3.08.2006

Happy International Women's Day!

Today is International Women's Day. When I first found out about this day (probably in college), I kind of thought it was somewhat silly, assuming that it was some new-fangled, post-Second Wave feminism thing. I liked it about as much as I liked Women's History Month, Black History Month, LGBT History Month, American Jewish History Month, National American Indian Heritage Month, etc., or, for that matter, National Book Month or Older Americans Month. That is, I recognize that it is sometimes necessary to highlight certain under-studied parts of our national history, heritage, or hobbies, but in an ideal world, all of these things would happen all the time. Any general study of American history or world history should include a fully-integrated account of the lives, accomplishments, trials, and tribulations of women and men, black people, white people, gay people, straight people, transgendered people, Native Americans, colonizers, and anyone else who ever did anything deemed important. (What do we deem important? Up for discussion. Preferably over tea and scones.)

These specially-designated months are only good for highlighting how far we still have to go towards a more inclusive view of history, culture, and literature. It's like my mother's oft-expressed anti-Mother's Day sentiment: We do we set aside one day a year to be nice to our mothers and to tell them how much we appreciate them? Why don't we do that every day? If we treated our mothers as we should every day of the year, there would be no need for Mother's Day.

I wrote, "When I first found out about this day (probably in college), I kind of thought it was somewhat silly" implying that I now have a different opinion. Indeed, I do! Inetnerational Women's Day is not some new-fangled, post-Second Wave feminism thing, and now I like it more. It was first established in 1909 by my good friends at the Socialist Party of America. Here is a short history of the origins of International Women's Day. (I wrote my senior thesis about female college students' activism before and during World War I, so I became quite familiar with the Socialist Party of America and its undergraduate affiliates. I was happy to see them referenced.) In general, I have a soft place in my heart for anything having to do with American women between 1850 and 1950, as that was the focus of my undergraduate studies.

Things were quite different for American women in 1909, and we often forget that. I want you all to reflect for a moment--or longer!--on what life what like before the following advances were made. (Some parts of the table are coming out funny and I can't deal with going into the HTML and fixing it now. Sorry!) I've highlighted the ones that I found particularly astonishing either because I can't believe things were ever this bad or because I can't believe it took until 19XX to fix it.

1916

Margaret Sanger tests the validity of New York’s anti-contraception law by establishing a clinic in Brooklyn. Although the clinic is shut down 10 days later and Sanger is arrested, she eventually wins support through the courts and opens another clinic in New York City in 1923. The most well-known of birth control advocates, she is one of hundreds arrested over a 40-year period for working to establish women’s right to control their own bodies.

1918

New York v. Sanger, 222 NY 192, 118 N.E. 637 (Court of Appeals 1917), National Archives, Records of the U.S. Supreme Court, RG 267 (MSDME-CDS C 15:298). Margaret Sanger wins her suit in New York to allow doctors to advise their married patients about birth control for health purposes.

1919

The federal woman suffrage amendment, originally written by Susan B. Anthony and introduced in Congress in 1878, is passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is then sent to the states for ratification.

1920

The Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor is formed to collect information about women in the workforce and safeguard good working conditions for women.

1920

The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified and signed into law by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby. It declares: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” (All state ratification dates are here.)

1923

National Woman’s Party first proposes Constitutional Equal Rights Amendment: “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and in every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

1932

The National Recovery Act forbids more than one family member from holding a government job, resulting in many women losing their jobs.

1936

The federal law prohibiting the dissemination of contraceptive information through the mail is modified and birth control information is no longer classified as obscene. Throughout the 1940s and 50s, birth control advocates are engaged in numerous legal suits.

1936

United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries, 13 F. Supp.334 (E.D.N.Y 1936) aff’d 86 F 2d 737 (2nd Cir. 1936), won judicial approval of medicinal use of birth control.

1937

The U.S. Supreme Court upholds Washington state’s minimum wage laws for women.

1938

The Fair Labor Standards Act establishes minimum wage without regard to sex.

1947

Fay v. New York, 332 U.S. 261 (1947), the U.S. Supreme Court says women are equally qualified with men to serve on juries but are granted an exemption and may serve or not as individual women choose.

1960

The Food and Drug Administration approves birth control pills.

1961

President John Kennedy establishes the President's Commission on the Status of Women and appoints Eleanor Roosevelt as chairwoman. The report issued by the Commission in 1963 documents substantial discrimination against women in the workplace and makes specific recommendations for improvement, including fair hiring practices, paid maternity leave, and affordable child care.

1963

Betty Friedan publishes her highly influential book The Feminine Mystique, which describes the dissatisfaction felt by middle-class American housewives with the narrow role imposed on them by society. The book becomes a best-seller and galvanizes the modern women's rights movement.

1963

The Equal Pay Act is passed by Congress, promising equitable wages for the same work, regardless of the race, color, religion, national origin or sex of the worker. Between June 1964 and Jan. 1971, back wages totaling more than $26 million were paid to 71,000 women.

1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars discrimination in employment on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin. At the same time it establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate complaints and impose penalties.

1965

Weeks v. Southern Bell, 408 F. 2d. 228 (5th Cir. 1969), marks a major triumph in the fight against restrictive labor laws and company regulations on the hours and conditions of women's work, opening many previously male-only jobs to women.

1965

Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), the Supreme Court overturns one of the remaining last state laws prohibiting the prescription or use of contraceptives by married couples.

1966

The National Organization for Women (NOW) is founded by a group of feminists including Betty Friedan. The largest women's rights group in the U.S., NOW seeks to end sexual discrimination, especially in the workplace, by means of legislative lobbying, litigation, and public demonstrations.

1967

Executive Order 11375 expands President Lyndon Johnson's affirmative action policy of 1965 to cover discrimination based on gender. As a result, federal agencies and contractors must take active measures to ensure that women as well as minorities enjoy the same educational and employment opportunities as white males.

1968

The EEOC rules that sex-segregated help wanted ads in newspapers are illegal. This ruling is upheld in 1973 by the Supreme Court, opening the way for women to apply for higher-paying jobs hitherto open only to men.

1968

Executive Order 11246 prohibits sex discrimination by government contractors and requires affirmative action plans for hiring women.

1969

In Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive Company, 416 F. 2d 711 (7th Cir.1969), the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rules that women meeting the physical requirements can work in many jobs that had been for men only.

1970

In Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Co., a U.S. Court of Appeals rules that jobs held by men and women need to be "substantially equal" but not "identical" to fall under the protection of the Equal Pay Act. An employer cannot, for example, change the job titles of women workers in order to pay them less than men.

1971

Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corporation, 400 U.S. 542 (1971): The U.S. Supreme Court outlaws the practice of private employers refusing to hire women with pre-school-age children.

1971

Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971): The U.S. Supreme Court holds unconstitutional a state law (Idaho) establishing automatic preference for males as administrators of wills. This is the first time the court strikes down a law treating men and women differently. The Court finally declares women as “persons,” but uses a “reasonableness” test rather than making sex a “suspect classification,” analogous to race, under the Fourteenth Amendment.

1972

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. Originally drafted by Alice Paul in 1923, the amendment reads: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." The amendment died in 1982 when it failed to achieve ratification by a minimum of 38 states.

1972

Title IX of the Education Amendments bans sex discrimination in schools that receive any federal funding. It states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." As a result of Title IX, the enrollment of women in athletics programs and professional schools increases dramatically.

1972

In Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972), the Supreme Court rules that the right to privacy encompasses an unmarried person's right to use contraceptives.

1973

Pittsburgh Press v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, 413 U.S. 376 (1973): The U.S. Supreme Court bans sex-segregated “help wanted” advertising as a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended.

1973

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973): The U.S. Supreme Court declares that the Constitution protects women’s right to terminate an early pregnancy, thus making abortion legal in the U.S. and overriding the anti-abortion laws of many states.

1974

Housing discrimination on the basis of sex and credit discrimination against women are outlawed by Congress.

1974

Corning Glass Works v. Brennan (1974), U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers cannot justify paying women lower wages because that is what they traditionally received under the "going market rate." A wage differential occurring "simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women" was unacceptable.

1974

Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632 (1974), determines it is illegal to force pregnant women to take maternity leave on the assumption they are incapable of working in their physical condition.

1974

The Women’s Educational Equity Act, drafted by Arlene Horowitz and introduced by Representative Patsy Mink (D-HI), funds the development of nonsexist teaching materials and model programs that encourage full educational opportunities for girls and women.

1975

Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U.S. 522 (1975), denies states the right to exclude women from juries.

1976

General Elec. Co v. Gilbert, 429 U. S. 125 (1976), the Supreme Court upholds women’s right to unemployment benefits during the last three months of pregnancy.

1976

Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976): The U.S. Supreme Court declares unconstitutional a state law permitting 18 to 20-year-old females to drink beer while denying the rights to men of the same age. The Court establishes new set of standards for reviewing laws that treat men and women differently—an “intermediate” test stricter than the “reasonableness” test for constitutionality in sex discrimination cases.

1976

Nebraska becomes the first state to abolish the marital rape exemption.

1977

Oregon becomes the first state to enact mandatory arrest in domestic violence cases

1978

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans employment discrimination against pregnant women.

1981

Kirchberg v. Feenstra, 450 U.S. 455, 459-60 (1981), overturns state laws designating a husband “head and master” with unilateral control of property owned jointly with his wife.

1984

In Roberts v. U.S. Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609 (1984), sex discrimination in membership policies of organizations, such as the Jaycees, is forbidden by the Supreme Court, opening many previously all-male organizations (Jaycees, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions) to women.

1984

The state of Mississippi belatedly ratifies the 19th Amendment, out of embarrassment. Women could legally vote in Mississippi starting in 1920, with the national ratification of the 19th amendment. However, Mississippi was one of two states that did not allow women to vote in the November 1920 elections, although this action was illegal.

1984

Hishon v. King and Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69 (1984): The U.S. Supreme Court rules that law firms may not discriminate on the basis of sex in promoting lawyers to partnership positions.

1986

In Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court held that a hostile or abusive work environment can prove discrimination based on sex.

1992

According to the Current Population Survey, the female-to-male earnings ratio at the median for year-round, full-time workers was 77 percent in 2002, an increase of 5 percentage points since 1999. (See this for details. In general this is a very interesting study if you’re curious about the male-female wage gap that still exists in the US today.)

1993

The Family and Medical Leave Act goes into effect.

1994

The Violence Against Women Act funds services for victims of rape and domestic violence, allows women to seek civil rights remedies for gender-related crimes, and provides training to increase police and court officials’ sensitivity and a national 24-hour hotline for battered women.

1995

Beijing Declaration at the World Conference on Women declares "Women’s rights are human rights." The Platform for Action designed at the conference contains dozens of references to human rights pertaining to women.

2006

US Census Bureau reports that the number of women-owned businesses grew 20 percent between 1997 and 2002, twice the national average for all businesses. Women owned nearly 30 percent of nonfarm businesses in the United States in 2002. While 14 percent of women-owned firms employed more than 7.1 million people, the vast majority of businesses owned by women (nearly 5.6 million) had no employees.


I don't have time to find links for these things now (or anytime soon), but if you want to know more, buy yourself a good book on the subject or go forth and Google.

When I was working at the Schlesinger Library Archives (far and away the best student job I had), one of the things that I did was photocopy archival manuscripts for patrons. I photocopied some very interesting old EEOC documents, including one with a case of a schoolteacher in Ohio who was fired when she became pregnant. I don't remember exactly, but I think they fired her very early in the pregnancy, before she was even showing, on the grounds that it was "unseemly" to teach children while pregnant. I think it was in the early 1970s, and I remember being shocked that it was still legal to treat women this way so recently. I guess firing women for being pregnant was legal until 1974 (Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur--maybe the EEOC case that I photocopied was LaFleur) or 1978, when the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed.

I think about abortion and a woman's right to choose to save her life over the life of her unborn fetus, but I don't often think of a time when contraception was illegal for married couples. I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like to live in such a time, to be pregnant for so many years, and, depending on the setting, often to lose multiple children in infancy. I actually realized some of this a few years ago, when I saw the PBS special on the pill. It still feels surprising to me, though.

I also have to admit that I am sad that I could not find anything noteworthy between 1995 and 2006. Perhaps I didn't look hard enough--let me know if you're aware of something big that I missed. Unfortunately, I don't think this lack of recent advances is evidence that there is no work left to be done. For example:

2005

In Tennessee, it's not a crime for a husband to force his wife to have sex against her will unless he uses a weapon, causes her serious bodily injury, or they are separated or divorcing. (See this.)

2006

Although women make up almost half of America's labor force, still only two Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs or presidents, and 90 of those 500 companies don't have any women corporate officers.

2006

There are 14 female senators in that 100-person body (14%). There are 70 female representatives in the 435-person House of Representatives (16%).


Happy International Women's Day!

16 comments:

ALG's Dad said...

Regarding the male-female wage gap that still exists today, see pages 353-359 of Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate" for an analysis of why you would not necessarily expect the gap to go to zero in the absence of discrimination (deliberate or subliminal). His argument, basically, is that it is known that there are, statistically, differences between men and women in personality, though obviously with a lot of overlap. It is also known that both men and women make tradeoffs between wages and other characteristics of a job, such as flexibility in working hours, or working conditions, in deciding whether to take a job. A priori, there is no reason to expect that men, on average, will make the same tradeoff as women, even in the absence of discrimination. This does not mean, of course, that none of the present wage gap can be attributed to discrimination.

ALG's mother said...

My main gripe about women and work is that I don't think a mother's job is properly appreciated. As the bumper sticker read, "every mother is a working mother."

alg's brother said...

I think it's important to make a disctinction between women's rights over their own bodies and their "right" to have jobs that have been traditionally assigned to men. What makes you and other feminists so certain that you could be just as effective as a man as a CEO of a company? Men and women are so vastly different that there's no reason to believe that they're equally suited for that kind of role. Maybe women are better at it, maybe men are better at it, but the fact that men and women are so fundamentally different would lead me to believe that it's highly unlikely that one is just as effective as the other. It would therefore be silly to try to reach this 50/50 utopia.

ALG said...

Imma,

I agree that every mother is a working mother. In an old issue of Ms. Magazine from the 1970s that I once came across at Schlesinger, there was an article by John Kenneth Galbraith, possibly related to the 1973 publication of Economics and the Public Purpose in which he discusses the national economic effect of the *unpaid labor* that women do. It was an interesting article. The only difference between the work that fathers stereotypically did and the work that mothers stereotypically did (at least in post-war, middle class America) is that the fathers earned money doing it and the mothers didn't. Maybe they earned something else that they wanted more (closeness to their children, flexibility, control over the internal workings of the household), as "alg's dad" pointed out.

Thanks for your comments, family!

ALG said...

ALG's brother, formerly the commenter known as "Avi,"

I agree that the rights that women ought to have over their own bodies and especially their reproductive systems may be different in important ways from their right to have jobs traditionally assigned to men.

The problem is that women have not traditionally been excluded from jobs such as CEO, president of the country, etc. because they are less suited for these jobs. They were excluded for other, far sillier reasons, such as the notion that women weren't as smart as men, or the notion that working too hard or thinking too much would damage their uteruses. Really, I can find you old stuff that says that, especially around 1880-1920. This is one argument that was made against women going to college. Think about the (future potential) children!

Furthermore, I'm not sure that the fact that women and men are different (I'm not sure I would go so far as to say "fundamentally different," although the older I get the more differences I see) means that they wouldn't be equally good CEOs, albeit potentially with different styles. One of those facts that I quoted was about woman-owned businesses growing much faster than man-owned businesses. I'm not saying it's necessarily because of women's superior business acumen, but I honestly think that the fact that women aren't in leadership positions in businesses are mostly due to external biases rather than any innate superiority of male CEOs. It would take many years of non-bias to test this theory, though.

In the meantime, I see no evidence that suggests that women make worse CEOs, presidents of countries, etc., so I'm all for suing against discriminatory hiring practices that are based purely on X and Y chromosomes rather than ability, experience, and other substantial indicators of a candidate's suitability for a job.

Avi said...

So you don't think it's more difficult for a woman to make a decision based purely on numbers when it's necessary for the success of her business? Based on my own interactions with women outside of the business world (I have limited experience in the business world), women are more emotional than men, and more often make decisions based on how they feel at the moment than men do.

As for why women-owned business grow faster than men-owned, it's because it's more difficult for a woman to break into that world, and only the very best business-women do. I suppose that's evidence that there is still discrimination because only business-women who are better at what they do than business-men are put in a position of power. However, if it were really clear that women were so much better than men at being CEOs, surely a lot more would be CEOs in a world where decisions are made based on money and growth.

Isn't it true that women do better on the verbal part of the SAT, while men do better on the math part? I seem to remember reading that somewhere. I don't think that men are smarter than women or women are smarter than men, but I think it's clear that they're smarter at different things. A women might have an easier time "telling what Jimmy was feeling when he learned about slavery in social studies class" while a man might have an easier time figuring out what time Train A and Train B crossed paths. Obviously, I'm not referring to all men or all women, but there's a trend. This idea that men make better business-people while women make better teachers is based in reality, not just tradition.

ALG said...

Avi,

Dem's fightin' words. I don't have time to respond at length now, since I just hit "publish" on another mini-manifesto, and, after all, I do have to go earn my bread for the day. I may have to write a whole post on this series of falsities another time.

1. Regardless of what one thinks about women and numbers, business leadership is rarely just about "making decisions based purely on numbers."

2. I got a higher score on my math SATs than most men in this country. Should I be denied a career based solely on numbers because the *average* math SAT score may be higher for boys than for girls? (I'm not even sure that assertion is true.) Averages do not top-CEOs make. You know what I'm saying? Individual variability is so high that to make sweeping assertions about women's (or men's) suitability for any career based on *averages* is entirely unproductive.

3. I *think* the latest data indicates that girls and boys run apace in math skills until puberty. Does this mean that testosterone makes boys better at math or that women lose self-esteem and confidence when they hit puberty? Also, I think the latest data indicates that girls develop verbal skills before boys, and that the distinction arises as early as preschool-hood, but that verbal abilities even out at some later point. Would math abilities even out at some later point if our society weren't rife with ideas about how bad women are at math? (I think so, but am willing to be proven otherwise if hard data exists.)

4. It used to be (traditionally) that all school teachers were male. The "women as teachers" thing is relatively recent. Also, all librarians used to be men. So basing appropriateness for a job on what you perceive as traditional jobs for men/women is ridiculous if you don't know history. This idea that "women make better teachers" arose in the past 100-200 years. Before that, nobody thought women could teach. Just sayin'.

I appreciate your not thinking that men are smarter than women or that women are smarter than men. I agree.

Avi said...

I don't have time to respond at length now, but I'm sick of the argument that things are a certain way because society "imposes it" up us. You could make that argument about any topic, and there's simply no way to disprove it. I could say that black guys are better at basketball than white guys in recent years because as a society we expect them to achieve at that sport. I could also say that women make better elementary school teachers than men because recently society has been imposing it upon them. The fact is, black guys are better at basketball and women are better at teaching children. The fact that basketball used to be an all-white sport and teaching used to be a man's job while now it's the opposite is enough evidence for me to conclude that certain groups of people are better at certain professions. The fact that it's socially acceptable for women to be CEOs (and has been for some time now, and there are plenty of women's groups to support and help them) but there still aren't very many of them is perhaps a sign that they don't make the best CEOs. If they did, executives would be snapping up the best female businesswomen from around the country. Now, compare that to basketball or teaching where there was a rapid transition from white to black, male to female because it was obvious that there were differences between the groups. If women really do make great CEOs, then you have nothing to worry about. If all of the non-business, stay at home moms are making it difficult for the female business-women to advance their careers, tough. If a woman is really good at what she does, she'll just have to prove it by working her way up the corporate ladder. In most cases, if she fails, it's because she lacks the leadership qualities that is more commonly found in men. That fact isn't going to disappear simply because women's groups impose their ideals on us, just as it's not upheld as a result of society as a whole wanting it that way.

ALG said...

First of all, read this delightful column from today's (3/11/06) New York Times. It's called "The More Sensible Sex? It's a Tie" and discusses men, women, and money. More specifically, it addresses the common feeling or complaint that women make decisions about money with their emotions while men use just the cold, hard facts.

You wrote:
> The fact that it's socially
> acceptable for women to be CEOs
> (and has been for some time now,
> and there are plenty of women's
> groups to support and help them)
> but there still aren't very many
> of them is perhaps a sign that
> they don't make the best CEOs. If
> they did, executives would be
> snapping up the best female
> businesswomen from around the
> country.

I think that you seriously underestimate the pervasive bias against women at *every* level of the educational and professional world. In my own experience, I had to fight a lot harder to be let into the honors track in high school than the boys did. I am also the assistant director at my current job, but people constantly assume that I am the "assistant to the director." Maybe they assumed that with my male predecessor, but I tend to think not. They think that I am replacing the previous administrative assistant not the previous assistant director, solely because of my gender. The truth is that it is still NOT socially acceptable for a woman to be a CEO. Aggressive women who get ahead in the business world are referred to with epithets that don't belong in a "family blog" (which this has clearly become!). Talk to REG (I think that's her middle initial) about engineering and gender bias sometime and I'm sure that she will confirm that the same is true in her field.

Stay-at-home moms are not making it hard for women to advance in their careers. In some cases, their husbands who don't think women should work outside the home are.

> Now, compare that to basketball or
> teaching where there was a rapid
> transition from white to black,
> male to female because it was
> obvious that there were
> differences between the groups.

There was a rapid transition from male schoolteachers to female schoolteachers because women were willing to work for less money than men were, because female schoolteachers were traditionally living at home with their parents. If women CEOs were willing to do the same job as men do for 2/3 the salary, and if men could overcome their gender bias in the business world and believe that women could succeed in business, maybe there would be a rapid transition to more female CEOs as well. Look, even if someone wants to make a woman the CEO of their company, if they think that others will perceive that as a business mistake, then they won't do it because it will hurt the bottom line. It sucks, but it's true. It's not always about who is best for the job--sometimes it's about who the shareholders will think is best for the job, and that is often a man.

This is totally unsupported in terms of research, and I have no idea if it is objectively true, but you also have no idea if women really make better teachers, so I feel justified in sharing my opinion as if it were fact.

ALG said...

ALG's Dad,

I agree with your comment 100%. I think that women often value flexibility or working conditions over salary.

In terms of flexibility, this may be, in part, because they are be married to men who work at jobs with *less* flexibility, and at least one parent needs flexibility to pick kids up, drop them off, and take care of them when they're sick. It is possible that in a more gender-equalized society, both men and women would or could have jobs that allowed them both to earn a living and to care for their families. I'm not sure why one person should consistently have to sacrifice salary and career advancement in order to attend to the needs of the family. I don't really have a solution to this, though.

In terms of working conditions, I also know that, personally, I have consistently chosen jobs with good working conditions even though I make less money than I could at a more pressure-filled (boring) job. I think that some men feel familial or societal pressure to choose careers that would enable them to single-handedly earn enough to support a family, whereas I never felt that pressure. If I thought that I would one day have to support multiple children and myself on my salary alone, I would choose a different career path than I have.

Anyway, this is all very interesting, but I also agree that this does not mean that none of the present wage gap can be attributed to discrimination, especially when you're talking about two jobs in the same field and with similar resposibilities (flexibility, conditions), at which men make more than women.

Daddy said...

A couple of comments. Regarding the NY Times article on men's and women's different patterns of overspending on useless things, I couldn't identify with any of the examples they gave of the kinds of things men spend money on, until they mentioned men whose self-image is tied up in the size of their music collections, and I suddenly thought "books." Especially when you consider how many of the books that I have bought I have never read, though I do read most of them eventually. But I suspect there are as many women as men who relate to buying books in this way.

Regarding Avi's claim that men are better at math, and therefore better at making business decisions that depend on numbers, there was an article in Science sometime in February that studied the relationship between how much time people spend thinking about a decision before making it, and how satisfied they are afterward that they made the right decision. It turns out that for small decisions, like which toaster to buy, the more time they spend thinking about it beforehand, the more likely they are afterwards to think they made the right decision. But for big decisions, like which house to buy, the more time they spend thinking about it beforehand, the less likely they are to think afterwards that they made the right decision. For big decisions, people did better if they gathered all the relevant facts, and then trusted their gut instincts. If there is any truth to the cliche that women have better intuitions than men, i.e. are better at subconsciously integrating a lot of information to make a difficult decision, then it might well be that women would, on average, be better than men at making critical business decisions.

David said...

"Daddy"'s mention of the difference in approach between types of decision-making is fascinating. Personally, I've found my experience to be orthogonal to it - I make large decisions very quickly, and mostly feel good about them. Sarah does massive amounts of research, and carefully considers each decision, big or small. She has an easier time making small decisions (perhaps there's less information required?) than I do - I had a much easier time deciding that I wanted to convert to Judaism than deciding where to go for dinner...

I did want to point out a terminology issue - y'all have been discussing CEO jobs using that term "assigned to men": that's language which the early feminist movement used, partially because some of them were socialists, and believed in a planned economy. I think that we should be careful when talking about "assigned" and "average women" or "average men," because language shapes thought.

An anecdote: when I was a freshman, I took "Math 250" which used Roudin's book "Principles of Mathematical Analysis" (funny enough, taught by Dr. Brin, father of one of the google guys... anyway) 43 people started the class, of whom 3 were women. 17 finished the class, including 3 women (I was in this group). 5 went on to the next semester, including 3 women. My lesson from this was "not many women go into upper-level math, but the ones who do are really good at it."

ALG said...

Interesting about the origin of the "assigned to men" terminology. I don't think that I would have come up with that phrase myself (when you mentioned it I didn't remember using it at all. Because "alg's brother" used it, I parroted it back. In fact, I almost quoted his wording verbatim.

I don't know about men and women and different ways of making decisions. I tend to agonize over all decisions, large and small, and mostly feel fine about all of them once I've made them. But maybe it's because I've never had to make a really big decision, like buying a house. The biggest decisions I've made in my life involved choosing a college, choosing a yeshiva in Israel, and applying for and accepting jobs.

I do know that some of the things that I'm pretty good at are things that people often say men are better at, and some of the things that people think women are better at, I stink at. For whatever that's worth.

Avi said...

ALG,

I would guess that, like you, most feminists are better at things that most people say men are good at. That's one of the things that causes them to identify with the feminist movement. Women who are good at woman things probably embrace their womanliness and are proud of the characteristics that make them different than men, rather than try to convince other men and women that they're the same in most non-anatomical ways.

David said...

I'm not sure that I buy the idea that feminism is attractive to women because they're not good at womanly things - "feminism" can mean lots of things to lots of people - from the idea that men and women are identical, to the idea that men and women should be paid the same for the same job.

Most people have no significant problem with the latter (although defining "same job" is a lot harder than it sounds), but the former is a tougher pill to swallow.

I know some pretty feminine women who describe themselves as feminists (I also know some pretty butch ones who do too, but that's separate).

ALG said...

Avi,

I must clarify. I wrote that, "some of the things that people think women are better at, I stink at," but now I feel obliged to defend my womanhood. SOME of the things that people think women are better at, I stink at. A lot of the things that people think women are better at, I'm good at. These include taking care of children, communicating verbally, and being very interested in building and maintainig a network of interpersonal relationships with family and friends. I'm also a damned good dish-washer. I just reject the notion that only women can be good at these things, and that only men can be good at quantitative tasks, logic, reasoning, and orating. Because I'm good at some of these "woman things" and I'm also pretty good at some of these "man things" and I'm sure that many men and women are the same. I know a lot of men who are very good at taking care of children, and even a few who do a mean load of dishes.

The "woman things" that I'm not great at include cooking, reducing clutter, and putting crap all over my face and in my hair (I guess people call this "makeup" and "hair styling," respectively?). I'm also not good at wearing high heels, or perhaps I should say that I'm not willing to get blisters all over my feet and limp around in pain in order to gain shaplier calves and a few inches.

Alright, enough ranting for today.