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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Paycheck Fairness Act: Good Riddance

The Paycheck Fairness Act didn't muster enough votes to make it to the floor of the Senate. I, for one am thrilled. Here's why this was bad legislation in the first place.

Paycheck Fairness Act: Good Riddance

9 comments:

Class factotum said...

I'm going to respond here because I don't want to register.

there more woman in HR, education, nursing? And why is that these position traditional pay less than IT or engineering?

They pay less because IT'S HARDER TO BE AN ENGINEER AND THEREFORE THERE ARE FEWER OF THEM. Econ 101: supply and demand. Fewer engineers equals higher prices. More teachers? Lower prices.

Prairie Dog said...

(Commenting here also because I don't want to register)

I got into a debate over the PFA with a friend a few weeks back when she first caught wind of it. She's an avowed feminist (NTTAWWT), and that played a huge part in her wanting to see it passed.

I used the example of John and Jane both starting the same job on the same day with the same experience at the same pay. But after one year, during their performance reviews, it was determined that John had outperformed Jane. So John gets a 5% raise and Jane gets a 4.5% raise. Suddenly, that's illegal...and it shouldn't be.

I already work in a company that under-recognizes good performers because HR has created such strict guidelines around pay grades and policies about how much an individual raise can be. HR seems completely oblivous to the fact that this has had a huge negative impact on the morale of folks who perform above and beyond the call of duty. The last thing we need is the government coming in an re-enforcing their practices.

I even referred my friend to this recent study and she refused to acknowledge it because "all other studies and facts show women are unfairly compensated." Not sure where she gets that, but once she chose to ignore the study, I chose to end the conversation.

Finally, if my recollections are correct, the Act wasn't just about allowing women to sue, but making it easier for them sue. This would mean that companies would have to dedicate more money towards protecting themselves against these sorts of suits, and less money to compensating employees. In this economy that's not a good thing. Anything that hinders an organizations ability to distribue money in a manner that further maximaizes profits is a bad move in my book.

B.Simms said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your article. If women "choose" to have babies then they should understand that they will be penalized and paid less, and rightfully so. It is only fair. Any men that "choose" to have babies will be treated the same after all.

If a woman is overtly discriminated against in pay prior to coming to a company (your second example) then the woman should expect that this discrimination will be continued for the rest of her life as she moves from job to job. After all, its only fair.

If a boss just decides to pay a male subordinate more than a female subordinate (your third example) or decides to hire an equally qualified woman in at a lower rate (your first example) then that is just fair. I like your term for it: "negotiation." Makes it sound like both candidates were on even footing and the female candidate just blew it. We won't mention that in reality she probably did negotiate, that the person doing the hiring perhaps just thought a female would be worth less (b/c you know those women are always "choosing" to have babies), or that she will never know what the position's budget was or that an equally-qualified male is being paid more than she is.

It is great that a woman such as yourself recognizes that it simply isn't your place to second-guess the hiring and pay decisions of your mostly-male members of management. Look at the executive offices of nearly every Fortune 500 company in America. Virtually every vice president will be male . . except of course for the VP of HR. Is this equality? Heck no! Is this merit-based? Well, according to you, yes - women just aren't as good at management-level work. Is this fair?? According to you - You betcha!

As a representative of the virtually all-male upper management ranks, I salute you and the work that you do. If we had any white men in HR, we would certainly pay them less than you as a sign of our appreciation. (And b/c they are doing women's work.)

Keep up the good work and don't go choosing to have any babies!

Suzanne Lucas said...

B. Simms--

Interesting world view you have--that everything is unfair and stacked against women.

It's not the act of having a child that lowers a women's earning potential. It's her decision to work less or seek out "family friendly" jobs, which tend to pay less.

I'm currently what you'd call a "trailing spouse." I quit my job so that my husband could accept a new job in Switzerland. It was a big promotion for him.

I chose to do this.

Funny thing is, at the international school our daughter attends, there are tons of other people in our same situation. One spouse got the new job in a new country and the other spouse quit to follow.

Some of those "trailing spouses" just happen to be men.

They are the primary caregivers for their children. The wife's career was not hurt by the children because she chose to marry someone who would be the primary caregiver to the children.

You choose who you marry. You choose to have children. You choose to be the primary caregiver.

And as for salary negotiations, if you don't like what they offer you, and they won't accept your counter offer, then take a different job.

Managers are interested in filling the job with the best person who is going to cause the least amount of trouble. Most don't care about the gender, race, sexual orientation, or number of children.

FrauTech said...

On engineers- there's a study that showed after THREE YEARS of experience female engineers make 93% of their male colleagues. That's three years of experience, straight out of college, same degree same GPA. That's not time off for babies. And there are plenty of women out there (me included) who do NOT value a "family friendly" workplace. And yet, the women where I work are punished under the assumption they will have babies. I witnessed a woman not get a promotion she was up for because at the time she was pregnant and "is going to leave us anyways" well several years later and she's still here.

Suzanne I know you mean well, and it's fine for you to accept that your choices led you to where you are. But plenty of women don't choose, choices are made for them. There's also studies that show women are viewed negatively when they negotiate for salary. In technical fields assumptions are made about men being more technically apt than women when next to nothing is known about their qualifications. Women in technical roles are pushed into administrative work or liason work because "they are good at it" and then paid less because it is valued less than the technical work.

Even your commentor above disparages an "avowed feminist." What's wrong with being a feminist? What's wrong with wanting equality for men and women? We've made a lot of progress, but a woman's gain does not have to be a man's loss. This isn't a zero sum game. This law would have given women the right to sue when they could justify being paid less than their male colleagues for the same work. It didn't guarantee a ruling in their favor or mean they didn't have to justify their equal qualifications and numerous requests for more pay. It saddens me "feminist" has become an insult. It's a word women AND men should be using when they want people to be treated equally. But I suppose this gets you points with the men Suzanne, so go right ahead and continue to pretend the world is a fair place, feminism is a dirty word, and all the boys will like you. Don't bother to do any research or anything, that sounds like too much work.

Suzanne Lucas said...

Frau Tech,

I have no doubt that there are some women who have faced discrimination. If that happens to you, you have options.

1. Do nothing. Just whine about the unfairness.
2. File an official complaint with the EEOC
3. Hire an attorney
4. Work to change things within the company.
5. Find a new job and quit.

If you choose number 1, I admit I lack compassion.

The study I linked in the article shows that discrimination is not a widespread problem. If you end up facing it, choose numbers 2, 3, 4 or 5.

FrauTech said...

Suzanne, 5 is the only real option for women who face discrimination. If you file a complaint, get an attorney, or pipe up at your current workplace you will be blacklisted. In this economy five is incredibly difficult. I respect most of your advice when it is HR or job related. But clearly you've never worked in an environment that is hostile towards women. And that's fine, I was like you once back when I worked in the medical industry at a non-profit. I figured women who mentioned this stuff were just whiners. But it's out there. And you're doing your fellow women a disservice by continually dismissing it in your articles.

Suzanne Lucas said...

FrauTech,

I'm sorry you've faced it. You're right that I haven't worked in an environment that is hostile towards women.

What suggestions do you have, other than legislative ones, to make organizations such as the ones you've worked in, less negative towards women?

FrauTech said...

I think it takes someone at the top who thinks it's important (the same as any not-for-profit goal an organization might have, such as to increase diversity). It would be easy if anyone cared, but most execs I know usually don't(about this or any other working condition kind of thing).

That's why I think it's harsh when women who have a voice on the internet dismiss this stuff so readily. Yes it's way better than it was, but there's still a long ways to go. And in male dominated industries I'm pretty sure subtle sexism is contributing to the leaky pipeline. These attitudes and stereotypes hurt men just as easily when they are criticized for wanting to spend time with their family or when they are insulted by being compared to women. Not every guy is a go-get'em ask for a raise kind of guy. And if they don't fit the macho stereotype it can hurt them in the business world. That's why feminism is still needed, for men and women. To make workplaces better for everyone.