STUMP » Articles » #WaronWomen: the Absurdity of Statistical Equality » 13 July 2014, 12:47

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

#WaronWomen: the Absurdity of Statistical Equality  


13 July 2014, 12:47

I came across this WSJ article today, about the Canadian McGill University taking over a decade to close the gender gap in pay among its own workers.  It sounded reasonable, until I got to this paragraph:

Another conundrum involved a mostly female team of assistant cooks and a mostly male team of executive cooks. McGill's pay analysis called for paying the assistants more than their bosses were earning. University officials still are trying to sort the issue out with the school's unions.

Now, it is not always the case that the "boss" should always be paid more than the supposed subordinates. In many "creative" and competitive areas, people ostensibly lower down the totem pole are paid a lot more, because the top execs are more easily replaced than, say, a star center on a basketball team.

But when we're talking about a bureaucratic system that has "levels" for workers with each level being associated with a particular salary, it is difficult to argue that one should get a lower salary with a promotion in level.

This should have been an obvious absurdity, but evidently they didn't rethink their approach until the unions pointed out the stupidity.

At least they realize they can't just proclaim women working the same jobs as men get paid 20% more than the men in order to "close the gap".  That's too obviously illegal (well, I'm not sure about that. This  Canada and, more specifically, Quebec we're talking about).

But I wonder how much they've thought this through.  Because they could end up hurting the women who are in male-dominated fields and attract lots more men to what is currently female-dominated.

Let me think about the office I work in. I am the only female researcher in the group. The administrative staff is almost all female (there are a few men, though).  If there was a "rectification of salaries", the admins would be boosted and the researchers deprecated. That would piss me off.

Luckily, I do not work in a bureaucratic hell-hole. My prior company was like that… and it was run by a bunch of French and Germans. This is not a coincidence.

When I was talking with the prior chief actuary of the U.S. branch of that company, I made a comment about the insulting bonuses. He really let loose. The bureaucratic approach of the Europeans was such that competitive pay could not be offered in the U.S. for certain positions. It would not do, you see, for the chief actuary in the U.S. be paid higher than the chief actuary in France. Yes, but actuaries are paid more in the U.S. than in France.  I should have taken a clue about the high turnover in the actuarial staff in the U.S. office….which I didn't know until I got there. And then there was the fact that I was hired for a position well above my experience level, and that the person who was the first choice for the position (and who was of the right experience) passed on the position.

This is what happens when a private company pays much less than the market. They have difficulties staying staffed for particular positions. (What a lot of these sorts of companies do is get people who need visa or green card sponsorship, which makes it difficult for them to leave. But it's not impossible for them to leave, and they do eventually… just not as quickly as those who do not need such sponsorship.)

Similarly, when an employer pays well above market for particular jobs, unless they've got a good handle on the hiring process, they can end up with a lot of stinkers who are difficult to fire. Or they can get people who are skilled well beyond those particular jobs who stick around in them, because getting "promoted" is actually a step down in pay. So those companies have a difficult time getting people to accept promotions. More responsibilities for less money, or not much of a step up in money?  Ha ha. You must be joking.

Now, if this were just Canada, this would be one of those page A1 "Ha ha look at the weirdos" WSJ fluff pieces (nb: I love those fluff pieces). But look what U.S. companies have in store:

Companies who do business with the federal government—which employ some 20% of the U.S. workforce, by government estimates—will soon have to face the issue head-on. President Barack Obama signed an executive action earlier this year requiring federal contractors to report pay data by gender and race.

The proposed rules for doing so are expected to be released later this summer.

Contractors are already required to collect such pay data, but, "I couldn't tell you how many contractors actually do that," said Patricia Shiu, director of the Labor Department's Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

Serves them right for doing business with the government.

What I "love" about all these requirements for doing contract work with the federal government is that it is a huge barrier to entry, and thus smaller contractors have harder and harder time submitting and winning bids. And it also makes it less attractive for potential, competent contractors to bid on work.

cf: the Obamacare exchanges.

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