Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Short Posts, 5/25/2016: Elizabeth Warren, the gender gap in STEM salaries, Iranian women And Birds

I.  Read Elizabeth Warren's speech, if you haven't done so already.  My first reaction was that this is how to attack Donald Trump.  But then the cynical me wondered if Trump has a dispensation from all ordinary political rules so that nothing, whatsoever, can harm him in the eyes of those who find him delicious.

2. A study looking at the gap in men's and women's early-career salaries in STEM field argues that only two variables explain why men earn more:

Women earn nearly one-third less than men within a year of completing a PhD in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field, suggests an analysis of roughly 1,200 US graduates.
Much of the pay gap, the study found, came down to a tendency for women to graduate in less-lucrative academic fields — such as biology and chemistry, which are known to lead to lower post-PhD earnings than comparatively industry-friendly fields, such as engineering and mathematics.
But after controlling for differences in academic field, the researchers found that women still lagged men by 11% in first-year earnings. That difference, they say, was explained entirely by the finding that married women with children earned less than men. Married men with children, on the other hand, saw no disadvantage in earnings.
I haven't read the study, but the results don't clash with my expectations.  The starting salaries for men and women in the same jobs tend to be roughly the same*.  Most differences accrue over time, and that's why studies looking at early career salaries or wages are not as informative as they might seem.

The study's leading author notes that the results don't explain why mothers would be paid less:

Weinberg says that the data cannot identify or tease apart factors that might explain why married women with children earn less — among the possibilities, whether employers assign different responsibilities and salaries to these women, or whether the women spend less time or energy on their careers. But, he says, “our data suggest that these positions, as they are currently structured and operate, are not fully family-friendly for women”.

This is where not reading the study might get me in trouble, but if the salary data really is from the first year on the job it sounds very unlikely that the pay difference would be caused by the women spending less time or energy on their careers.**  That's because all the academic salary contracts I know of have been annual, the year's salary being set in advance, and not something that can be easily changed after observing how the worker is doing, and I believe the same is true of corporate contracts in STEM-type jobs. 

But all that depends on the time period the salary data applies to. (Say, the first year after graduation vs. the fifth year after graduation)  --  In any case, I'd like to see a study of this type done with questions about the amount of parenting the worker's partner does.  That could cast further light on those questions, if we find that mothers get lower salaries even if their partners do most of the child-care.

3.  Some young Iranian women dress as boys, to avoid the police-enforced Islamic dress codes for women.  They are not trans men, just women who want to have the freedom of movement that comes with men's clothes. 

I hope they don't get caught, because the punishment for such a large breach of the female dress code is probably more than a verbal warning.  But because the male dress is both literally and symbolically freer and more comfortable the risk might be worth taking.

4.  I was going to give you a cat picture (an old Internet tradition), but Blogger refuses to cooperate.  Instead, I'm going to tell you about my so-called lawn. 

It was recently the Home Depot equivalent for several different types of nest-building birds, each with its beak full of dry grass.  That made me feel virtuous about that thing called "thatch."  I do wish the birds weren't so very noisy at four am, but I'm thankful for their presence.  

 *  The reasons for this are several, but one of them is that the Equal Pay Act of 1963 makes it illegal to pay men and women different amounts for the same work and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes sex discrimination in employment also illegal.  An employer bent on discriminating against women can still do so, provided that individual salary offers remain secret.  That's one reason why the American secrecy about wages and salaries is problematic.  Note that it's also quite possible that employers don't discriminate in hiring.

**  It's not impossible.  But an employer assigning a woman with children different tasks from the beginning is more likely, as is the possibility that the woman herself asks for some kind of accommodation on the basis of her family responsibilities, and that accommodation decreases her earnings.