missing Link in the Analysis of Gender Gaps in Labour Outcomes. OECD Development Centre Issues Paper, 2014.

[2] Budlender, Debbie. The Statistical Evidence on Care and Non-Care Work across Six Countries. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development Geneva, 2008.

[3] Benard, Stephen, and Shelley J. Correll. “Normative Discrimination and the Motherhood Penalty.” Gender & Society 24, no. 5 (2010): 616–646.

[4] Murphy, Emily, and Daniel Oesch. “The Feminization of Occupations and Change in Wages: A Panel Analysis of Britain, Germany and Switzerland,” 2015.

[5] McLaughlin, Heather, Christopher Uggen, and Amy Blackstone. “The Economic and Career Effects of Sexual Harassment on Working Women.” Gender & Society 31, no. 3 (2017): 333–358.

[6] England, Paula, Michelle Budig, and Nancy Folbre. “Wages of Virtue: The Relative Pay of Care Work,” 2001.

[7] Sharon Bolton, and Daniel Muzio. “The Paradoxical Processes of Feminization in the Professions: The Case of Established, Aspiring and Semi-Professions.” Work, Employment and Society 22, no. 2 (June 1, 2008): 281–99.

Some Holiday Cheer

The articles I’m working on at the moment are either a) fairly depressing, or b) a fair bit of work, which means that a whole lot of a) is coming down the pipe. So I’m going to counter-program that with a little explicit holiday cheer. For instance, this Twitter thread brought a smile to my face.

End of the year Twitter confession: Until recently, I was a conservative. I rolled my eyes at almost all talk of ongoing oppression, systemic racism, sexism and misogyny, microagressions, and any hint that speech could = violence. I considered myself a classical liberal. The right talks of “red pill moments,” in which a person of the left is mugged by reality and becomes rightwing. I prefer the term “paradigm shift,” which describes a fundamental change in scientific disciplines. I went through a paradigm shift starting 5 years ago.

Teaching at Wabash College in Indiana, I spent some time with the students and faculty of the Malcolm X Institute for Black Studies. Learning (and seeing) the experiences of these students in small-town Indiana changed me. Coming from Canada and then Ithaca, NY, it was easy for me to overlook and ignore the oppression other groups faced (though it was still there). But in Indiana, these students were regularly pulled over by cops (I never was), tailed by staff at stores (I never was). They also faced far more blatant acts of racism, like shouts of “white power” from passing cars, etc. There is simply no denying that African Americans face this kind of thing day after day after day. That I don’t is just the very tip of my white privilege.

I began to see the world and myself differently. I saw that I am extraordinarily privileged, that though I do work hard I am starting way ahead of others by being white, upper-middle class, with educated parents, etc. I’m not where I am just because of what I’ve done. Since meeting the students of Wabash College and the MXI, I simply can’t be a “classical liberal” any more. There simply isn’t a level playing field, not in terms of race, educational opportunities, economic resources, etc. To act like there is is cruel and self-serving. Many things have also happened since to change my view of the world (reading Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, for one…), but in general I now err on the side of not presuming my experience is like others’ experiences. I try to default to compassion and self-awareness.

To end the confession, perhaps too honestly: Only 5 years ago I might have said “all lives matter”; “not all men”; “everything is up for debate”; “I’m a free speech absolutist”; “students need to be prepared for the real world”. Now I say “black lives matter”; “I believe women”; “I don’t get to debate the existence of others”; “free speech absolutism benefits the already powerful”; “marginalised students have already seen more of the real world than I ever will”. That’s my paradigm shift.

If you’ve got a few objections brewing in your brain, check the rest of the thread; Matthew Sears does a good job answering the ones that popped into mind.

What I find notable in this story is the contrast. Red-pilling is commonly an active thing, where someone preaches at you and stuffs pamphlets under your nose until they reel you in. Sears’ story has some similarities to my own: no-one tried to get me interested in social justice. There was no persuasion by others. Both of us just listened to other people with an open mind, applied a little logic, and naturally became supporters of social justice.

Lies may spread quickly and give comfort, but they need to be pushed. The truth quietly sits there, waiting for you to arrive.

Bayes’ Theorem: Deceptively Simple

Bayes' Theorem, in classic form

Good ol’ Bayes’ Theorem. Have you even wondered where it comes from, though? If you don’t know probability, there doesn’t seem to be any obvious logic to it. Once you’ve had it explained to you, though, it seems blindingly obvious and almost tautological. I know of a couple of good explainers, such as E.T. Jaynes’ Probability Theory, but just for fun I challenged myself to re-derive the Theorem from scratch. Took me about twenty minutes; if you’d like to try, stop reading here and try working it out yourself.

[Read more…]

MythCon Ain’t Over – Part Two

[CONTENT WARNING: Mythicist Milwaukee. Also, you’ll want to read part one first]

Before we get too far in, let’s sketch out a few hypotheses.

If you’re arguing that MythCon was a fluke, you’re arguing that the majority of people within the atheist/skeptic movement oppose giving problematic YouTube atheists/skeptics a platform. This would imply that people who opposed said YouTubers would be valued within the community, and you’d expect a net increase in their value on Patreon. If the majority of Patrons for these YouTubers were from the greater majority, you’d expect to see a drop in value as they took the stage and a net decrease in their Patreons. This is probably incorrect; as pointed out last time, the Patrons of someone likely agree with their views already. They are taking the stage, sometimes for the first time, and presenting their views to a fresh audience. Existing Patrons should see value in that and reward them, while we should also expect some new Patrons to arrive if they like what they see, also boosting the Patreon account’s bottom line. [Read more…]

Above the Drama

Apologies for the radio silence, I’ve had a rotten few weeks. Before I put the blog in “park” for a few months, though, I want to weigh in on a local controversy. That’s still brewing behind the scenes unfortunately, so the silence shall continue, but I do have a less-local controversy to discuss in the meantime.

I’m withdrawing my name, my speech, my presence, and my participation from the 2017 Mythinformation Conference.
I’m trying to discern what good might have come from the controversy surrounding MythCon. So far, the only positive is that the furor has revealed a clearer portrait of people, attitudes, arguments, and the already-frayed atheist movement.
You’ve heard of the Mythinformation thing, no doubt. Aron Ra had already pulled out (Lilandra Ra has the deets), and now Seth Andrews is vacating the premises.

I’m pro-Feminism. I’m pro-Black Lives Matter. I’m pro-Humanism. I’m pro-humanity. I’m also interested in engaging with those who respectfully disagree on the critical issues of our age, as long as those agents are operating in good faith, with respect for all, and a desire to work together not merely to win, but to see the best ideas win. The YouTubers in question don’t even come close to that mark. […]

I wrote MythCon with a formal request that it issue an apology to Sargon, Shoe and Armored for the trouble, and then withdraw their invitations to speak, giving those open slots to better, more reasonable, and more compelling names like Ron Miscavige. (I’d have also supported the inclusion of “dissenting” activists who had better reputations and a track record of better behavior.) MythCon politely declined.

Props to Seth Andrews for doing this, I think it’s the right call given how the organizers of MythCon have behaved.

And, yet …

I recently spoke with my wife about all of this. She knows how much I love people, how much I genuinely want to make the right decisions, and how hard I’ve worked to ensure that The Thinking Atheist and my own reputation stay above the drama, the fray, the internet gutters, and the social media flame wars. I haven’t always succeeded, but it’s something I have always strived for.

“Above the drama?” That’s impossible if you want to accomplish any sort of social justice, regressives always kick up drama to defend or excuse themselves. I mean, haven’t all we had this tattooed onto our eyeballs by now?

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

If you’re “above the drama” on social justice issues, you oppose social justice. Not as openly as someone who plots to commit violence, true, but this subconscious and unintentional opposition acts like rain on a mountain.

Extreme voices like Dan Arel – who broadcasts from his latest residence in the town of Oblivion – gleefully poured gasoline on every spark, going so far as to call the hotel with alarmist tales of possible disaster. (Remember that this is the same guy who thinks we should punch Nazis, and that all police officers are terrorists. We can move on, folks. Nothing to see here.)

Punching NAZIS?!?! THIS makes Dan Arel an extremist? Heaven forfend Andrews gets his hand on any video games, which delight in doing much more than punching Nazis. They’re kinda the universal villain, if you haven’t noticed. Arel’s actual views on Nazi-punching are very well argued

Nazism is an ideology based on white supremacy and the eradication, through genocide, of nonwhites (and many others).

A Christian, for example, can believe an atheist is evil for not believing in their god and punch them. Their action, however, is unfounded. They punched an atheist based on an appeal to their emotions.

We know Nazism is evil. We know their goals, we know where their ideology leads. If you punch a Nazi, especially if you’re one of those marginalized and threatened by their ideology, you’re acting in self-defense. Even if you’re a white person punching a Nazi, you’re acting in the defense of others.

So the slippery slope analogy fails immediately here.

… and as for the police as terrorists, I gotta wonder if Andrews has ever heard of “the talk,” or what black parents say to their kids about the police. Or how they discourage their kids from calling the police, for fear of what will happen to them. Or black people in the USA are less likely to call 911 after hearing of police violence against another black person. To some people in the US, police officers are a source of terror. Hence, calling them terrorists is less radical than it first appears.

Look, Seth Andrews, don’t get me wrong: I’m glad you’ve withdrawn from MythCon, it was the right thing to do. But seriously, your support of Black Lives Matter and humanism is badly undercut by your ignorance of social justice. Quit blindly playing the Golden Mean Fallacy card and learn something, dammit.