Monday, February 28

Women make less money

…and it’s their own fault. But is it?

Okay, back to the beginning. A study I read about today claims that women are making less money, because they are ready to accept less money than their male colleagues. Let’s take a look at this.

In Germany, it is considered rude to ask your colleague ‘what exactly do you get for your job?’ You might ask your friends, but you won’t just ask the guy working in the cubicle next to you. So where does the basic information about ‘fair’ wages come from, for most people? Their friends or relatives who are working in the same or a very similar job. Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that women are more likely to work in jobs that don’t pay well, even if they work in jobs that pay better, their source of information about wages is most likely to be female. So a woman getting less than a man for the same job will tell them what she’s getting. They will think ‘well, that’s what you get in the job’ and use that amount as a target when asking for a pay raise. Result: they make less money. That’s part of my theory.

The study also claims that women are more likely to just accept what they’re offered while men usually have a number in mind and insist on getting it – which more often than not will work, providing he isn’t too greedy. This might be true (I haven’t been listening into the pay negotiations of thousands of men and women), but it bears a question: Why?

The most likely answer, from my point of view, is that men are taught from early childhood to see their own abilities very positively. They are absolutely sure they’re doing extremely well and deserve a lot more money. Women still are quite often taught to be more demure when it comes to their abilities. Is it a wonder, therefore, when women ‘accept what is offered’ while men ‘demand what they feel they deserve?’ Let’s go one step farther, would a boss accept it if a woman came and said ‘I know I deserve at least 200 more a month and I’m not leaving until I have them?’ In other words: if she were acting like a man might? Women quite often are afraid the answer might be ‘no’ and they might be out of a job, should they try it. As it might be a tad more difficult to find a new job as a woman (that old ‘are you planning children’ spiel again), they accept what they’re given and hope it’s a fair offer – which it usually isn’t. Again, that’s part of my theory.

Similar facts might be one of the reasons why women are less likely to get the good and interesting jobs in a company (and more likely to get the strenuous and thankless ones). This, too, was part of the study. And what could be done about this?

I fear the only way to really change all of this would be to change society a good deal. If women learn to be more self-reliant and self-assured, they will be more likely to beat male competition – there are a lot of well-educated women out there. If, in addition, the German school system and the German kindergartens are reformed and it’s no longer required for a woman to be home by twelve a.m. or one p.m. (because that’s when her children will be home from school or have to be picked up from kindergarten), women would not experience this break in their career as much as they do today. They would not have to be absent from work for a long time (and take a part-time job afterwards), could forward their career and, maybe, one day catch up with men (or even overhaul? nothing is impossible…).

Women make less money and, yes, partly it’s their fault. The question is are men strong enough to accept women who are acting like them? Currently, I’m afraid, the answer is no.