Women need MORE MONEY

… not more touchy-feely stuff:  A rant.

AKA, Job satisfaction does not fund your retirement.

I went to a talk where this woman was talking about the new definition of job satisfaction for women in middle age.  First we all filled out a questionnaire with choices between things like “I am focused on success and money in my career” and “I am looking to give back and make a difference with my career.”  After we filled them out, the speaker asked who in the room had chosen mostly things on the right vs. on the left side of the scale.

I was the only person in the room full of women who had chosen predominantly the career- and money-focused side, and not the interpersonal and personal-satisfaction side.  The side that only I chose was apparently the “male” side and the other side was the one that women chose more.  (N.B.: I am a woman.)

Throughout her talk, she was trying to make a point that women who quit high-powered careers are, more and more, quitting to start their own businesses, which is actually a form of success, not failure.

Um.  Not quite.

Women can afford to quit their career and start their own business because their husbands make more than they do.  Most new businesses fail.  Even the ones that succeed have a multi-year process of being in the red and during that time, women aren’t funding their retirement.

Many women don’t have careers at all, only jobs, because of time off for childbearing.  Or they work in areas where there is no opportunity for advancement, because those jobs let them stay home with kids.  The pay disparities between White and Latino/a or Black workers is even worse.

Women need MORE MONEY, not more job satisfaction.  I mean, job satisfaction is nice.  But I was the only one in the room who raised the point that focusing on feeling self-fulfilled might actually HARM women if they are willing to take low pay in return.

SHOW ME THE MONEY, you data-massaging speaker!

(Surprisingly, this post NOT written by the PF half of us.)

#2 comments:  In econ they call the things that make your job suck or sing “compensating differentials.”  If your job sucks, you have to be compensated for it.  If your job is awesome, then you’ll get paid next to nothing, all other things being equal.  Now, there’s definitely a problem that standard economic theory cannot explain when it comes to male-dominated and female-dominated jobs.  Female-dominated jobs are under-compensated compared to male-dominated.  Social work is extremely difficult, has high burn-out rates, requires an advanced degree, and yet pays next to nothing.  That should not be in a standard competitive framework equilibrium.  Economists need sociologists to theorize about why this is, because it is very difficult to figure out unless we posit that women have different tastes on average or women do not have the same options as men for structural reasons (e.g. some type of discrimination).  And both of those are black boxes for the economist.

#1’s post fits nicely with a recent post from Worst Prof Ever about how employers use “feeling needed” to pay women less (whereas in a rational world, that would lead to paying more, as they do for men).  IBTP.  And I want more money.

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30 Responses to “Women need MORE MONEY”

  1. Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom Says:

    All points agreed. I used to work in small business lending, most women would come in with the most impractical, non-money generating ideas I’ve ever heard. They sounded like they’d be fun, fulfilling areas to work in – but never would have made any money. (It was actually ALL of the women, but trying not to make blanket statements.)

    I’m curious as to whether there’s an age demographic component as well – ie. do younger women tend to “go for the money” more than more mature women?

    I’ve got a post coming up called “Dirty Jobs” that is kind of along these lines. I’ve found that even in white-collar professions there are what most people think of as dirty jobs, the ones that others don’t want to do. They usually pay more, sometimes a lot more. Few women go into these jobs.

    I’m seeing many of my younger friends not advance and not earn more because they’re holding themselves back from managing others. A half-competent guy will skip right over them and be their manager all the time. They get annoyed, but don’t want the responsibility of doing the job either. I don’t know what the answer is for them. I did it because there was no husband there to help support the family (and wanted to retire).

    I wonder if what many women don’t realize is that it’s entirely possible that there won’t be a husband there someday to help support them either? There’s a few upper middle aged female single bloggers out there that aren’t doing so well financially that I think would have benefited a bit by focusing on the money over fulfillment (or kids) when they were younger. Not trying to be incendiary, but there’s a lesson there too.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Right now the salary differential between men and women just starting out is much smaller than that for men and women at later career stages (and in some fields, men and women have the same starting salaries). We haven’t nailed down exactly how much of the difference is due to cohort effects and how much is due to piling on a ton of feathers, other life choices, not asking, and so on. As this cohort ages it will become more clear.

  2. Holly Says:

    A very thought-provoking post…thanks! I am currently in a low-paying part-time job at a small dr.’s office and I know that I am not being fairly compensated (but no one in this office is being paid what they are worth, IMO).

    Problem is, I accepted the low wage at hiring, so I feel that I owe them something (time) before putting out the ultimatum to pay more. It’s also a ‘far’ commute (25 minutes each way by car in light traffic, 35 in moderate traffic).

    Any advice? Any reason to stay longer than a year? Loyalty?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’re both academics, so no real practical experience. Really what you should do before making any decisions is to hop on over to A Gai Shan Life and ask Revanche for advice.

      I don’t see any reason to give them an ultimatum at this juncture. There should be no harm in asking about a performance review and when you can expect a salary raise (not demanding one now, but asking what the time frame is). Unless you’re afraid they’ll fire you for asking and you don’t have a back-up job. But if similar low paying jobs are easy to find, why not ask instead of just leaving them?

      In terms of should you stay longer than a year. That I do have some knowledge of. If you’re staying over a short enough tenure and don’t have a year’s gap between this and your next job, you do not have to put this job on your cv at all. Similarly if you’re taking classes while working. Employers don’t like to see gaps on the cv, but work or schooling will fill that gap. It used to be that you should stay at a job for at least a year, but if your trajectory is obviously upward, it has become less important as a signal of poor worker quality. (Though how much this is true for women as compared to men is uncertain… men may be rewarded for jumping around more than women and may be in jobs where this jumping is expected to a greater extent than women.) If your career goal is something other than what you’re doing now (say you’re in school training to be an engineer or librarian or professor etc.) then these jobs are unimportant and just go for more money.

      Loyalty is not a good reason.

      • Holly Says:

        Good to know. I am definitely not getting any younger and while I appreciate even having a job in this economy, I still feel like I could be wasting more precious time in a dead-end enterprise…

        I am lucky to have a supportive husband who keeps the bills paid, but the other commenter’s remark about not relying exclusively on your S.O. gives working females even more reason to start looking out for No. 1!

        Thanks for the advice!

      • bogart Says:

        Somewhat different situation (from Holly’s) but I’d just add what a male advisor of mine commented to me when I asked a similar question about looking for a new job after starting my first “real” job, which was, “Look, they [your employers] didn’t put a ring on your finger.” Honestly my personal take is that you look, your loyalty (if any) consists of inviting your current employer to match or beat the first better offer you get (unless there are enough other improvements in the new job that you wouldn’t stay anyway, in that case no sense wasting their time), and you explain your move (from one position to the other) to prospective (still later) future employers by saying the new position was more challenging and more rewarding … let them interpret that how they may.

      • Revanche Says:

        Oh my, was away and couldn’t reply earlier when I first saw this but I’m flattered by the referrral!

  3. Everyday Tips Says:

    I think part of why women are paid less is because many of the women I know are more passive when it comes to salary. Personally, I never have a problem asking for more money. Most of the time, I got it (or found out a raise was already in process.) I really think I was taken care of better because they knew I expected it and might leave if I was not properly compensated. (This was back in the good ole’ days when there were actually other job options out there.)

    However, many of my friends just accepted their wages and felt they would get an increase at the right time. I have learned though that you must advocate for yourself. After starting at the same salary and working together 7 years, I was making almost 25 percent more than my friend, and we were ‘equally valuable’.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I do want to ask for more money… but as a state employee during a salary freeze, the only way to get more money is to get an outside offer and I just do not want to go on the market just now. Instead I’m writing grants. We’ll see what’s up with the tenure decision… they’ve hinted that comes with a standard 10% raise. I’m planning to hit up the library to see what the actual numbers have been in the past.

    • beckie Says:

      That’s bullshit that you were making more than your ‘equally valuable’ friend. This is why we need salary transparency. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  4. Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

    Given the way my life has worked out, I’m happy to have a secure (tenured) job while Sir John brings in the bigger bucks; this way, we have a safe cushion should he get fired. It would mean a drastic change in lifestyle, but we could get by on my salary till he got a new job (harder at his age, of course). BUT if I had it all to do over again, I would have got myself a more financially-rewarding job for 10 years or so after college graduation. I could have been a financial analyst, and I would probably have enjoyed it. Or maybe I mean I would enjoy it now. At the time, I was all “The life of the mind is what matters!” and “job satisfaction, not money!” But money matters a lot more as you get older, and I would like to smack my younger self upside the head and tell her to get real. I could still have gone to graduate school later.

  5. First Gen American Says:

    I’m having major deja vu as I write this response. Anyway, I’m a female engineer, so that right there puts me out of whack with most other women out there. I do get paid pretty well relative to my peers (my husband is one of them, so that’s a pretty good gauge).

    I’d definitely be right there with you on the male side of the page. I’m SO paranoid about exiting the workforce for any length of time. A senior level female friend of mine admitted that it’s career suicide. I would like to start my own business someday, but it won’t be scrap booking or some hobby like fulfilling thing. It would have to make money. If I want fulfilling, I can volunteer my time. I don’t have to make a career out of it.

    It actually wasn’t until I started having children (in my mid 30s) that people started to pre-suppose things about my personal work/life balance.

  6. Squirrelers Says:

    Male perspective here – two initial thoughts:

    1) Very interesting topic, and I can’t disagree with your points. Really, my own view is that what it comes down to is that actions have consquences. Exiting the job force, taking time off, and doing something fulfilling and not money-driven, all can lead to less money. If personal/interpersonal fulfillment is the primary objective, and money isn’t the primary objective, then the results just might show….more personal fulfillment at the expense of money. Which is totally fine, if that’s what someone wants. If money is wanted, then the other stuff will be sacrificed. I think that male or female, we all have the right to go whichever way we want on this. No right or wrong answer, it’s all personal. Actions have consequences.

    2) Show ME the Money!

  7. eemusings Says:

    I enjoy my job. I have to work odd hours, and I’m compensated for that. It’s 24/7 industry really, and I’m happy to do my dues now while I’m young and don’t have a family… but eventually I’m going to want a more regular schedule.

  8. bogart Says:

    When enrolled at my (state, flagship) alma mater, I was always amused by the (never explicit) juxtaposition of the explanation for why female faculty earned less than their male counterparts — the discrepancy was purportedly accounted for by other factors — field, seniority, etc. (maybe, but never documented). And as to why women were so underrepresented on that faculty, the response was always that female faculty cost too much (relative to male counterparts), being in high demand across the board (i.e. at other institutions) because of diversity concerns. Um … ?

    My personal sense, having been a hir-er, is that women are far less likely to negotiate on salary at all, which saddens me. Though as others have noted, this economy makes it tough.

  9. Rumpus Says:

    It makes me sad when people aren’t fairly compensated. Unfortunately, there has been a significant bias (based on gender-roles) in the past and it is slow to change. Optimistically, I expect the future to be better, but it takes a long time. Generations are necessary for society to change. Hopefully advancing technology can help…perhaps one day we’ll all be hired behind blank (computer) screens (ala orchestras).

  10. The Everyday Minimalist Says:

    The only point I disagree with is:

    Women can afford to quit their career and start their own business because their husbands make more than they do. Most new businesses fail. Even the ones that succeed have a multi-year process of being in the red and during that time, women aren’t funding their retirement.

    Depends on the business. My “husband” (BF really) makes the same amount of money I do, but I didn’t quit my career to start my own business. I just transitioned to working for myself as a consultant rather than as a consultant at a consulting company with tons of useless employees and overhead.

    I think it’s really brash to be claiming that it’s because of their HUSBANDS that they can quit.

    Where’s the proof?

    What about the other way around? Men quit all the time to start businesses because their WIVES brought home the bacon. (Texas Gal’s Open wallet for instance).

    And that women need more money.

    Yes, they need more money, but no one (no company anyway, not even mine) would WILLINGLY pay more money without needing to. If women don’t ask for money, they don’t negotiate and they don’t CARE about the money, they’re going to stay where they are.

    Start caring, basically. It’s obvious that you’re one of the only ones who picked the “male” side. Women seem to care more about job satisfaction than money, so they pay the tradeoff, so to speak.

  11. The Everyday Minimalist Says:

    Oh and I should note that we pay 50/50 for everything. He has never given me a penny or supported me, and never will. Vice versa.

  12. Molly On Money Says:

    It would drive me crazy on Oprah when they would have a segment on how a woman followed her ‘heart’ and started her own business and was successful. Why did it drive me crazy? Was I jealous? (OK, a bit).
    There were always holes in the story. How did the woman get her start up money? Did she have a spouse bringing a salary in while she work for nothing starting up her business?
    They just jumped to the fairly tale ending feeding her audience a bunch of propaganda!

  13. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    I think #1 is more talking about a structural problem.

    Within male dominated fields, compensating differentials seem to hold. Within female dominated fields, they also seem to hold. However, if you put male and female fields together, female-dominated jobs do not get compensated equally for education, hassle, scheduling and so on. Something is happening that causes female-dominated jobs to garner both less satisfaction and less money.

    In fact, if you go deeper into economic theory and just think about how the marginal benefit of money has to equal the marginal benefit of satisfaction, the results from in that room suggest that women actually have LESS satisfactory jobs. They’re willing to take less money because their jobs suck so much. If their jobs were good they’d rather have more money than more job satisfaction. Perhaps #1 just likes her job a bit more compared to the other women in the room, but also wants more money because she doesn’t have that second income stream.

    Another possibility, as outlined in the Dan Gilbert happiness literature is that they know they’re getting paid crap and they’re justifying it by thinking that they must love their jobs (there’s a Dilbert comic illustrating this concept too).

    It is definitely true that having a working spouse of any sort (so long as they have benes) allows people to start businesses in the US. (In fact, my DH was able to work on a start-up for a year because I was bringing in a stable paycheck, and more importantly, group health insurance.) But it is also true that the types of businesses that husbands and wives start are very different. (I have read an academic article exploring this idea empirically within the past few years but it isn’t actually my field so I didn’t keep it, but a search of econlit would probably find it or something related. There’s also a great textbook by Francine Blau and coauthors called Women, Men, and Work.) But men are more likely to do high risk high reward business ventures that make more money or are consulting on what they were doing before, whereas women are more likely to do something much smaller, part-time, craft oriented, with low start-up costs.

    Also, as a female in a male-dominated field and the primary earner in the family, I am sympathetic to the fact that our experiences are different on average than that of the average female. Male dominated fields pay everyone more than female dominated fields do (all things equal). But the problems of gender disparity in wages within these fields are different than the problems across fields. The social norms are different across fields, and somehow that’s depressing women’s wages.

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