Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Speed Blogging, 3/4/14: On Female Scientists, Entrepreneurs and Women in Saudi Arabia

This is an interesting piece about female scientists of the past.  You can learn more about Lise Meitner, Émilie du Châtelet, Barbara McClintock and others.

A new study argues that female entrepreneurs pay themselves a lower salary than male entrepreneurs, and that the difference happens to match the gross gender gap in salaries.

What that means isn't very clear to me.  The study subjects were all graduates of a particular program in entrepreneurship, and it looks like that salary data was acquired very early after graduation from the program, because:

The good news, at least for the women schooled by Goldman, is that when they were asked six months after graduating, they had narrowed the salary gap, to 8 percent from 20 percent. Both male and female graduates gave themselves raises, but the women, Ms. Greene said, gave themselves bigger raises.
I can make all sorts of guesses to explain that first round difference in salary assignment.  As one expert in the quoted article stated:

Ariane Hegewisch, a study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, noted that there was “quite a pronounced gender segregation” in the types of businesses men and women operate. The Babson finding “could be a reflection of the fact that women are more likely to start businesses in sectors with lower average revenue than men,” she said in an email.

More generally, if people pay themselves at least partly based on their past actual salaries, then, on average, women might choose a lower salary because they are accustomed to that. 

Or, as the article also suggests, men and women could differ in risk aversion, men being more risk-loving. But why not theorize about other possible gender differences?  For instance, perhaps the women in that study were more focused on faster growth of the firm, plowing more money back into it, say?  Then there's the difficulty of determining what the "right" salary for entrepreneurs might be, given how the firm is doing, what other sources of funding it has and so on.   And the question what the right amount of risk aversion might be, for each type of enterprise.

Saudi activists have petitioned

 ...the country's consultative council to back a demand to curb the "absolute authority" of male guardians over women in the kingdom, a signatory has said.
Activist Aziza Yousef told AFP news agency on Sunday that "rights activists have petitioned the Shura (consultative) Council on the occasion of the International Women's Day [on March 8] demanding an end to the absolute authority of men over women".
They demanded "measures to protect [women's] rights," in their petition to the Shura Council, she said.
Saudi Arabia imposes a strict interpretation of Islamic law, forbidding women to work or travel without the authorisation of their male guardians.
It is also the only country in the world that bans women from driving, and a woman cannot obtain an identification card without the consent of her guardian.
Laws in the kingdom enforcing such restrictions on women "are not based on religious" teachings, said Yousef.
The petition, signed by 10 female activists, also calls for allowing women to drive.

I'm not holding my breath for instant changes.  But I raise my helmet for those ten activists.  They are brave women.