Are you a married woman applying for a new job? You’d better tell your employer that you’re a single mom. A new study reported in the journal Academic Medicine revealed a large discrepancy between the salary of new male and female physicians, with men taking home over $10,000 a year more than their female counterparts. Age didn’t explain the difference in pay, nor did specialty, academic rank, work hours, time spent researching or any of the many other factors they examined –except one. One-third of the gender difference in pay was explained by spousal employment. Basically, If your spouse is employed, you make less money. The study’s authors suggest, “Employers may feel that men who are supporting a family deserve a higher salary than women whom they do not view as principal breadwinners.” In other words, pay is not dependent on performance or credentials, but instead on gender-based assumptions about providing for a family.
Pay discrepancies that start early on in a career are likely to get larger with time, and, unfortunately, these pay discrepancies are not limited to the medical profession. Women, find out what your worth, and make sure you’re getting it before you take that job. And, most of all, don’t mention that you’re married!
I’m always searching for strategies to keep the seat next to me on the bus, train or plane vacant. Intently searching through my backpack resting on the vacant seat, is my go-to. Coughing and sneezing might work too. Recent posts on Tumblr (Men Taking Too Much Space on the Train) and Slate.com (On Planes and Trains, Everyone Prefers to Sit Next to Women. Lucky Us.) lament that on public transportation men tend to plot themselves down next to a small women, dominating more than their own share of space. It’s not that women don’t like men, the men just take up too much space. Their legs sprawl well beyond the limitations suggested by their seats.
But the biggest beef with male travelers is they hog the armrest. In most modes of transportation there is only one armrest to be shared between two passengers, and the armrest is only large enough for one arm. So, who gets to use the armrest? Everyone already knows in mixed sex situations the guy gets the armrest, but there is actual research support for this phenomenon. Researchers examined 852 airline passengers, and, no surprise, men had a much greater tendency to command the armrest than women. Also, no surprise, the researchers found that those denied armrest access by their seat companion were angry about it.
OK, you say, men are typically bigger than women. It’s all about size not sex. You’re wrong. The airline study controlled for the size of the passengers and obtained the exact same results. Even when a female passenger was the same size as the male traveler next to her, the armrest was usurped by the man! It’s not about men’s larger size, it’s about men asserting their power over women. Sadly, they probably don’t even realize their doing it. How do you get the armrest back? You need not win an elbow struggle for armrest dominance, just call out the armrest hog. Tell him he’s had the armrest for half the flight and now it’s your turn. It’s time to take back the armrest!
If Colin McGinn was generally well-liked, would he still be employed? McGinn, the star philosopher from the University of Miami, resigned after his research assistant alleged McGinn sent her sexually explicit e-mails and texts. There is no question that McGinn crossed a line, and should face some consequences– but how much did negative feelings toward this guy make his situation worse?
Just to fill you in, McGinn and his research assistant were working on a book on the human hand. Thus, McGinn felt justified in sending her the message: “had a hand job imagining you giving me a hand job.” According to McGinn, the two were involved in a consensual intellectual romance, and his comments were merely referring to a manicure. McGinn also allegedly sent an e-mail suggesting the two should have sex over the summer.
What seems strange is the total lack of support for this guy. Isn’t it possible that he really believed he and his graduate student had some kind of special relationship? One exception, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker wrote a letter in McGinn’s defense, but after tremendous pushback, he seems to have changed his perspective. By contrast, the affable Anthony Weiner, who developed a habit of sexting women, still garnered almost 5% of the vote in the New York City mayoral primary yesterday. And it took 17 women coming forward with sexual harassment allegations before Bob Filner submitted his resignation as mayor of San Diego in August.
I don’t know McGinn personally – but the arrogance that oozes from his blog provides clues why he might rub some the wrong way. On one blog post, he defends the inappropriate messages sent to the grad student using philosophical arguments and proposes there’s a big difference between “suggesting” an action and actually “entertaining” it. Titling his book Mindfucking also suggests he may not be a warm and fuzzy kind of guy. Nonetheless, an obnoxious or arrogant personality should not impact the severity of his punishment. If McGinn was extremely well-liked by his colleagues and his university president, would he have still been pressured to resign? Sexual harassment should not be tolerated, but awarding more severe punishments to jerks perpetuates stereotypes that sexual harassment charges can be used to target disliked coworkers.
Steven Pinker, suggested that a severe punishment for McGinn would put a chill on future communication between faculty and graduate students. Pinker wasn’t suggesting that it’s OK to send sexually inappropriate texts to students (as suggested in a New York Times op-ed last week). Instead, he was pointing out that men are already nervous interacting with female coworkers and students, and the belief that disliked men can be targeted for extreme punishments could further chill these interactions.
It’s not ok to sexually harass, but it’s also important to offer due process to everyone.
Janet Yellen vs. Lawrence Summers
Recently, many have suggested that the selection of our next Fed Chairman has come down to gender. The top contenders, Janet Yellen and Lawrence Summers, both have impressive qualifications, yet some have suggested that Yellen should be selected precisely because of her gender. After all, they say, she’d be the first female Fed Chairman, and Obama has not promoted enough women to top positions.
Initially it may seem absurd to select a critical decision-maker, such as Fed Chairman, based on gender alone – there is certainly no research that supports gender-based differences in ability to run the central banking system. In fact, you may think our goal should be just the opposite – to entirely ignore gender in the selection just as we would ignore other characteristics such as eye color or hair color.
However, keeping an open mind, I decided to take a closer look at well-documented gender differences to see if they would favor Yellen or Summers. It turns out there is substantial research that indicates that gender may play an important role in the job. It’s a close call, but if we’re using gender to choose the next Fed Chairmen, then Yellen seems to be the candidate of choice.
- Women live longer. Given Alan Greenspan was Fed Chairman for almost 20 years, Obama should choose the candidate most likely to be around for a while. üYellen
- Women worry more. Women produce only about half the serotonin that men do, and as a result women tend to worry more. Worrying about the economy and the economic forecast would be a positive characteristic for a Fed Chairman. üYellen
- Men tolerate lack of sleep better than women. The Fed Chairman will most likely have some sleepless nights, and women who miss sleep are more likely to exhibit negative health symptoms than men. üSummers
- Men more likely to commit white collar crimes. It would be embarrassing if our Fed Chairmen was stuck behind bars. üYellen
- Women make less money than men. On average women make only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. The Fed Chairman makes about $200,000. So, we’d only have to pay Yellen $154,000, saving taxpayers $46,000 per year. üYellen
- Men have more physical strength. After a controversial decision the Fed Chairman may need to battle/run from those who oppose his or her reforms. A man would be stronger and faster in these self-defense measures. üSummers
- Men are more likely to eat fast food. That leaves more time to focus on important economic policy. üSummers
- No gender differences in sexting. We don’t want any nude snapshots of our Fed Chairman floating around, but gender doesn’t seem to play a role in this behavior.
- Men are better at spatial relationships. If an economic forecast graph is presented upside down, Summers will still be able to tell if the forecast is positive or negative. üSummers
- Women are better at remembering where things are. (As gatherers in hunter/gatherer civilizations women evolved to remember landmarks). Thus, Yellen is less likely to get lost on her way to work. üYellen
Summers photo courtesy of cnn.com and Yellen photo from federalreserve.gov.