Why Pay Women Less?
The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has filed a lawsuit against ten oil companies for paying women less than men for the same job. Take a moment and look at this quote with a link to the source – which I will follow with my own thoughts.
These Companies Are Paying Women Less Than Men, According To Lawsuit | ThinkProgress
The company, which has employed at least 37 clerks since 2010, has also been paying female clerks less than men over that time, according to the complaint. Yet the agency says both genders were doing “substantially equal work under similar working conditions.”
For example, a male clerk with one year of accountant experience and 11 years as a store manager with some bookkeeping experience was paid a starting wage of $17.74 an hour in 2010 and eventually paid $21 an hour, according to the complaint. Yet a woman hired at the same time as him who had 17 years of accounting experience made just $15.07 when she was hired and only ever got up to $16.93, more than a $3 per hour pay gap. Another woman with 10 years experience running her own business and five years bookkeeping experience was also hired at a lower starting wage and only made it to $17.91 an hour by 2013.
These companies undoubtedly use computers to calculate salaries and benefits and obviously paying women less than men is going to show up statistically and must be well known in the company. There are fields in which it is possible to claim that men “deserve” more than women, although I have serious doubts about those claims. But what is the field of endeavor here in which women are paid less – accounting. Are numbers subject to physical strength? Can the figures on a page be subject to testosterone influence? Can male posturing move an apostrophe in a large number? I think not.
So, if there is no performance based reason for paying women less, what is it? I have three theories: greed, hatred or custom. If it is greed, you pay women less because it is profitable, there’s money in it. And while that does make logical sense, I’m not really comfortable saying that is the reason. What about custom? The practice of paying women less is quite common and often done throughout entire industries. We can say with assurance that throughout American history women have been paid less (or not allowed to work at all). So, both custom and greed make sense. Greed provides motive and custom provides justification.
I don’t know if those are sufficient reasons. A couple of years ago, I was working on an article about the Fukushima Nuclear disaster. There is a Japanese web site that covers continuing developments and the owners are kind enough to translate a good part of it into English. They said that there had been a change in the birth rate between males and females in the area. I thought that was interesting and might be a good lead. So, I did an Internet search. I never did find out if the numbers had changed. I was swept into a world of Internet misogyny, the likes of which I had no idea existed. The first thousand search results were male oriented web sites explaining how men were oppressed by women, how stupid women were and how to manipulate women. I’m pleased to say that the search engines have changed and those web sites no longer come up on a neutral search. If you want to read that kind of thing, you’ll have to look for it more directly.
I have come to suspect that many males consciously and probably many unconsciously resent women in the workplace and a salary differential is only one aspect of that disdain. Obviously this is just my theory attempting to explain why paying women less is so common.
Business ethics like any discussion of morality and human decisions sometimes leaves you pondering the mysteries of the human heart. Why do we do the things we do, especially when they seem to make little sense.
The corporate format is a human creation that exercises enormous power but sometimes it seems as if our understanding of what is right and wrong has not risen to the same level as our organizational talents.