Reducing the Wage Gap

I don’t see a lot of discussion on the feminist blogosphere about income equality, and I see even less about possible solutions. Echidne’s three-part series can hardly be improved on at documenting the gender gap in earnings; however, there is no similar piece I know of about solutions.

After Hujo asked me what I think should be done, here are a few ideas, all of which have worked or are slated to. Building up on what I said two months ago:

1. Enforcing laws mandating equality in hiring, promotion, and pay. Although discrimination is illegal in most countries, enforcement tends to be on the lax side of things, even in very developed countries like the US and Britain. In Britain, only 3% of women who’ve been fired for getting pregnant bother to complain to the Equal Opportunities Commission.

There appears to be evidence that ordinary crimes have a higher reporting rates when there exists a law-and-order culture; reporting rates for crimes in several European countries and in the US are going up, and in addition the US has higher overall reporting rates. Therefore, spending money on a public campaign showing that there’s greater enforcement and imposing punitive fines on employers who are found to engage in discrimination will promote a virtuous cycle of more reporting, leading to more enforcement, leading to even more reporting.

2. Implementing flex-time schemes, which will help women, who are under greater pressure than men to balance work and family rather than to ditch family in favor of work. On top of that, they also foster a culture based on results rather than on working hours, which reduces discrimination against women. Best Buy’s experience with a result-based policy has been positive in terms of gender prejudice, worker happiness, and productivity all at the same time.

3. Cracking down on the old boy network. Although strictly speaking it’s possible to develop an old girl network or to have a gender-neutral old classmate network, in practice these networks perpetuate existing gender inequality. Especially in large corporations, it makes sense for the government to encourage merit-based hiring, since having high-profile rolemodels will help female professionals be more assertive.

One of the best parts of The Conservative Nanny State talks about the travesty that is the policy that non-voting shareholders are considered to agree with management’s position. Although Dean Baker suggests making it illegal in order to tame CEO pay, it can also be used to decenter the old boy network. If the government ensures that the shareholders have a greater say in hiring, it can kill the entire network, since presumably the average shareholder doesn’t care that an applicant went to business school with the CEO’s brother.

4. Subsidizing daycare. Going by Ontario costs, a given child needs C$38,000 in daycare. At about 330,000 births in 2001 (and declining), the cost to all provincial governments together would be $12.5 billion, which is slightly less than 0.9% of GDP. In the US, US$30,000*4 million children per cohort is $120 billion, which is almost exactly 1% of GDP. The government can afford it, and it helps women who want to pursue the work-family balance that most professional men do; unlike men, women have a hard time finding a partner who’ll stay home with the kids and do housework.

5. Mandating gender-rigid parental leave, of the form Norway and Sweden are gravitating toward. Pregnancy leave of 15-17 weeks is unavoidable. Parental leave is fairly gender-neutral in most cases, but because parents can choose how to share their allotted leave, the lion’s share of the burden falls on the mother. As it makes women miss work more than men, it incentivizes discrimination; before the government imposed gender quotas in boardrooms, Norway had a smaller percentage of female board members than the US, and I think that so did Sweden.

6. In politics, instituting proportional representation, which increases women’s political representation more than anything. A good example of that in action is Germany’s 1994 election, where 13% of single-member-district winners were female compared with 39% of people elected on party lists. That will be good not just for female politicians, but also for ordinary professional women, who will have more rolemodels.


11 Responses to Reducing the Wage Gap

  1. Axel says:

    Just a few additions to 6. There’s an old EU Parliament Working Document from 1997 named “Differential Impact of Electoral Systems in Female Political Represenation” strongly confirming your idea of a positive relationship between proportional electoral systems and female representation (

    In the 2005 Bundestag election, 23 percent of the single-member-district winners (21 percent female candidates) and 40 percent of the party lists (32 percent female candidates) were female. Politically, women are actually much more successful than men…

    One reason for the increase in women’s political representation you didn’t mention are quotas. For the German case, the Greens resolved an office quote of 50 percent at least for women in 1979, the SPD resolved an office and mandate quote of 40 percent in 1988. Even the CDU tried to install a female quote of one third in 1994 but failed, so they introduced a softer version, a quorum, in 1996.

    Personally, I don’t like the idea of affirmative action at all but to be honest, most politicians today agree that quotas were very important in the 80’s and 90’s.

  2. SLC says:

    Re item 6

    Yes, party elected lists work so well in Israel don’t they?

  3. anonyma says:

    OT: One outspoken conservative physicist (can you guess who?) happily claims that Joan Birman, in her Notices interview, says mathematics departments are now very welcoming to women and that, instead of getting angry with Summers, we should wonder whether he’s right.
    Would you like to give a comment, after reading what Birman actually says? Sorry to ask, but you write the only math-and-feminist blog I know. I’m much older than you, but I’m a mother and I have trouble enough in my (math) dept without writing such a blog myself.
    My first thought (based on reading Female Science Professor’s blog) was that mathematics is indeed a women paradise, if compared to physics. I nevertheless think that, even in mathematics, sexism is alive and well. I would really like to have your opinion.
    PS I am old and html/netiquette/blogtiquette(?)-challenged. Feel free to edit this comment and add links and/or the name of the physicist, if you think appropriate.
    PPS I really like your blog. I’m considering writing a letter to your parents asking for education advice :-).

  4. Sandy D. says:

    I’d like to include this in the next Carnival of Feminists (see ) on Dec. 20.

  5. Alon Levy says:

    Sandy: I’d be honored.

    Anonyma: you can read the interview here (the part about women in math is right at the end). She did complain about political correctness and say what Summers said should be taken seriously as a way to address female underrepresentation in math; however, she didn’t quite say departments were very welcoming to women, but rather just noted that there was rapid progress going on.

  6. Hujo says:

    Hmm interesting i have talked to many many many female feminits about the wage gap and none of them were as well informed and none of them offered any concrete solutions, hmmmm might say aomthing about that old distribution of wealth thing not being related to discrimination but rather ability and intrest?

    But before i dig into the whole post i am waiting on some info from status of women canada that may be relevent it is do in my e-mail somr time this week… will be back.

  7. Hujo says:

    Well it was a fairly simple question, what exactly are they doing to get women into trades, and what are they doing to promote men as equal parents, i dont think they do anything but fund the ideology of feminism thru stats and surveys and publications that demonize men and label women hapless victims of captain patriarchs cruelty.

    But where are their solutions?????

    Allow me to take a queue from feminism and be very selective here, of the women and men that graduate high school, women are being paid 71 cents to the dollar when you lump these groups together while ignoring job choice, this is the stat they are using to justify their refunding and wasteful existence.

    Now along with sow their are provincial women’s advancement depts. And they have all been in existence for around thirty years and all of their goals is equality, many of their programs address getting women into trades, thirty years later and women are not enrolling. Is it not time to admit either lack of interest or incompatance and enifectuality on the part of feminists?? Because their will be no affirmative action programs to get women into the military or dangerous trades, just like their will be no affirmative action for getting men into teaching, the areas where feminists are claiming discrimination is only in top earning jobs deemed desirable and powerful, feminists are simply trying to give women instant equal economic status without having to work for it.

    I mean how do the feminists judge performance? Women should be paid more for working less to close the wage gap? HAHAHA good one.

    You are aware out of the poor, white males are the group doing the worst in education right now? But affirmative action is all about denying white men equal opportunity in the name of advancement for those branded disadvantaged by white male hating feminists and pcists. Its retarded, all it will accomplish is a backlash against those groups that are trying to being advanced, most off all it ignores every other possibility besides discrimination while it brands men inherently sexist discriminators with little concrete evidence.

    You would expect instant equal economic success from women a mere thirty years after equal rights and opportunity were achieved? You actually feel the system should be tweaked so that women are placed first? Look at the mess of title IX and the university of women look at where men are in education now, look at the mess of vawa, don’t expect these policies to last much longer.

    Alon, it shocks and surprises me that a logical mind would buy into the discrimination angle so easily. Now correct me if this is a rotten analogy but in math equations it is possible to ignore certain variables to come up with a certain answer, but that answer completely changes when you actualy take everything into account, what feminism does is looks at half of the gender picture while ignoring many variables to justify their theories on discrimination.

    I just don’t see how a mathematical mind could simply ignore all these variables and claim the answer is discrimination, than advocate affirmative action as a solution to a answer that is simply fudged to support a hateful agenda?

    But some of your points had meri…but….Gaaa, i am also waiting on more info from the government regarding the costs of running day cares and violence shelters, and am trying to figure out how many daycares and violence shelters for people could have been run with the millions and millions and millions of tax payers dollars that have been going to ineffectual incompetent feminists all theses years, and your post is a lot to absorb so I will probably be back with more new blah blah blah next week.

  8. […] Abstract Nonsense: Six Policies To Reduce The Gender Wage Gap […]

  9. Hipolitos M. Wiseman says:

    hi,really fantastic jeans,do you know where i can find that.thanks,bill

  10. rekawice robocze…

    […]Reducing the Wage Gap « Abstract Nonsense[…]…

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