In the April 12, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, the truth about equal pay rears its head.

When women get paid less for doing the same jobs men do, the real reason is obvious to any forthright business person, though it seems to elude the media, the experts, and even some women themselves: Employers pay women less because they can get away with it.

gender-pay-gapThe same pundits tell women that they should change their behavior if they want to be paid fairly for doing the same work as men. But the experts, researchers, advocates and apologists are all wrong. There is no prescription for underpaid women to get paid more, because it isn’t women’s behavior that’s the problem.

There is only one thing a woman should have to do to get paid as much as a man: her job.

When doing the job doesn’t pay, women of all ages should be aware that younger women today have the solution. According to a recent report from the International Consortium for Executive Development Research (ICEDR), some women have figured it out. Millennial women don’t need to change their negotiating, child-rearing, educational or any other behavior to impress errant employers. They know to quit and move on. This is going to change life at work as we know it.

The myths about women causing their own pay problem

Let’s look at what women are supposedly doing to abuse themselves financially.

We can refer to umpteen surveys and studies about gender pay disparity — and to some that suggest there is no disparity. But a recent Time magazine analysis summarizes the data from the U.S. Census and other sources: “Women earn less than men at every age range: 15% less at ages 22 to 25 and a staggering 38% less at ages 51 to 64.

This has become favorite fodder for the media — and for armchair economists and gender researchers and pundits looking to bang out a blog column. But I think most of the explanations about pay disparity, and the prescriptions for how to get equal pay for equal work, are bunk.

Depending on what you read, women get paid less because they:

  • Have kids.
  • Interrupt their careers for their families. (See: A stupid interview question to ask a woman.)
  • Don’t have the right education (e.g., STEM), so they can’t get good jobs.
  • Are nurturing, so they don’t negotiate hard enough for equal pay.
  • Don’t like to argue.
  • Lack confidence.
  • Let their men get away without doing household chores — so those men (if they’re managers) don’t know they should pay women fairly.

These explanations about lower pay are speculation and myth, but the message is always the same: If women would just change some or all of those behaviors, they can shrink the pay gap.

I say bunk. Women don’t cause the pay gap. Employers do. So employers should change their behavior.

The fact

I’ve been a headhunter for a long time. I’ve seen more job offers and observed more salary negotiations than you’ll see in a lifetime. I’ve observed more employers decide what salaries or wages to pay than I can count. And I am convinced the media and the experts are full of baloney about the pay gap between men and women. They are so caught up in producing eye-popping news that they’re doing women a disservice — and confusing speculation with facts.

Here are the facts:

  • Employers pay women less to do the same work as they pay men.

Well, there’s just one fact, and that’s it.

Women don’t make themselves job offers, do their own payroll, or sign their own paychecks. The gender pay disparity is all — all — on employers, because we start with a simple assumption: A job is worth $X to do it right, no matter who does it. It’s all about getting the work done. And the employer decides whom to hire and how much to pay.

Here’s the hard part for economists and experts to understand: Employers decide to pay women less, simply because they can get away with it. The law of parsimony instantly leads us to the obvious motive: Paying less saves companies money. Everything else is speculative claptrap.

A review of the bunk

Let’s look at some of the gratuitous “analysis” about why women are paid less than men. Look closely: It all delivers one absurd message: Women are the problem, so women should change their behavior.

Glassdoor, the oft-reviled “employer review” website, reports that overt discrimination may be part of the cause of gender pay discrepancies (Demystifying the Gender Pay Gap: Evidence from Glassdoor Salary Data). But, claims Glassdoor’s economist, Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, “occupation and industry sorting of men and women into systematically different jobs is the main cause.”

“Sorting?” Armchair apologist Chamberlain is saying women apply for jobs that pay less and men apply for jobs that pay more. While this may sometimes be true, what he fails to note is that when a man and a woman do the same job in the same industry, one is paid less because the employer pays her less. The absurd prescription for women: This will change if only women will change their behavior!

Then there’s the HuffPo, in which Wharton researcher Bobbi Thomason says that to fix the gender pay gap, “We need to have men getting involved at home with childcare and other domestic responsibilities.”

Gimme a break. Women, when you get men to wash dishes, you’ll change how boss men pay female employees. The prescription: It’s all up to you. Change your behavior at home.

The Exponent, reporting on Purdue University’s Equal Pay Day event on April 12, says that the wage gap is “largely based on the fact that, generally, women don’t negotiate their salary once they get into their career field.” Those women. Dopes. They’re doing the wrong thing — that’s why they get paid less! Change your behavior!

Kris Tupas, treasurer of the American Association of University Women chapter at Purdue, explains that employers pay women less “because our culture teaches women to be polite and accept what they’re given.” Again the prescription is for women: Change your behavior!

Linda Babcock, a professor at Carnegie-Mellon, wrote a book that explains women’s fundamental problem: Women Don’t Ask. Says Babcock’s book blurb:

“It turns out that whether they want higher salaries or more help at home, women often find it hard to ask. Sometimes they don’t know that change is possible — they don’t know that they can ask. Sometimes they fear that asking may damage a relationship. And sometimes they don’t ask because they’ve learned that society can react badly to women asserting their own needs and desires.”

Women get paid less because they don’t know they can ask! Gimme another break! And what’s Babcock’s prescription? Women — you have to ask to be paid fairly! Change your behavior!

Fox News’s Star Hughes-Gorup tells women how they can fix the pay gap: “Get educated.” If you want to make as much as the guy in the next cubicle who’s doing the same job, hey, get more schooling after the fact to impress your employer.

Next, says Hughes-Gorup, “Embrace asking for help.” Yep — if you learn how to ask properly, you can “start the conversation” about money. In time, you’ll be worth more. She sums it up: “I believe true progress will be made when we acknowledge that the real issue deterring women from talking about money is not confidence, but self-imposed limitations in our thinking.”

The prescription: Women: If you stop limiting your thinking, you’ll get paid more. So, get with it! Change your behavior and your thinking!

Disclosure: I can’t believe anyone buys any of this crap, much less that anyone else publishes it uncritically.

Millennial women have the solution

Why do all those articles prescribe that women must change their behavior to get paid more, when it’s employers who are making the decision to pay them less? Should women appease employers, or respond to unfair pay some other way?

Surveys over the years show that the top reasons people quit their jobs include (1) dissatisfaction with the boss, and (2) work-life balance. (E.g., Inc. magazine’s 5 Reasons Employees Leave Their Jobs.) Money is not the main reason.

But something has changed — especially for Millennial women. Lauren Noël, co-author of a report from the International Consortium for Executive Development Research (ICEDR), says, “Our research shows that the top reasons why [Millennial] women leave are not due to family issues. The top reasons are due to pay and career advancement.”

The report itself quotes women under thirty saying that the number one reason they quit is, “I have found a job that pays more elsewhere.”

What’s interesting is that the HR executives Noël surveyed don’t get it — HR thinks “that the top reason why women leave is family reasons.” Is it any wonder employers attribute lower pay to the “choices” women supposedly make?

The Millennial answer to lower pay

Millennial women are the generation that has figured out they’re not the problem. Unlike their older peers, they’ve figured out that when they’re not getting paid what they want, the answer is to quit and go work for an employer who will pay them more.

As a headhunter, I know first-hand that quitting is the surest way to take control when you’re underpaid and your employer will not countenance paying you fairly. I also realize that not all women — or men, for that matter — can afford to quit a job that is paying them unfairly. But that doesn’t change the answer that will most enduringly change how employers behave.

Kudos to women who take the initiative, and who don’t blame themselves or alter their own behavior when an employer’s behavior is the problem. I wonder how many employers have taken notice? Do they realize the generation of female workers that’s coming up the ranks isn’t going to tolerate financial abuse — they’re just going to walk?

payDo we need a law?

I’m not a fan of creating laws to dictate what people should be paid. But I’m not averse to regulations about transparency and disclosure. With some simple disclosure regulations, I think more women can start getting paid as much as men do for the same jobs.

Companies want our resumes; let’s have theirs, too — a standard “salary resume” provided to all job applicants, comparing pay for women and men at a company. Employers would be free to pay men twice what they pay women, if they want. And upon checking the salary disclosure, job seekers would be free to walk away and join a competitor who pays fairly for work done by anyone.

Let’s get over it: Women who do the same work as men aren’t the problem. Employers who pay unfairly are, and let’s face what’s obvious: They do it because they can get away with it. (For a story about an employer with integrity, see Smart Hiring: How a savvy manager finds great hires.)

If we’re going to analyze behavior, let’s analyze employers’ underhanded behaviors — not women’s personalities, cognitive styles, or biological characteristics. I’ll say it again — There is only one thing a woman should have to do to get paid as much as a man: her job.

we-pay-menEmployers who don’t pay fairly will stop getting away with it when they’re required to tattoo their salary statistics on their foreheads — so job applicants can run to their competitors. Or, more likely — since new laws aren’t likely — employers will change their errant behavior when a new generation of women just up and quits. That would be quite a news story.

Maybe then the media and the experts will stop blaming women for the gender pay gap — and start challenging employers to raise their standards.

(Considering quitting? See Parting Company: How to leave your job.)

What’s the solution? Do we need a walk-out? Do we need regulations? Do we need a corporate stock and pillory? Does anybody think there’s no gender pay gap?

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  1. Hi Nick.

    I haven’t commented for a while. There’s been no need to add anything to your consistently on-the-mark observations.

    The current post is no exception, but I just can’t help myself. I vehemently agree with the basic premise of your article, “There is only one thing a woman should have to do to get paid as much as a man: her job.”

    That goes for everyone…age, nationality, ethnicity…none of that matters except the ability to DO THE JOB.

    Nice work!

  2. Nick, you got it 98% right and then you tripped at the finish wire.

    You’re absolutely correct that the only thing a woman should have to do is her job, to get paid fairly and equally to anyone else doing the same job. And you’re right that it is garbage to put the responsibility on women to change their own behavior in order to fix a problem created by their (mostly male) bosses.

    But then you turned around and did the exact same thing in telling women that they are paid less because they let it happen without quitting! If women would only change their behavior by leaving any job which doesn’t pay as well as the men get paid, you tell us, there wouldn’t be a pay gap anymore! Come on, women, it’s on you to force your bosses to obey the law! (Unequal pay for equal work already *is* against the law; it’s just extremely difficult to enforce… partly because of the lack of transparency you mentioned and partly because suing your employer can get you blacklisted in an industry right quick.)

    While it’s certainly good career advice for any individual woman to take a higher passing job over a lower paying one if all else is equal, all else practically never is. The company may be the only one available in close proximity to home, or the only one on the insurance plan which would allow their kids to stay with the doctor they need. Or there may simply be nothing else that pays women any better, even if they all pay men better. You’re correct that companies do this because they can get away with it, and after all, pretty much *all* companies can get away with it. So why should we expect it to be any different anywhere else? There is also the difficulty of finding out the relevant information in the first place… not just what one’s own company pays men at one’s rank and seniority, but also what any other company might be willing to pay. Usually nobody will reveal potential salary until an offer is on the table. That means you’re telling women that we should expect to be constantly doing two full-time jobs at once — the job one already has, plus constantly interviewing for others — just foot the right to *find out* whether there is any better option available in their industry than being paid unfairly and unlawfully.

    This should not be any more our responsibility than the other behavior changes that various well-meaning authors demand of us in order to be treated fairly. It’s very similar to the way practically every article on how to prevent rape centers on what women can do in order to avoid being raped. Don’t wear sexy clothing… don’t behave flirtatiously… don’t let men into your house or go into theirs… don’t walk alone at night… don’t let anyone get you a drink or let the one you get yourself out of your control… don’t drink in social settings at all… don’t go on dates without telling a friend where you’ll be and checking in after… etc, etc, etc.

    What none of the writers seem to discuss is that there is a much more effective and equitable method of reducing the number of rapes that occur: instead of spending all that energy teaching girls to grow up into women who know how not to get raped, spend it teaching boys to grow into men who don’t rape people. It really is that simple.

    And it’s that simple with respect to the pay gap, too. Instead of teaching women ANYTHING they should be doing to beg, bribe, blackmail, persuade, force, cajole, demand, or pressure their bosses to pay them as the law demands, help us make the legislatures and law enforcement departments enforce the laws already on the books. Let’s get those disclosure laws you suggested in place; knowing what is going on is useful for job seekers but also for law enforcement. Then make the penalties either for violation of the equal pay laws or the disclosure laws an increasing scale of punitive damages that will make it rapidly very much against a company’s financial best interests to try it more then once… and add protection for whistleblowers.

    That stands a chance — especially if we also lean on the AG’s office — of getting women the equal status they deserve… which status *includes* having society demand and enforce that equality on their behalf rather than having to do it themselves every time. Which is why that “we” includes men. A society which treats people unfairly is bad for everyone, and to leave it in the hands of the afflicted to address alone is against a good man’s honor. Women need help and allies… we don’t need to just be told, “well, if you don’t like it, find somewhere else, then.”

    As you correctly point out, women should not have to do anything except their job to be paid equally to men who do the same job. That includes being constantly on the hunt for a job that comes a little closer to treating them the way they should already be treated in the first place. Men do not typically, after all, have to be forever wandering from one job to the next in search of a place which will grant them their fundamental legal rights. Why do you consider it equality to say that women should have to do so?

  3. Truly wonderful written!
    Hat’s off for Nick!

  4. One of the big problems is the fact that people comparing salaries within an organisation is severly discouraged. It would be a lot harder for organisations to get away with it if it was out in the open. As a Boomer/GenX crossover female who works in a male dominated field I have no issue with what I’m paid, but I have no idea how my wage compares to my compatriots. You wonder about the morality of an organisation that would exploit members of their workforce like that. I am also disgusted how women dominated fields are fair game for lower wages. Seriously, you want to p-off the people who are teaching your children or nursing you in hospital?

    We have come a long way and we have a long way to go. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

  5. Good for millennial women! Shame on men and women who rose through the managerial ranks, and haven’t already addressed this question on behalf of younger women.

  6. Agree that it’s not fair to blame women for the lower pay that they get.

    Nick, what do you think of the research or claim that women are paid less — in aggregate — because they tend to take lower-paying jobs?

    I’m a banker. I see dozens if not hundreds of salaries a week. I don’t see men being paid more than women for the *same* job.

    I *do* see engineers earning more than social workers. And the engineers tend to be men whereas the social workers tend to be women. But I’ve seen a female engineer at the same company earn as much or more than the male engineer.

    Obviously my “evidence” is anecdotal and it means nothing. I’m just wondering how much — if any — of the pay discrepancy is simply men doing different jobs than women?

    I’m not trying to incite anyone. Women work just as hard or harder than men. And for the same job they deserve equal pay, no question. Cheers.

  7. Wait… Us Millennials are finally getting cred for doing something right?!?!?!
    SA-WEET! HashtagAwesome

    All kidding aside (but I am really a Millennial), the mention of transparency regulation is a new thought approach to so many pain points and I thank you, Nick, for that food for thought. I like how it removes the fake protection laws are seen to provide, and instead forces ownership and accountability (possibly through the court of public eye). I’ve always been a supporter of incorporating some public sector principles in the private sector (e.g. salary data. I can Google the exact dollar amount of my aunt’s salary in the US Capitol, but I can’t get an honest idea in the private sector until an offer is delivered).

    Thank you. That regulation tidbit will stick with me for a very long time.

  8. THANK YOU. Loved the article and it’s nice to see a male perspective that isn’t on the offensive for once.

    Also, Kane just take a look at the apples to apples comparison from the recent Glassdoorreport and you’ll have your answers. Women earn less for the same jobs.

  9. Nick’s completely, and brilliantly right this week.

    Also partially wrong.

    Nick is right that when the pundit class tells women their lower compensation is their own fault, they’re … well, several unflattering adjectives occur to me, but I’ll let you choose your own.

    Nick is also right that millennial women have found a good solution. They’re taking control of their situation. But leaving is just one way to take control of your own situation. There are others.

    Someone once said, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. I think Nick will agree, a woman who learns to be a better negotiator will generally out-earn a woman who doesn’t, all other things being equal.

    Yes, she shouldn’t have to do this. Yes, the fault lies with employers.

    But as someone else once said, the only thing worse than having to play a stupid game is losing that stupid game.

    So here’s my advice: If you’re underpaid, and compensation is what you value most, and you can leave, and there are greener pastures to leave for, by all means leave.

    But if for some reason, you can’t leave, then learn the game you’re actually playing, and play it to win.

  10. Many thanks! I’ve been reading your column (and sharing it with clients) for years, and I think this is one of the best! It’s the kind of information I wish I’d know back when I was still an employee.

    And I tend to agree with the end of Bob Lewis’ comment: Leave if you can; work on achieving a “win” where you are if leaving isn’t an option.

  11. @Kevin Kane: “Nick, what do you think of the research or claim that women are paid less — in aggregate — because they tend to take lower-paying jobs?”

    I tried to stay away from that issue in this column. What I tried to do here is focus on what’s so obvious, it’s ignored. These surveys look at men and women who do the same jobs. Can we assume they do those jobs at the same competency level? I think we must, or we have to assume the employer is not hiring competent people, which would make the employer incompetent. So if when we’re talking about competent people who are hired to do the same job, this whole matter is defined: Pay has to be equal if the employer has integrity. What I’m saying is, many of these surveys reveal that pay is not equal. And that choice is the employer’s. It doesn’t matter if a woman is willing to take less pay because she needs the income. It’s still the employer that offers less — so that’s where the “blame” lies. That’s the point I’m trying to make.

    Even if we can show that women on the whole tend to take lower-paying jobs, that doesn’t change my point. If men doing those same jobs get paid more, then we’re back where we started. The problem I tried to highlight in the column is that naive reporters and media outlets conflate those two issues. Women taking lower-paying jobs is different from employers knowingly paying women less to do the same work as men.

    Your anecdotal evidence is interesting, especially if you’ve been a banker a long time, so don’t discount it. These topics deserve more research and discussion. Thanks for posting.

  12. @Bob Lewis: Thanks for your succinct advice about the other approach. If an underpaid woman wants to take the problem head-on without quitting, then negotiating may be the solution. But in my cynicism, I wonder what it means to negotiate for fair pay with an employer who’s paying unfairly.

    I’d bend your suggestion a bit: I think it would be most productive when applied during salary negotiations BEFORE a woman accepts a job offer. But, even then, what does she know about whether the employer pays men differently?

  13. Two weeks ago, on April 4th, one of my highest producing recruiters, upon arrival at the office, announced to everyone within earshot, “I’m PMS’ing today, just so everyone knows…”

    …note to self.

  14. Thank you for this terrific column, Nick. I’ve been an enthusiastic reader of your advice for a number of years and this time, I have to respond. I’ve been a female manager in the workforce for 40 years and have seen – and personally experienced – gender pay disparity in three very different industries/companies: architecture, software, and manufacturing. My approach was to objectively bring the legal risk of this disparity to the attention of company leaders. There were two outcomes: one company slightly lessened the pay gap and two firms ignored me. In each case, as soon as I could leave, I did. This problem is so pervasive, however, that changing companies/industries isn’t the fix. Pay transparency is. If this isn’t required by regulation, it won’t happen.

  15. Hi Nick,

    I’m new to your column and I have to say this was a great one to start my experience! It is so refreshing to have you and so many other men who commented here take the woman’s side. As a woman who have been in the work force for more years than I’d like to mention (I’m a baby boomer), I found it necessary to go back to school after 40 years to get my bachelor’s degree.

    I agree that transparency is the only answer. I never felt that I was being paid fairly, but I had no way of really knowing. I’m now actively searching for a new position after being laid off due to the acquisition of my company. I’m hoping to be able to find a company that will pay me what I’m worth based on my experience…we’ll see.

    I look forward to your future columns!


  16. Thanks, Nick, for yet another observation that’s on point about exactly what’s happening in the job market, despite all the spin the employment industry puts out.

    I’m a Boomer, but I realized during my early 20s that the only way to deal with being treated badly by an employer is to find another employer and leave. When somebody is determined to take advantage of you, negotiating is a waste of your time.

    During my career, I had a LOT of employers, because often, the employer to whom I went was just as bad. I lost out on some benefits, and had to do a lot of adjusting to new jobs, commutes and environments. But I also steadily increased my earnings and learned a lot of new skills I wouldn’t have learned if I’d stayed put.

    Because I did this every single time an employer tried to get more work for less money out of me, I rose from lowly, underpaid writer to management, and hugely increased my earnings. If I hadn’t done this, I would have started as a peon, and retired as a peon. But my work was good, and I knew it – and by moving, I made it about the work.

    A lot of the time, I encountered situations in which I was given a promotion with no corresponding raise, simply because employers thought they could con women into doing more work for the same compensation. They would promise reviews after I had “proven myself” (something men who were promoted usually didn’t have to do), and then the reviews wouldn’t materialize. I learned that when this happens, the only thing to do is to start covertly looking for a new job immediately, and then, when the promise was broken, take the new experience and move it to a new job, thereby getting both the “promotion” and the raise in the process.

    I also discovered that I could freelance and consult when there simply weren’t full-time jobs to be had, or full-time jobs that were worth my time. I found that a lot of full-time work involves simply giving up a lot of compensation for the illusion of security. After seeing their parents laid off time after time, Millennials understand that the demonstrable quality of your work is your only real security in the job market.

    Looking back, I wouldn’t have stayed at any of these places that tried to take advantage of me, even with the disruption to my life that this constant moving and self-employment caused. Lots of people won’t behave well toward you unless you cost them something.

    (Maybe those participation trophies actually did give Millennials some added self-confidence!)

    I’m very glad to see that among Millennial women, this behavior is becoming more common. Hit -em where it hurts – right on the bottom line. You go, girls!

  17. Hi Nick,

    Great column this week!!! As usual, you cut through the B.S. and tell it like it is.

    There is only one thing a woman should have to do to get paid as much as a man: HER JOB.

    You’re correct in pointing out that just about everyone has a prescription for women to get equal pay for equal work — “women should change their behavior”.

    “Everyone” can be wrong, and in this case everyone is wrong. It’s refreshing to see the opposing case made in such a clear and powerful way.

    Keep up the good work.

  18. The only way this works is either companies do not allow salary negotiation, which is never going to happen, or publish EVERYONE’s salary, which can lead to angst and jealousy. Almost every company that has thought about it has backed away.

  19. I have to say that being on both sides of the negotiation table, the article for the most part is bunk. I didn’t say completely bunk because we still have some old coots in high positions who still believe that women need to be at home pregnant and barefoot.

    However people like myself are offended by that hasty generalization. I can care less what’s between someone’s legs as long as they can get the work done and if they are willing to work cheaper than the next person, that’s even better!

    More laws and regulations won’t fix the matter either. That just encourages managers to hire independent contractors as opposed to employees. Payroll compliance is difficult as it is; especially for the little guy. Studies are already showing that there is an increase in hiring independent contractors as opposed to employees which puts most of the burden on the worker.

    A better solution is to let the older managers retire in peace. The vast majority of newer managers coming up the ranks understand the importance that women play in the workforce.

  20. I agree it’s all about transparency. As long as wages are secret, this behavior will continue. I work in a male-dominated profession as the only woman on my team. I think I’m very well compensated for what I do, but I’m never really sure. Unless my team mates shared their salary with me, I’ll never know.

  21. Simple answer, get another job. The door swings both ways. I like Kevin, ldL, James, Doug suggetsions.

  22. So, is the the PC article for the year?

    I have to say, I feel this OPINION piece was a complete waste of my time. IF, IF the ONLY thing people keep comparing is JUST THE SALARY, then it’s a no brainer. Sure women will tend to have lower salaries in various industries. Just look at the time a person has been in a position or industry? Carly Fiorina worked her way up the ladder to lead a company like HP and even ran for president. It’s what the person contributes, not the gender or race that matter after the initial public media release.

    What I want to see is NOT just a salary comparison, but a work experience comparison. How many years and how many projects does each person have? time and experience IS WHAT contributes to the profitability of each employee to a company. After people begin to include these other IMPORTANT FACTORS….ONLY THEN can anyone make a valid case IMO.


    If we as a nation, want to strive to have everyone treated equally based on each persons contribution, then we have to STOP LABELING OURSELVES and stop grouping ourselves by gender, race, sexual preference. It’s the mission that counts and I don’t care what race, gender or sexual preference a person is….that has zero to do with the mission of the company IMO, unless your a marketing company and want to tap into the emotions of weak-minded individuals.

    Regardless of gender, race or sexual preference, if you feel you are not paid what you contribute, you SHOULD look elsewhere for better opportunities. Just be aware that sometimes, your view of your self-worth might not match that of what others see.

    Please, enough with the gender, race, sexual preference B.S..

  23. Nick – “Millennial women are the generation that has figured out they’re not the problem. Unlike their older peers, they’ve figured out that when they’re not getting paid what they want, the answer is to quit and go work for an employer who will pay them more.”

    ldl – “I’m very glad to see that among Millennial women, this behavior is becoming more common. Hit -em where it hurts – right on the bottom line. You go, girls!”

    so in other words, younger woman HAVE changed their approach.

    I like ldl, Doug and By Retired suggestions, but lets see it applied to ALL genders, not just “girls”.

  24. What @Peter said is EXACTLY what I wanted to. I just couldn’t find time to focus long enough to find the words.

  25. “Employers decide to pay women less, simply because they can get away with it. The law of parsimony instantly leads us to the obvious motive: Paying less saves companies money.”

    It very well identifies the problem.

    But it’s also reluctance to hire women (and other groups), out of prejudice, resulting in women having no position to negotiate. One employer said straight to my eye that women of childbearing age should not be hired. All they want is to get pregnant and quit (as I calculated, people are 4-5 times more likely to quit for other reasons). It’s also family and age discrimination, affecting both genders, with women being affected more. For a young single Millennial it is much easier to change jobs, regardless of their gender. Duh.

    There is also favoritism towards men. Remember,the pay disparity is initially a *relative* disparity within the same company. 10 years ago I quit a job for a better paying one. All was great, I was initially paid fairly and got raises. But then my boss hired a whole bunch of men he perceived as “real workers” (with me who had already successfully done the job and generated money for the business) deserving more pay, and I was “demoted” to do less important tasks.

    There is a whole bunch of studies about gender bias. Like, male students consistently overrated their male peers by three-quarters of a GPA point ( It also explains a remarkable difference among commenters to article like this by gender. Nothing is going to change until men as a group stop othering women and perceiving their own gender as superior.

  26. Peter, I think you missed something: In order for someone to perform well, they have to get the assignments on which they can perform well.

    To your broader point you apparently never learned an important rule of statistics: The plural of anecdote is not data. Yes, Carly Fiorina rose to run (and wreck) some large businesses. Barack Obama was elected POTUS.

    Therefore, you conclude, there’s no bias against women or blacks.

    Both the cases and their scarcity do nothing more than prove the Ginger Rogers principle: She had to do everything Fred Astaire did, only backward and in heels. Even so, she got second billing.

  27. Nick – I usually agree with you, but this time I have to strongly disagree. I am a Gen Xer and years ago when I lost my job during the dot-com bubble and found a new job. I asked my managers – one a woman, one a man – for the exact pay I previously may and was refused.

    I left my job, after six months for a hirer paying one, but I do not believe it is that black and white, and I certainly give millennials little credit, for anything having to do with the workplace, beyond helping make three week vacations more commonplace.

    I recently worked in a very powerful, billion dollar industry full of millennial women, who have titles, such as “coordinator” “supervisor,” and “manager,” but their work is heavily administrative/client service oriented, their salaries low (30K- $42K) and they think being able to bring their dog to work is a “perk.”

    For me, money is a perk, not ping-pong. And I don’t go to work to make friends. Additionally, many of these women are not advancing, but rather moving laterally to other positions within the company.

    Of course transparency is needed. If you don’t know what the person sitting next to you makes you have nothing to compare it too, generally speaking.

    But you have painted too broadly. This matter is complicated by so many factors including race, age-discrimination (and I’m talking for workers who are under 50), geography, and industry.

    Additionally, millennials may, or may not, feel freer to quit their jobs than preceding because the economy of employment has change drastically in the last 30 years.

    Boomers are the last generation where swaths of workers have, maybe, remained with the same employer for 10 or more years. I know a handful of Gen Xers who have — again, depending on the industry, field — but Millennials know they could be dumped at any time. So they may feel freer to quit, move around and experiment.

  28. @Nick

    “Pay has to be equal if the employer has integrity”

    I agree, but pay is not simply a tag assigned when a person is hired. It changes overtime. Its relative value depends on the entire salary dynamics in a company. A person might be getting raises, but other employees get more. So, starting with equal pay, it gets skewed overtime. It also depends on a perception what “equal work” is, where people have exactly the same title and do the same work, but one is paid more. Or one person is more productive and produces more value, but they don’t get raises.

    You may have an employer whose initial intent is to pay a fair market price to everybody. But then they encounter a situation when a potential hire asks for more. And they really want this man, fell in love with him. Not that woman with the same skills. And then they want to give a raise to this man and that man. Not to that woman who was doing the same job. Etc.

  29. @Eileen: Welcome to Ask The Headhunter – glad you’re enjoying your first dip in the community!

    “It is so refreshing to have you and so many other men who commented here take the woman’s side.”

    It is the woman’s side, but it’s also the side that will pay off big for everyone when employers finally get their heads out of their asses and realize you can’t “save your way to higher profits” by cheating your workers. Employees aren’t an expense. They’re an investment that pays you back if you handle it properly.

    @Idl: “When somebody is determined to take advantage of you, negotiating is a waste of your time.”

    Thanks for putting it so well. What I love about this topic is that the truth is so easy to express because the problem is so bald-faced, so obvious, so clear, and so embarrassing. Why are the media twisting it into a “how-to” for employees who get shafted? I hope we see some “how-to remove your head from your ass” for employers. Hmmm. Great course for any MBA program…

    “I found that a lot of full-time work involves simply giving up a lot of compensation for the illusion of security.”

    “After seeing their parents laid off time after time, Millennials understand that the demonstrable quality of your work is your only real security in the job market.”

    “Lots of people won’t behave well toward you unless you cost them something.”

    You go, Girl!

    @Myth buster: “This matter is complicated by so many factors including race, age-discrimination (and I’m talking for workers who are under 50), geography, and industry.”

    Yep. So let’s talk about them.

    @Julia: “So, starting with equal pay, it gets skewed overtime. It also depends on a perception what “equal work” is, where people have exactly the same title and do the same work, but one is paid more. Or one person is more productive and produces more value, but they don’t get raises.”

    You mean… it’s complicated?? :-)

  30. Um, you are still saying “women have to change their behavior (quit this job and find a better paying job) in order to get paid fairly.” How is what you are saying different from the researchers? The conversation should be “how do we collectively make changes so that women get paid fairly.” Out of all the “solutions” you listed, including your own, the changes required of men don’t come into play at all, but they are half the population and hold 70% or higher of executive management jobs.

  31. “They copied all they could follow
    but they couldn’t copy my mind
    so I left them sweating and stealing
    a year and a half behind.”
    – Rudyard Kipling

  32. Oh, and I checked the report. OK, I couldn’t read much of it. It reeks the same gender stereotypes, ageism and hubris that contributes to the problem in the first place. Apparently, they want to educate “the next generation of women” (like high school students?). People past age 30-35 just cease to exist and don’t need any solutions. It’s fine to research a certain age group and present it as such, but not to claim that women up to 35 y.o. represent a group of “women in 30s” or like “we’re surprised to discover that women look for the same job satisfaction as men” (duh).

  33. I agree that women are underpaid because companies underpay them. I have the STEM degrees, had no kids until age 40, am confident, did negotiate, did my homework, etc and still ran up against employers who discriminated. We do need laws. People are outraged by employers paying blacks less than whites for doing identical jobs, yet paying women less than men doesn’t register. They blame women and tell women to change. Employers are the ones who must change. I agree that salaries at a company should be internally published and broken down for different demographics. I applaud this generation of women for walking on unfair employers. I am glad that some have somewhere to walk to. That is another issue, when the vast majority underpay women.

  34. @Yu-Ting Huang: “Out of all the “solutions” you listed, including your own, the changes required of men don’t come into play at all”

    I don’t think trying to change men is the solution. I’m suggesting that changing how employers behave is the solution. I think I was pretty clear (twice): “I’ll say it again — There is only one thing a woman should have to do to get paid as much as a man: her job.”

    I also wrote: “So employers should change their behavior.”

    I think quitting is “the answer that will most enduringly change how employers behave.” But I didn’t say that I think quitting a job and finding a better one is what women need to do. What I’m pointing out is that younger women are doing this anyway, and I’m suggesting this is going to force employers to change their behavior – when employers realize they’re losing great workers to competitors who pay fairly. HR departments and hiring managers comprise men AND women.

    Julia: I focused on some of the findings of the ICEDR study. I’m not endorsing all its conclusions or prescriptions.

  35. Amen, Mr. Corcodilos.

  36. Transparency in salary and documentation on sex and age mix by title level would be great, but it’s also a dream. As to millennial females being unafraid to job hop, I wonder how really successful in increasing salary by this tactic (an old one that this boomer practiced through her mid-30s!) they are.

    I know quite a few who work for peanuts in health tech startups and who are heavily subsidized by their parents simply to get them out of the house. In my sector (health tech), millennials are fed foosball, free lunch, candy and beer taps, and most think it’s cool…till they don’t make a quota, then on to their next job.

    Of greater concern is that the older you get, the discrimination cuts worse. The older worker is constantly being lectured to change, too. Some of it is warranted, a lot not. A lot of the advice out there (not yours) is that we have to settle and give our experience to an employer at a discount, either as FTE or contract.

    I am in NY metro and the reality is that companies are playing the age discrimination game too. It’s bad for men, worse for women.

    After a long stint consulting and contracting for various companies, with both good and bad experiences, I converted from p/t consulting to an FTE director job with the same company. I spent 10 months proving I could do the job, but in going FTE had to trade off compensation for benefits. Negotiation went nowhere and financially I could not walk away–it was FTE or end of contract.

    I know other male directors who came over from the acquired company are making lots more than me. But I also know that at my age and in my sector, jobs at my level, location and in my field (healthcare tech) are extremely difficult to come by. So I am making dollar-wise what I did 10 years ago. And among my peers, I’m considered lucky!

    Without a big improvement in the economy, everyone, including those job hopping millennials, will be stuck and more out on the street than in. There’s justifiable anger at companies–which you can see in this thread–and status quo politicians in both parties? Why? We’ve been exploited and manipulated. And that is just for starters.

  37. @Dee: See ldl’s comments above, about about how she parlayed jobs hops into higher salary. I’m not advocating job hopping, but her point is that it worked for her.

  38. For those of you that get Kiplinger Letter see today’s April 8 issue first page same subject, an interesting view more positive than expected.

  39. Yes just like ldl I job hopped up until my mid-30s in fact for better money, title, more interesting challenge and responsibility. It was a typical strategy in advertising and then marketing.Then I was in a company for an unexpected 13 years. Job hopped there too in 4 different positions, two a lateral, one a move up and the last a big move up in title and responsibility, ended only by the acquisition of the company. Since then–much more difficult. Changed industries as my old one was blown apart (literally and figuratively) by 9/11 and the internet. Basically I’m happy, but the money…not, except for a few years around 2008.

  40. My point re the millennials job hopping is that it’s not quite as rewarding as it was in the 1980s….especially in the ‘glam’ tech fields.

  41. There’s a lot of frattish, loutish behavior condoned in tech and early stage companies, which is why I hear that a lot of women move on…again, it’s bad employer behavior. And from what I hear, your skills may be sterling but if you aren’t a looker, you haven’t a chance in these companies as well!

  42. So here’s the counterpoint to the argument that women get paid less because they have kids, want lower-level jobs, don’t negotiate for higher pay, don’t have the right higher education, and don’t want to work lots of hours.

    From the Detroit Free Press:

    “Kerri Sleeman… has a bachelor’s of science degree in engineering and chose a male-dominated, higher-paying career field, mechanical engineering. She tried to negotiate her starting salary but her employer refused. She didn’t have children, and she worked 50 hours a week. Yet she discovered after her company went bankrupt that she was paid thousands less than the men she supervised, most of whom were right out of college with less experience.”

  43. Circa 1979, I became the guy in charge in a distribution center. In 1986, we tripled in size, and I began to deal with real issues that had alluded my small group of workers.

    The first thing I learned was not to undervalue part-time workers. The young man was a bit drunk at the office Christmas party, but I was not (don’t drink). I can’t remember exactly what he said, but the gist of it resonated beyond argument: he was doing the same work as full-timers, at the same (or better) level of performance. Why should his scale of pay be lower? Fortunately, I was able to rectify this, and forever after, the starting pay was the same regardless of status.

    The question of women’s pay was almost a non-issue, because we were one of the few companies back then that didn’t stratify pay based on gender. But it didn’t take long to observe that the performance of my female help often was superior to that of my guys, so I initiated a stealthy method of helping women get ahead of their male counterparts.

    I still had a large say in the percentage of raises based on my A-B-C-D grades, so I just let the women rise to the top of the scale while the more poorly performing guys slowly slid down the scale. Of course, a female overtaking a guy with seniority might take a while, or never, but she could be nipping at his heels.

    As a guy, I was fortunate to evolve beyond those silly feelings that I should be paid more just because I was a guy, or a guy with a family.

    I’ve worked with both male and female bosses for over five decades, and could not conceive of working with a business unit that holds anything less than a gender-free pay scale.

    I ended up with a front-line crew that was split nearly 50-50. The male sliders either wandered off or accepted their fate. The female tenure was a minimum of ten years. I’d like to think that I might have done something right

  44. This is one of your best posts ever. Totally agree with you about the only thing it should take for a woman (or minority or anyone for that matter) to be paid properly is that they do their job. Your idea about a “salary resume” for employers is genius. No laws or regs necessary on what a company must pay, no useless job studies in which consultants end up arriving at the conclusion they are paid to deliver, no posturing by politicians who claim to stand up for working people and then sell them down the river after being elected. The company can pay whatever it wants, it just has to disclose. I’d love to see high, low, midpoint, average for each gender or race, high for each gender or race, and low for each gender or race. After all, the employer wants to know everything about an applicant’s salary history and many do full background checks for credit rating and even social media postings. Yet, pay stats are rarely provided. That has only one purpose – to enable the company to get away with being as cheap as possible. Nothing wrong with that, because the companies are in business to make a profit. But employees (current and prospective) should have at least as much information about the company as the company has about the employees in order for both parties to be able to make an informed decision. Then, let the free market take hold with employees being able to choose the employer with the best pay and practices.

  45. Nick,

    I’ve been a loyal fan for several years…yes, am an old gray-hair…and one of those ‘personnel jockey’…in fact, after more than 30 years in HR, I now consider myself as a ‘recovering’ HR guy.

    I always enjoy your fresh perspective on all things that truly matter to people and their careers.

    I especially appreciated your appropriately turning the tables on the topic of equal pay…and you are so right that the younger millennial women have no tolerance for this employer-engineered crap…and the employers will lose big…both the talent…and the pre-employment recruiting and training expenses. Moreover, the employers will additionally get hammered in all flavors of social media. Denial and avoidance will no longer be an convenient option….and their reputation and ’employer-of-choice’ status (for some of them) will disappear into the night.

    Thank You!

  46. Richard Archer–add age to those charts and I will agree…and your rationale is spot on.

    frmhr–in a rising market your argument would rule. Right now employers know there are plenty of people who will replace a departed employee and who will work for less to have a job and benefits. And in my geo area, employers are leaving jobs vacant for 6-8 months and/or relying on contractors.

    Employers get away with it because they can and the government is complicit in the tangle of employment law. Ever investigate an employer via EEOC?

  47. By Dee – Yes, I forgot age, although in my experience that is often used as a covered up reason for not hiring someone, rather than not paying them an appropriate salary.

    As for the experience you see in jobs being left vacant for 6-8 months, that also is employer decision driven. In my experience, it occurs more often in publicly held companies. Wall Street investment analysts view reductions in employee head count as an indicator of a company’s commitment to controlling costs, even if the company can’t get its work done or ends up spending more on consultants than on employees. Switching to using people who can be treated as “independent contractors” is also one of the technically innovative “disruptive” practices that Wall Street analysts love. Execs who focus more on short term movements in the company’s share price than in delivering long term performance and share value must do things that feed the wishes of the stock market analysts. The result is the situation you describe, but again it is a management decision to do that. You are also right that the government actually facilitates it. Large numbers of national and state politicians from both major parties are in love with any practice that can be claimed as being tech, innovative, or disruptive. The fact that it is most disruptive to the lives and livelihoods of employees doesn’t seem to be one of their concerns.

  48. Nick,

    An interesting blog. While I think you kind of get the way this issue needs to be solved there is a major important issue that is not included that until addressed will continue to create problems.

    Now, if you haven’t hit the delete button, let me explain some of the complexity around this issue that is never discussed. If you are still here stay with me to the end.

    I am one of the roughly 1.9 million stay at home dads. There are 10.17 million stay at home moms.
    (Huffington Post

    The numbers from the census shows a wider gap. The difference between the two is the methodology.

    The census also showed only 6 stay at home dads in 1970. So there has bee some change but let’s look under the hood shall we?

    One of my brothers was a stay at home dad at roughly the same time as the movie Mr. Mom was released. First of all, the movie although exaggerated does have some kernels of truth. The second thing to understand is, things have changed that change is limited.

    My experience in many ways parallels my brothers, in other ways it has been different. It also give me a different view on why we have some of the issues we, as a society, have.

    One of the biggest changes is I am more accepted than my brother.

    That being said this acceptance is still limited. I still received funny looks when I tell people I was a stay at home father. This is from both sexes more likely from men than women. Women were more likely to exclude me. Two examples. There was a group for stay at home moms at my son’s school. Even though I suspect I as technically welcome it was made very clear I was not welcome because of my sex. The other example are the events that occurred during or right after the school day and the working spouse was not there. I was not really included in the socializing that occurred. Yes there are other reasons this happened BUT they do not explain a significant portion of this. While both examples are from school it happened elsewhere. The message there from (mostly) women was my wife should be staying at home not me.

    How does this relate to what women earn? While it takes time for societies to change – sometime generations – in order for one change to happen other changes must also happen.

    If you go beyond often quoted misused and abused single digit numbers you will find only some of that difference can be explained using conventional methodologies. This indicates in order to understand and address the earning differential you need to look outside of the corporate world. The biggest thing outside of that is family life and how men are included in it. I have reach the conclusion that until men are more welcomed and valued in what happens outside of the work world women will have a hard time earning what they should. When that happens a light will go on in the corporate world’s head regarding pay. This brings me back to some of the conclusion you reached.

    A couple of final thoughts.

    Yes this is more complex than space allows.

    There are also other indicators that this is an issue:

    Millenniums – as the men of this group start out life they tend to want to be involved in family life than they do as they get older. There is more than one reason, but social pressures cannot be ignored or discounted.

    The corporate world does play a role in this. FMLA be dammed. Some observations from my time in the corporate world.

    It is more acceptable for a women to take time off for family reasons than men.

    Women were more likely to get more time off , paid or not, than men. It would not surprise me if this is still true.

    Men were much more likely to be pressured to return to work after a major family event be it the birth of a child or a death in the family. This comes from both inside and outside of the corporate world.

    Research has shown that the FMLA has had, overall, a positive impact on earnings.



  49. @Richard Archer: Thanks for your comments about how Wall Street and the bean counters view vacant jobs: As junk profit. (A buddy of mine came up with that term.)

    Peter Cappelli, at Wharton, points out that very few companies actually know how to account for the cost of vacant jobs, so they incorrectly treat them as profit. Makes one wonder: How much of today’s “profitability” is actually tied to unemployment?

    Your mini dissertation about this is excellent. Thanks.

  50. @Nick: Think you might have struck a very raw nerve w/this post :). We old f**ts know it well.

  51. @Nick: The phoney “productivity” stats are based upon low employment/employees. Quality of work product went out the window decades ago.

  52. You can tell the race and sex of those posters here who view this inequity as flim flam excuses for personal failure. Frankly, I see their point of view as extreme ingratitude for the advantages they’ve been offered.

  53. Addie I am not sure to whom refer but being one of the old f**ts Marilyn refers to in her postand having had a lllllooonnngggg time to watch this and think about what I see and what really smart people learn by exploring this I would like to point you to a lesson a young man from Georgia taught. It is roughly speaking if you want people to change you need to engage them in such a manner that helps them understand the issue and want to change it. Using anger or being dismissive of them as an individual only hardens their position and hinders the change which you seek.

  54. @Dee –

    For the record, I completely agree with you on both the age and frat-boy issues. Job-hopping for promotions and raises worked much better for me until I was about 45 – and I looked pretty good and much younger than I actually was. I think the vast majority of American companies seem to want white men in their 30s, and that’s a [disgusting] fact. And most companies act like blending in is more important than the actual work, which is even more disgusting.

    After I turned 40, I twice had to consult labor attorneys because I was encountering worse and worse treatment. Companies would need what I could offer. Then, after I was there, even after I had demonstrated a really good level of skill and work ethic, they’d act like they just didn’t like sharing their workspace with me, and acted like they wanted me to leave. (Being me, I did.)

    These companies clearly showed me they cared more about recess than class, but there were SO MANY of them! Several of them contacted me after I left, wanting me back, because they didn’t realize that they weren’t getting what they wanted any more until it was gone, and I indulged in some pretty rude responses. These people are just plain stupid, and it’s hard to see how anybody who’s that stupid can keep a small business going for several years (which is all most of these dumb little IT places lasted during the ’90s), but it explains why there seem to be so many fly-by-night, horrible-to-work-for little companies around these days.

    And I definitely saw the frat-boy behavior, too. When I was younger, it was directed at me as a sexual object, and when I was older, I became sort of invisible – these guys would talk about co-workers they wanted to “nail” right in front of me, as though I didn’t exist. I vastly preferred the invisible version of this!

    Yes, my experience was definitely that it gets much more difficult as you get older. The best way I found to deal with this, one that gave me some limited success, was to consult instead of taking full-time jobs. Consulting firms don’t care how old you are (almost without exception) as long as they think you can land and keep the assignments they get from their clients – people at consulting firms basically get paid by getting a cut of your hourly rate for however long you’re working for their clients. Consulting also means that only the consulting firm has your deets, so they’re the only ones who really know your age. Clients can ask them, and probably some of the dumber ones do, but it’s illegal. If you can manage to look younger than you are, and to blend in with their employees you’ll be working with (hard to do when you feel like their babysitter!), you can hang on a little longer. Working online could help, too, but I retired before that became really practical, and I think you have to be very, very careful about who you work for and how you get paid. But not everything can be done as consulting or online. If you were on the creative side of advertising, as I was in my first career, you might be able to freelance or get work online (probably easier with writing than with the art side, and it seems like you have writing skills and experience).

    If I hadn’t been able to retire, I would have checked into legitimate online writing opportunities. These kinds of gigs, it doesn’t matter if you’re a 99-year-old Martian of indeterminate gender, as long as you can write well and deliver what they want!

    This is all disgusting, horrible, every awful thing either of us can think about it. If this country keeps doing business as though we’re all frat boys who are just showing up to be comfortable and have a good time, we’ll be in a long, steady decline. But what counts now, on this blog, is really about how women (and aging women!) can cope with a really bad situation without having their lives ruined any more than is absolutely necessary, I think…

  55. @Dee –

    One of the attorneys I consulted about an employer who was making all the women answer the phones while the men did “real work” told me something very interesting.

    A company doesn’t have to be ruled against to be hurt by EEOC filings. (In fact, something like under 5% of EEOC complaints result in a negative ruling.) But there’s a period of about a year between an employee filing an EEOC complaint and a ruling being reached, and during that time, the employee has to respond to a huge barrage of paperwork from the EEOC. Most have to hire an attorney to help them with this, and it often costs them north of $100K just to comply up to the point of the ruling.

    So whether they’re ruled against or not, you can hurt a company simply by filing an EEOC complaint – especially if they’re a smaller company that can’t afford to just put it down as a cost of doing business.

    One of the especially horrible little firms I worked for had five or six of these filed against them within a short period of time. One of them was mine, and I can tell you it cost only a couple hundred in attorney’s fees to file, and I could have done it all by myself without counsel. It was just a couple of pages of explanation of the situation, which was easy to do because I’d been keeping a daily journal of the abuses as they had occurred, something everybody who’s being discriminated against at work should do as a matter of course.

    Taken together, all these complaints most likely cost this small company over half a million just to get up to the point of a ruling. They weren’t ruled against, as most of these things aren’t unless they’re really huge, but the board of directors had had enough. They fired all the upper management and ran the company themselves while trying to hire better replacements. The company filed for bankruptcy before they got to that point. Cause of death: treating their female employees worse than their male employees.

    I’m sure most of the upper management who had tolerated this behavior went on to other situations and made similar messes. But they never got the big payday they had anticipated from this company, because it went under shortly after it went public. And I’m sure all these [of course] guys had to deal with a big black mark on their record from there on. Imagine one of these guys trying to find work through a good headhu8nter like Nick, and imagine Nick not finding out why they were looking. Hard to picture anything but steadily diminishing quality of headhunters and steadily diminishing prospects for these idiots. (Another reason to beware working for serial start-up founders!)

    It happens – but only if people take a little time to keep records of how they’ve been treated and file EEOC complaints if they’re in a protected group, as most working women are under EEOC.

    It works if you work it! Just not always as quickly or directly as some of us would like…

  56. Nick, for the first time in 9 years you are dead wrong. I guess you got into politically correct territory and couldn’t risk it. So called women’s equal pay day is a lie repeated by various federal emails I received over the last week. In my last (federal) job, exactly the opposite was happening. The fed gov has no idea what production is and the supervisors perpetrated lack of performance and unequal treatment between the genders. Women were coddled and promoted because “gender” “is” a criteria. If you can stand the truth; listen to the logic below on Prager U.

  57. Travia: I looked at the video you refer to. What I saw is a strict political agenda and the same kind of claptrap I highlight in my column. The video is political sermonizing masquerading as a logical argument. “Women were coddled”? Gimme a break. Everyone is welcome to make their case on this blog – I don’t edit or censor opposing viewpoints. But you’re not making a case for your view point – you’re pitching a highly politicized “online university” that publishes political claptrap. When a person offers someone else’s sermonizing as support for a hollow position, I don’t waste my time.

  58. @Naomi Rivkis: Sorry, your April 12 post got caught in the blog’s anti-spam filter. I just noticed and cleared it for publication.

    “Instead of teaching women ANYTHING they should be doing to beg, bribe, blackmail, persuade, force, cajole, demand, or pressure their bosses to pay them as the law demands, help us make the legislatures and law enforcement departments enforce the laws already on the books.”

    I didn’t get into legal remedies in this column because I wanted to focus on the point that the media and the pundits seem to be putting the onus for fairness on women. Thanks for pointing out that there’s a legal remedy. But, you can’t complain that recommending women quit puts a burden on them, when you recommend they take on the burden of a lawsuit. Both are valid and legitimate actions that women can take.

    “Men do not typically, after all, have to be forever wandering from one job to the next in search of a place which will grant them their fundamental legal rights. Why do you consider it equality to say that women should have to do so?”

    I disagree. Men quit all the time over money, but not enough of the time. The point I was trying to make is that there’s a new shift in how women are handling the problem by quitting, and that I think it’s a key tactic that will turn into a larger strategy as more women do it. While I think laws and regulations can be helpful, I think long-term changes are more likely to take hold when the impetus is economic. Hit them in the wallet.

  59. Naomi … you said, “What none of the writers seem to discuss is that there is a much more effective and equitable method of reducing the number of rapes that occur: instead of spending all that energy teaching girls to grow up into women who know how not to get raped, spend it teaching boys to grow into men who don’t rape people. It really is that simple.”

    Apt analogy, and in both cases I think you’re confusing two different questions. If your goal is to reduce the number of rapes (or the number of underpaid women) then you’re right that educating boys and men is an important part of the solution.

    But if a woman’s goal is to avoid being raped or to avoid being underpaid, educating boys and men really isn’t going to help very much.

    Nick (and I) generally don’t write about public policy. We try to provide practical advice you can use right now. This is a good example of the difference.

  60. An interesting conversation.

    It shows men that think don’t an issue exists. It does.

    There are women that things haven’t changed since the the late 70’s or 80’s. They have, but in an uneven and ragged manner.

    Or that all employers “and men” are the same. They are not.

    A couple of things that can affect what happens:

    1) company size
    2) the local cultural environment. The US has at least 7 regional cultures each with sub cultures.
    3) the industry the company operates in.

    Then it gets complex.

    A recent Meta study of this issue concluded:

    1) It is a world wide issue.
    2) The US falls into the middle of the pack as far as pay differential.
    3) Roughly 30% of the difference could not be explained.

    A large part of the reason such a large amount of the difference cannot be explained is it is rooted in the time before history.

    Our social DNA.

    In the end the why is less important than the how.

    Naomi analogy using rape is pretty good, we need to include both boys and girls today if we want to change tomorrow.

    A better analogy of what is happening today is sexual abuse.

    In this case it is very common for the abuser to have been abused.
    It is more likely for girls to get the help they need but not the boys. There are a number of reasons for this but what is happening has the sound of when we started to admit sexual abuse is a problem.

    As Naomi pointed out it will take time to solve this. If after all has its roots in the time before written history.

    If we don’t include both boys and girls this will never be addressed and even worse we can create other issues.

    How are we doing? Not so good.

    Most areas of study in college have more young women than young men. There are more young women in college than young men. These differences are growing not fluctuating between the two as you should expect.


    More boys drop out of high school.
    More boys and young men end up in prison.

    This happens because boys don’t get the support they need. One example of this the fact that programs to support boys are so uncommon that they make the newspaper when they are announced.

    How does this impact girls and young women?

    They are given unrealistic expectations. Right after college graduation nearly 50% of young women think they can be high achievers versus 13% of the young men. This difference disappears with the two groups settling in at around the 13% mark. This will no doubt have an impact on earning expectations.

    If this is to change long term we, the adults, must do a better job of insisting our children (ALL OF THEM) have the proper support and encouragement they need to prepare them for the life they choose.
    If we don’t include both boys and girls

  61. I was in IT for a little over 25 years. TOTALLY male dominated for vast majority of time in my career. I was usually paid less but not all of the time.

    I must have been way ahead of my time but I almost always quit jobs for better pay. I really didn’t care because I was actually happy with my salaries (especially after I quit the job before).

    I’m not comfortable at all seeing the idea that younger women are “not putting up with it”. I believe that these “younger women” are probably living with Mommy and Daddy, or room mates or something along those lines (someone has their backs). Not the fact that they “are not putting up with it”. The idea really kind of ticks me off…

  62. Thank you, Nick, for a most timely article! Yours is the first I’ve read that has NOT blamed women for not earning more and the first that hasn’t tried to deny the wage/salary gap or gotten defensive when called on it.

    This is something that many of my fellow alumnae discuss, and as one of my former classmates put it not too long ago, not only are we not paid the same salaries when doing the same jobs as men, we’re often not promoted at the same rates, we’re expected to take time off (or not return at all) once we marry and have children or to take care of a sick husband and ailing, elderly parents and in-laws). Women typically outlive men, which means that too many find their “golden years” more of a financial struggle because we didn’t earn as much during our working years, and with the death of a husband, we can only collect one ss earnings (if both are living, you can both get ss).

    For all those who claim that women should major in STEM, should become engineers or IT specialists or surgeons, that we don’t negotiate for higher salaries (even Academy-award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence didn’t earn as much as her male co-stars, despite, I assumed, having an agent to do the negotiating for her), that we take time off for marriage and raising children and caring for elderly in-laws and parents, so we only have ourselves to blame.

    I’ve seen the studies that show just how insidious gender bias can be. You might remember the stories about orchestras using a screen and telling women to remove their shoes so those listening to auditions can’t tell who is male and who is female. This is just one article:

    My fellow alumnae and I don’t think that the millennials are going to make a difference. Right now, I think the only difference is that many of the younger millennials aren’t married and/or don’t have children, a house, etc. so it is easier for them to leave. The older you get, the more responsibilities you have, and I think many older women workers are stuck. They feel they can’t leave because they might not get another job right away and they have to contribute to paying the bills (mortgage, rent, food, saving for their kids’ college educations, etc.). For too many people, two paychecks are necessary these days to make it. I am sure that some millennials are still getting help from their parents, but not all of them. They can be more flexible because of where they are in life, not necessarily because they’re ready to try to change the world. The young, soon-to-be college graduates I see aren’t tried and tested yet, and a good many of them think that feminism is a dirty word, something that isn’t necessary today because women can become doctors and lawyers and businesswomen. Many of them are too young to have felt the sting and pain of discrimination, and feel that the battles fought in the 1960’s and 1970’s are history. We older alumnae listen to them, try to tell them that gender discrimination takes many forms (sure you can become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, IT specialist, but you might not get hired at the same rates and most likely won’t get the same rate of pay as your male counterparts, even when you are equal–both of you with the same education/degree/GPA and internship experience. Even the alumnae in their 30’s sing a different tune (chalked up to life experience).

  63. I’m amazed at the number of victims commenting here today. One thing that has stayed with me all my life, is that people treat you as you allow them to. You can either choose to be a victim or take charge of your life and where and who you work with. You never quit a job, but you always keep an eye out for your next opportunity. I’m certain that Carly Fiorina, is not the only woman to work her way up through the ranks. There are also great examples of minorities who work their way up. Ben Carson has had a great career as a surgeon. No one gave that position to him, he earned it. That is a career where race and gender do NOT matter, it’s the skill and the work ethic of the person. Herman Cain is also a great example. Yes, these are all public people today, but I have to believe they are not unique cases. I’m confident there are many other examples in this nation of people achieving their dreams, and I’m certain no one handed it to them.

    I have seen first hand, mediocre employees who think they are great employees, simply because they show up to work on time and do the minimum they have to. I fully accept that many people reading this will continue to have their own views and personal experiences, where they felt prejudiced against, because of race, gender or sexual preference. I have not lived your life, but I can tell you what matters most to any successful company is the aptitude, attitude and initiative of their employees. “Rising/shooting Stars” drive a companies success, not people who are quick to blame others for their lot in life. If a person repeatedly blames others throughout their life, you have to look at what the common factor is in each story they tell.

    You are the only one who ultimately controls the direction of your life IMO. You either can give up or work through the peaks and valleys of your life/career. It’s a mistake to put your destiny in the hands of others. No one ever said life was going to be easy.

    I wish everyone the success they earn.

  64. @Peter: That’s like telling a person who got whiplash after being rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light that they need to learn to jump out of their car faster.

  65. @Nick: Thank u!

  66. I’ve got a novel idea. How about if employers pay the freight regardless of sex? Duh. The excuses haven’t evolved over the decades.

  67. @ Marilyn–I’m with you!
    @ marybeth–You and I, and most of the commenters, live in the real world, where s*** happens.
    @ Peter, philosophically and in the libertarian world, yes I agree with you. But as the old fighter pilot said, ‘luck and timing are everything’. Well, maybe not all (because if you’re a fighter pilot, the high level of ability is a given, and then there’s your aircraft, your opponent etc.) How many quite able people you know have all the aptitude, attitude and initiative, but the timing of moving to, let’s say, Des Moines for a plum job doesn’t work, because their parents are ill and they can’t go?

    The playing field will never be level, but a fair day’s wage for the job is the standard. And we all make tradeoffs–I do presently to not be driving in 1.5 hours every day.

  68. @Dee: I agree with your statement that the playing field will never be level, and that we all make tradeoffs.

    Two years ago the NY Times published this article about women and salary negotiation:

    Note the paragraph that mentions that when women take the same approach to negotiation as men, they perceived negatively. I’ve long thought of this as a damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If you try to negotiate a higher salary and you’re female, the employer may view you negatively (she’s not a team player, she’s a greedy, selfish b**** and we don’t want her). Some employers will rescind the job offer. Men are more likely to be viewed positively. If you don’t negotiate (fearing the offer will be rescinded), then you’re blamed for not negotiating the way men do.

    Years ago, while in school, I had to read an article titled “Driving While Black” for a class. The article went into how even wealthy blacks are targeted and often stopped by police while driving even when they are obeying the law because of the perception that they’re doing something wrong, that they must have stolen the vehicle, that they’re in the wrong neighborhood.

    Sometimes I feel like that with women’s workplace issues: “Working While Female” or “Negotiating your Salary While Female” might be the cautionary articles.

    Salary is a big deal (though if I had a job that paid very well but if I had the boss from hell, then at some point the salary isn’t worth it) and it does impact women. Landlords don’t change me less rent just because I’m female (knowing that I earn less than men), grocery stores don’t lower their prices for women because women tend to earn less. And that adds up (especially if you factor in the unpaid time off for family matters) to less earnings over the course of our lifetimes.

    Sure, some women choose fields and jobs that pay less, many women (often because they do earn less than their husbands) do take time off for child rearing and to care for sick and elderly parents and in-laws (often for the same reason–the person who earns more money continues working, and the person with the lower salary takes the hit). But not all, and that’s where the unconscious biases enter. Not all employers do this, but far too many do.

    I remember asking a prospective employer, when he told me that women should be grateful and take whatever salary they’re offered (he stated he never negotiates salary with females because their income is secondary, extra, but men are different because they need it), if that is what he wanted for his daughter/granddaughter? I had noticed the framed photos of his wife, daughter, and granddaughter on his desk, and he mentioned that his daughter would be finishing her master’s within a year and looking for a job. He was offended by my question, but I hoped that he would NOT want his daughter to automatically earn less than her less qualified male classmates just because of her sex.

  69. This is a disappointing article for two reasons:

    1. It shows that Nick isn’t that smart and misunderstands a fundamental point about his area of “expertise”.

    2. It shows that Nick is more interested in being a social justice warrior than doing his “job”.

    There’s nothing wrong with either of these, it’s just that I didn’t sign up to his newsletter for poor advice or to be lectured at.

    Thanks, Nick, but no more.

  70. I’ve been trying to find evidence of these companies who blatantly break the anti discrimination laws that have been in place for years, and I keep coming up with nothing. This myth of the wage gap persists, despite no one being able to find a single case of this illegal activity, other than anectdotal evidence. The bottom line is that if one is being discriminated against in the workplace based on gender or race, all that person has to do is file a complaint with the labor board. You cannot be fired for that.

  71. @”Sharon” if that is indeed your real name, and not simply the pseudonym of a hateful MRA (male rights activist) who wants to seem female for political reasons:

    You just contradicted yourself. You claim that you “keep coming up with nothing” and can not “find a single case” (a reflection of your substandard research skills more than anything else) and then you claim that the cases you do find are “anecdotal.” Which is it?

    There have already been many excellent studies done on this topic. They do show a pattern of discrimination.

    Yes, one can file complaints with the EEOC. However, the point is, that women shouldn’t have to. They should get paid the same as men for doing the same job, just as well as a man, WITHOUT having to file a complaint.

    Another point: the EEOC has limited staff so not everyone gets justice. It is not a perfect system.

    Also, it is emotionally draining, and time-consuming, and risky to one’s career, to file such a complaint, even when one is justified.

    Another factor is that many companies punish workers for revealing their salaries to each other, so it is sometimes hard for women to discover that they are being paid less for doing the same job as a man. This was the situation in Ledbetter.

  72. Sharon,

    While I do not agree with your conclusion, I must apologize for the response you received.

    It was arrogant, disrespectful, conceited and sexist.

    It was a willful ignorance of facts not just knowing where to find information or the questions to ask, those are human qualities.

    We must allow people to be human and make mistakes.

    The response you received is dangerous because it stops conversations about an incredibly complex issue. Because this stops people from talking it makes dealing with this, or any of a number of other issues, that much harder to deal with.

    It does do something though, it gives rise to the likes of Trump and Brexit.


    Because when you verbally beat someone and exclude them from the conversation they stop listening and become angry. When that happens they act emotionally and do things that do not make sense.


  73. @EEDR: Did you see the recent (last month, I believe) article in Time Magazine about sexism as transgender people experience it? I tried to post it here a couple of weeks ago, but my comment disappeared, and for some reason, I can’t copy and paste the link. But if you google the key words “time magazine” and “transgender men” and “sexism”, you’ll be able to find the article and read it. It is very interesting, particularly the experiences of female to male transgender in the workplace.