Gender Norms Are Hard to Change: When Women Earn More

I remember when my spouse and I decided to move in together and share our lives. Both self-employed, we agreed that I would be the primary breadwinner while he fixed up our house and got a new business started. Then one night his mother called to chat, and his father shouted loudly from the background, “Tell that bum to get a job!” My partner struggled to keep his composure for a few hours afterward. His father had pulled the “man card” to make it clear that a real man would never let himself be financially dependent on a woman. Tara Siegel Bernard of the New York Times notes that gender roles in the United States have become more egalitarian over the past half-century. She points out that women now outnumber men in college and collect more degrees. In addition, the number of women earning more than their husbands in opposite-gender relationships has been slowly rising, and men are taking on more responsibility at home. Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times supports these observations with statistics from a recent study by the Census Bureau, which shows that about one-quarter of women now earn more than men in opposite-sex couples in the United States, up from 18 percent in the 1980s. However, both authors point out that despite these shifts, certain gender-role expectations persist. Miller cites a recent study from the Pew Research Center that shows 71 percent of people surveyed say that to be a good husband, men should be able to support a family. Only 32 percent said the same about women as wives. Bernard concludes that we have held on to the idea that men are supposed to provide but have loosened up on the idea that women have to be homemakers. One indicator of the stickiness of gender roles is reflected in the discomfort women and men feel about women earning more. Miller reports that in the Census Bureau study, in opposite-sex marriages, women understated what they earned while men overstated their earnings. The researchers called this “manning up and womaning down.” Miller notes that the Census Bureau report had some other surprise findings about the 23 percent of couples in which women earn more:

  • These women earned more than double the average earnings of women who did not outearn their husbands.
  • They are more likely to have college degrees.
  • They are more likely to be black.
  • Age and geography make no difference. Couples in which women earned more were as common in liberal cities as in the conservative South.
Miller also shared a large new study by economists at the University of Chicago, which found that women who outearned their husbands did significantly more housework and childrearing than their husbands—perhaps to make their husbands feel better about the situation. Generational differences are showing some changes in gender-role expectations—but old attitudes die hard for all of us and tend to reappear when we least expect them. Let us know what has worked for you to create truly egalitarian relationships.   Photo courtesy of Hernán Piñera (CC BY-SA 2.0)]]>

Will Shame Close the Gender Pay Gap in Britain?

Britain’s new law requiring all companies with 250 or more employees to publically report their salary data and identify their gender pay gaps went into effect in April 2018. The gaps identified surprised no one: gender-based pay disparities exist at a vast majority of businesses, and often by a wide margin, according to Liz Alderman of the New York Times. A number of Western countries have recently taken similar steps with requiring gender gap reporting, operating from the same assumption that transparency and shame will force change. Gaps exist at some notable British companies:

  • At Goldman Sachs women are paid an average of 56 percent less than men.
  • At easyJet men outearn women by 52 percent.
  • At WPP, the British advertising giant, women take home, on average, around one-quarter less.
  • Mills & Reeve, a British law firm, pays women an average of 32 percent less than men.
Alderman reports that while supporters of the new British reporting regulations acknowledge that shame and transparency alone are not likely to solve the pay gap problem, a recent study, “by the accounting firm PwC predicts that if nothing is done, it could take nearly a century for the divide to close entirely.” British regulators assume that transparency will create pressure on companies to address the pay gap. Alderman notes that one study reported by Jake Rosenfeld and Patrick Denice of Washington University found that transparency raised wages, in part because becoming aware of the pay disparity helped change organizational norms. While several Western countries, including Britain, Germany, the Nordic countries, and Australia have mandated gender pay gap reporting, the United States has taken steps backward. In 2017, the Trump administration rolled back reporting requirements put in place by an Obama-era initiative to close the pay gap. Women in the United States can take their own action:
  • Follow the example of British women who started a #PayMeToo campaign on Twitter to encourage employees to talk about how much they are paid.
  • Start their own collection of salary information within their companies and publish it to put pressure on their organization to close the pay gap.
  • Demand that their legislators pass laws at the state and federal levels to bring about transparency.
  • Vote for candidates who care about the gender pay gap.
Women are not going to receive equal pay for the same work as men unless we raise our voices and keep the pressure on.   Photo courtesy of Henry Hemming (CC BY 2.0)]]>

Women in Physics and Medicine: Closing the Gender Pay Gap, Increasing Respect, and Decreasing Burnout

New studies on women in physics and medicine find continuing disparities in pay and promotions. Audrey Williams June, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, reports the results of a new study by the Statistical Research Center at the American Institute of Physics showing a gender pay gap of 6 percent for female faculty members in physics. The study also found that men are overrepresented in senior faculty roles and that women receive fewer grants for research and lab space. For women in medicine, the issues can be severe. Dhruv Khullar of the New York Times reports that female physicians

  • are more than twice as likely to commit suicide as the general population;
  • earn significantly less than male colleagues
  • are less likely to advance to professorships; and
  • account for only one-sixth of medical school deans.
Khullar notes that gender bias begins to impact women physicians during medical residency training and continues throughout their careers. He points out that the structure of medical training and practice has not changed much since the 1960s, when almost all medical residents were men and only 7 percent of medical school graduates were women. Today women account for more than one-third of practicing physicians and one-half of physicians in residency training. Unchanged training structures that assume a stay-at-home spouse to support a trainee’s eighty-hour-work week create work-family conflicts for women. The combination of work-family conflicts and embedded gender discrimination in the profession takes a toll on women’s lives and careers in some of the following ways:
  • In households where both spouses are doctors, women with children work eleven hours less per week, while there is no difference in the hours worked by men with children. This statistic reflects the greater responsibility that women doctors carry for family care that their spouses do not share equitably.
  • Female physicians are more likely to divorce than male physicians.
  • For female physicians, getting patients and other doctors to show them respect by calling them “doctor” is a battle. Women physicians are assumed to be either physician assistants or nurses by both patients and other doctors and are often introduced by their first names in professional settings instead of by their professional title of “doctor.”
  • The gender pay gap for female physicians is significant and was detailed in an earlier article.
  • A recent study at Harvard found that gender bias affects referrals to female surgeons from other physicians.
What can be done to close the gender pay gap, increase respect, and decrease burnout for women in physics and medicine? Both June and Khullar suggest that having more women in leadership and mentorship roles could make a big difference. Khullar also notes that “disparities don’t close on their own. They close because we close them.” Let’s continue to put pressure on our institutions to be more equitable and inclusive. Do these disparities exist in your own profession? Please share with us what efforts your organization is making to close these gaps. Photo by Walt Stoneburner, CC BY 2.0.]]>

A Road Map to Gender Equity: Women in the Workplace 2016 Report

A new study by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey finds little progress in advancement for women in the largest companies. This study of 132 companies employing 4.6 million people includes a review of the pipeline data of the companies, a survey of HR practices, and surveys of 34,000 employees about attitudes on gender, job satisfaction, ambition, and work-life issues.

Key Findings: The Current State

First, let’s take a look at key findings from the study:
  • Women remain underrepresented at every level. For every 100 women promoted to manager, 130 men are promoted. This disparity begins early and grows larger with only 20 percent of SVP roles held by women, which results in very few women in line to become CEO.
  • Women of color face many more challenges with access to opportunity, including sponsorship, than do white women.
  • Women negotiate for promotions and raises as often as men but receive more negative feedback than men when they do.
  • Women ask for feedback as often as men but are less likely to receive it and get less access to senior leaders and sponsorship.

A Road Map to Gender Equity

The LeanIn.Org/McKinsey report offers a practical road map for how leaders can speed the rate of progress in achieving gender equity and inclusion:
  1. Communicate a compelling business case using data and stories about why gender diversity is good for the company. Senior leaders need to talk openly about the value of gender diversity and model their commitment to gender equity. Transparency through disclosure of gender metrics to employees will also demonstrate leadership’s seriousness about the issue.
  2. Ensure that hiring, promotions, and reviews are fair. This is challenging because of unconscious bias. Numerous studies show that women receive harsher and more personal judgments in reviews than men. Practices such as requiring diverse slates of candidates for internal and external hires, conducting blind resume reviews, applying clear and consistent criteria for performance reviews, and carrying out third party reviews of performance feedback to ensure fairness are all actions that can increase gender (and other) diversity.
  3. Invest in management and employee training in awareness of implicit bias for hiring and performance reviews. Managers also need training in recognizing and challenging inappropriate gender-based language and behavior and recognizing and offsetting the double-binds that women often face in the workplace—such as receiving negative feedback when asking for raises or promotions.
  4. Focus on accountability and results. I have often seen companies espouse a commitment to valuing gender diversity but refuse to hold senior leaders accountable for performance against gender metrics. Almost without fail, no change occurs when there is no accountability for senior leaders. It is also important to track salary differences by gender and to set targets so that progress can be measured.
Numerous studies show the benefits of gender diversity, but statistics from studies or one-time training sessions won’t bring about change unless the leaders of organizations invest in changing the cultures—including changes in attitudes, awareness of implicit bias, and changes in policies and procedures—of their organizations. The road map above shows the way forward for leaders. What successes have you seen and what worked? Please share your stories.   Photo Credit: Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at  ]]>

How to Close the Gender Wage Gap

The gender wage gap is persistent. Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reminds us that fifty years after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, women still earn only 79 cents for every dollar men earn in the United States, and the gap in different occupations varies. Miller notes that women who are surgeons earn 71 percent of what male surgeons earn. I have written in a previous article about differences in pay for different racial/ethnic groups, with recent research showing that Hispanic women in Massachusetts make 56 percent of their male counterparts’ salaries. In her article, Miller offers ideas that are starting to generate interest and be tested by a few state governments and private employers for closing the gender wage gap. I believe these ideas are promising:

  1. Publish everyone’s pay. Miller notes that “when employers publish people’s salaries, the pay gap shrinks.” President Obama required federal contractors to report salaries by gender in 2014, and the state of California passed a law to require municipal governments to publish salaries. A few pioneering companies have done the same with very positive results. Salaries got corrected and/or aligned.
  2. Coach, or curb, negotiation. Miller notes that “men are paid more partly because they’re more likely to ask for it. When receiving job offers, 51.5 percent of men and 12.5 percent of women ask for more money.” Miller is basing her information on the work of Professor Linda Babcock who also notes that women are penalized, deemed unlikeable, and often not hired for negotiating like men. Consequently, women need coaching on how to negotiate differently to be effective. Best of all, Miller suggests, would be to ban negotiation all together and set the salaries for positions, with a small range to allow for differences in experience.
  3. Don’t rely on previous salaries. Women get stuck in a lower-wage cycle when pay for a new job relies on an employee’s previous salary. The Massachusetts State Legislature is currently considering a bill that prohibits employers from seeking job candidates’ salary histories. More states should pass legislation like this.
  4. Make it easier for mothers to stay in the workforce. Affordable childcare, paid sick days, and paid parental leave need to readily available so that women can more easily stick with their careers.
  5. Build flexible work places. Miller notes that the pay gap is greatest in occupations with the least flexibility, such as medicine and finance.
  6. Change the law. Federal legislation languishing in the US Congress called the Paycheck Fairness Act would require companies to report salary data, give grants for negotiation training and make class-action lawsuits easier—but it has been stalled for a long time. It does not yet have enough support to move it forward.
The gender wage gap can be eliminated. We know how to do it, but we need to put more pressure on organizations and our government to do the right thing. Do you know of companies or state governments that are pioneering efforts to eliminate the wage gap? Let us hear your examples of what’s working. Image courtesy of Ambro at]]>

Good News for Gender Equity: It Can Happen! Two Success Stories and Lessons Learned

Two recent stories about efforts to achieve gender equity provide encouragement about what’s possible and some useful lessons about how to get there. Here are the two cases, one from science and the other from technology. The Microbiologists Women have been underrepresented as speakers and presenters at scholarly meetings for many years, but one group, the American Society for Microbiology, found a way to achieve gender parity in three short years. Between 2012 and 2015, the percentage of presentations by female scholars went from 25.9 percent to 48.5 percent—almost parity. Why is it important that women scientists have equal visibility at professional meetings?

  • Women now constitute a majority of the students and postdocs in microbiology and represent the future of the field. A message of “no glass ceiling” is important to keep them engaged and to ensure their talents are fully recognized and utilized.
  • Being a speaker or presenter at a professional meeting impacts career advancement. Invitations to speak at major professional meetings are used by faculty promotion and tenure committees as evidence of external recognition and are critical to advancement decisions.
How did they do it? Several valuable lessons for other organizations can be learned from the steps taken by the American Society of Microbiologists to achieve gender equity. To begin with, the women scientists who were members of the Society rejected the conventional wisdom that there were not enough qualified women to be speakers and that it would take a generation for parity to be achieved. They insisted that steps be taken to correct the imbalance. Specifically, three steps were taken that led to parity in three years:
  • The program committee studied historical data to learn about the gender gap among speakers.
  • More women were recruited as conveners, or organizers, of presentation panels. These panels usually include several presenters who take turns giving talks on related topics. The female conveners invited more women to present research papers than had occurred in the past.
  • Conveners were urged to avoid creating all-male panels. This was not an absolute requirement, but the intention to include more women resulted in a drop to 4.1 percent of the panels being all-male in 2015, down from 35.7 percent in 2011.
The Technology Company The next case comes from, a Silicon Valley technology company. The story begins when, one day, the CEO noticed that his meetings with managers only included men. He was aware of all the talk about a lack of gender diversity in Silicon Valley and realized that his company had that problem, too. He was concerned and took the following steps:
  • He set goals to achieve 100 percent gender equality for pay and promotion in his company.
  • He started what he called Women’s Surge in 2013 where he asked managers across the company to identify their top executives for advanced leadership training. If they sent him lists that were mostly men, he sent the lists back and asked for more diverse lists. Promotions of women started to climb.
  • Two of the women promoted during the “surge” decided to leverage their new positions to help other women. They went together to the CEO and told him they felt certain that women were being paid less than men for the same work in the company. He was shocked but commissioned a salary review that proved them right. Salary adjustments have begun.
This company still has a long way to go to reach gender equality. Only 29 percent of the employees are female, including only five of twenty-one executive team members and two of eleven board members—but they are on the right track. What are the lessons from these two cases that other organizations can learn from?
  • Women need to join forces and push for change.
  • The gender pay gap is usually invisible, which helps perpetuate the gap. Organizations need to regularly conduct salary reviews and make adjustments. Scrutiny and transparency about salaries are critical to closing the gaps.
  • Efforts to promote equality must be intentional and consistent:
    1. Set goals (not quotas).
    2. Hold managers and conveners accountable for promoting and including women in visible roles.
All of these lessons learned also apply to achieving equity for all dimensions of diversity, including race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. What other suggestions do you have?   Image courtesy imagerymajestic at]]>

Knowing Your Value by Mika Brzezinski: A Book Review

Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth, recounts her own painful experience of co-hosting the MSNBC political talk show Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough while he was paid fourteen times more than her. Brzezinski describes common mind-sets and missteps that got her into this frustrating and humiliating position—and kept her stuck there for a long time. She also shares tips from interviews with several successful women about how to get paid what you are worth.

Common Mistakes that Many Women Make

Brzezinski discovered that she was not alone in making these common mistakes:
  • Using ineffective negotiating strategies.
  • Accepting low pay for a new job, knowing it is not competitive, but taking it because you feel lucky to get the position.
  • Assuming that working hard to prove yourself will result in raises and promotions.
  • Not asking for what you’re worth.
  • Not owning your success and not taking credit for your accomplishments.
  • Accepting approval from a boss instead of money.
  • Valuing loyalty to a boss or organization instead of taking your career seriously—sometimes you have to quit and go someplace else to get more money and responsibility.
  • Accepting, or internalizing, beliefs that women are not as capable as men.

How to Get Paid What You Are Worth

Brzezinski interviewed several successful women, including Sheryl Sandberg, Valerie Jarrett, Tina Brown, Linda Babcock, Anna Quindlen, Arianna Huffington, and others, and shares many of their tips for getting paid what you’re worth, including the following advice:
  • Do not try to negotiate like a man because being assertive can work against a woman (one of the double binds we face). Instead, women need to communicate why the request is in the best interest of the organization. Document your achievements and state in clear terms what value you have brought to the organization.
  • One interviewee, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz suggested that “the best way to get men to listen is to complement them.”
  • Linda Babcock, author of Women Don’t Ask, said, “When women go in to negotiate, they have to do it by being ‘relentlessly pleasant’ . . . with a big smile on your face.”
  • Anna Quindlen advised that when negotiating for a raise or promotion, “Women have to be tough as nails and warm as toast.” Not one or the other, but both at the same time.
  • Do your homework and come to the negotiating table with information and alternatives. Offer your boss a choice and never ask yes or no questions.
  • Don’t apologize or overexplain.
  • Be ready to walk.
I am glad to be able to report that Brzezinski does acknowledge in her book that the gender wage gap is the result of a systemic problem where women are institutionally undervalued and where unconscious bias creates barriers for women. At the same time she describes clearly the ways that we collude in being undervalued and underpaid when we enact mind-sets and utilize ineffective negotiating strategies that work against us in the masculine world of the workplace. We must stay conscious of the double binds that we face when negotiating—but there is solid advice in this book about how to get paid what we’re worth!]]>

The Gender Wage Gap for Teachers and Nurses

CNN recently reported that, among full-time workers, women earn about 78 cents to a man’s dollar, according to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This gap is more pronounced for black women (64 cents) and Latinas (56 cents) compared to every dollar earned by a white man. One of the most surprising findings for me is that this gender pay gap persists, even in female-dominated professions like teaching and nursing. For example, women hold 70 percent of elementary and middle school teaching jobs, yet men still earn more for the same role. The CNN report goes on to explain that “male teachers earn a median of $1,096 a week, whereas women earn $956—about 87 cents to the man’s dollar.” The most shocking news about the gap for me, reported in the New York Times by Catherine Saint Louis, is that the pay gap for nurses did not narrow from 1988 to 2013—twenty-five years! I was surprised that any gender pay gap exists for nurses considering that between 90 percent and 93 percent of nurses are women. I thought that surely this was one profession where there would not be a gap. But this is not the case. Here are some facts from a study of 290,000 registered nurses:

  • Overall, male nurses make $5,100 more on average per year than female colleagues in similar positions.
  • Male cardiology nurses are paid on average $6,000 more per year.
  • Male chronic care nurses make roughly $3,800 more than women.
  • Male nurse anesthetists are paid $17,290 more per year on average.
The researchers reporting these pay gaps for nurses could only speculate about the reasons for these persistent gaps:
  • Men may be better negotiators.
  • Women may have a tougher time getting promoted.
  • Only about 20 percent of nurses who work in hospitals are unionized, which may be a factor.
  • A lingering bias may persist that a man is more of an expert because he is a man.
We need to be aware of the persistent gender gap in almost all professions in the United States. As explained by Terry O’Neill in Ms. Magazine, the gender and gender/race wage gap undermines women’s economic security, and lawmakers continue to dismiss this harsh reality. She noted that, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the gap is closing so slowly that “if we keep going at the current pace, it will be the year 2058 before women have wage parity.” If you agree with me that 2058 is too long to wait, then it’s time that we get together and demand that our lawmakers take this issue seriously and legislate for pay equity.]]>

Working Women in China: A Sticky Floor and a Glass Ceiling

New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together, and found they faced some very familiar challenges, as well as some unique ones created by their cultural context. They face similar challenges both in their relationships with one another in the workplace and in systemic problems, such as a very wide gender pay gap and very low representation in both middle and senior leadership roles. The Chinese women in my research reported negative dynamics in their relationships with other women in the workplace that were similar to those described by the rest of my research participants. For example, they reported feeling unsupported by senior women, who were often harder on junior women than on men and did not try to mentor or help younger women advance. As I explain in my book, these dynamics reflect internalized negative stereotypes about women and demonstrate the structural impact of women being less valued than men in societal and organizational cultures. Evidence that Chinese culture still places higher value on men can be found in a recent New York Times article in which the authors, Didi Kirsten Tatlow and Michael Forsythe, described the resurgence of long-repressed traditional values in China. The authors noted, “More and more men and women say a woman’s place is in the home, wealthy men take mistresses in a contemporary reprise of the concubine system, and pressure for women to marry young is intense.” And we’ve all read about the preference for male children that, in the context of the one-child policy, has resulted in female babies being killed or abandoned. These are the signs of a patriarchal society. Tatlow and Forsythe, along with Yang Yao of China Daily, offer these statistics showing the impact of this resurgence of traditional values on women in the Chinese work force:

  • Chinese women are losing ground in the work force compared with men and make up just 25.1 percent of people with positions of “responsibility.” This describes senior management roles, as well as supervisory and middle management positions. Women in China refer to this lack of opportunity at lower levels as the “sticky floor.”
  • Fewer than one in ten board members of China’s top three hundred publicly traded (CSI 300) companies are women.
  • Thirty of the thirty-one state-owned companies listed on the CSI 300 have no women in senior leadership. The Chinese government could mandate that women be represented in senior management in these state-owned companies, but they do not.
  • No woman has ever served in the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest level of Chinese government.
  • The gender pay gap has grown significantly in the last two decades: in 1990 it was 77.5 percent, and in 2010 it was 67.3 percent for working women in urban areas. It was 56 percent for rural women in 2010.
While there is clearly a glass ceiling in China, the women I interviewed complained that they must first get past the sticky floor before a glass ceiling is even a problem to tackle. Attitudes about women belonging in the home mean that they have difficulty being considered for most positions or promotions, and men are clearly preferred. The labor laws are vague and unenforceable and do not define gender discrimination. Companies are even free to state “no women need apply” when advertising open positions. The Chinese women in my research also described intense pressure, even from other women colleagues, to marry young and have a child quickly because of the one-child policy, a dynamic unique to China. These women described a fear of being shunned by their women colleagues if they did not have a child. On a positive note, Yao reported that, inspired by Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, groups of women in Beijing are starting to meet to organize networking events and seminars to help women advance and grow.  Women in China are finding a collective voice, which is how change will begin in the right direction.]]>