Some Truths About “Gender Bias”

 

On March 21st The Signal published a column by Maria Gutzeit entitled “Women’s Day: a work in progress” (Here). In this very interesting column Maria discussed “gender bias” against women, citing several examples, and I’d like to respond with a few thoughts.

This issue is nowhere as clear-cut as simply being gender bias, Maria. There are far more complex issues in play.

You mentioned that female athletes are paid less than their male counterparts, but didn’t consider why that might be so. However, that goes to the heart of the matter.

Who pays athletes? Generally, companies that use them for endorsements in advertising. But what determines any athlete’s value? How much the manufacturer can realize in an increase in sales revenue for that athlete’s endorsement. So, a Michael Jordan, who has a very high profile in a wildly popular sport and generates a great deal of media attention is going to enjoy a very high value and get paid an astronomical sum. As will his female equivalent, a person such as….. whom?

You see, right there’s the problem with your example. I can’t think of any female equivalent. Can you? Is that because of any actual “bias”, or simply because there’s no such equivalent who can bring a Jordan-like value to an ad campaign?

If I’m a business owner, and I know I can hire a woman with the exact same skills, abilities, work ethic, etcetera as some white guy, and pay her 25% less, wouldn’t I be pretty much a fool to hire a guy just because he’s a guy, and penalize myself financially? Who would do that?

There must be other factors in play, and actually there are. Over the long term women as a group tend to spend less time on their career path over the course of that career, taking time out for other endeavors such as raising a family. Naturally, this difference will be reflected in their statistical earnings difference, because we’re talking macro. But in the micro, when women and men follow the actual same career paths in all relevant respects, that pay discrepancy isn’t there.

As to your daughter’s experience with the other kids blocking her swimming lanes, trust me. Young guys do the same kinds of things to other young guys, too. Part of actual equality is the realization and acceptance that there are some things in life that aren’t actually reflective of some kind of “bias”.

I’m not saying that actual bias doesn’t exist. Of course it does. That’s just part of human nature. But we must be careful in how we consider it, and try to make sure there is actual discrimination involved rather than some other factor influencing actions and outcomes. Only then can we address it, and try to come up with solutions that are meaningful and relevant.

 

©Brian Baker 2017

(Also published in The Signal on 3/22/2017)

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10 comments on “Some Truths About “Gender Bias”

  1. Grey Neely says:

    Brian, you are correct. This issue is not as simple as “being gender bias”. When I worked for GE in a training position in the 1970’s, female engineers made as much as male engineers (I do not count a few dollars more or less as being meaningful). When I worked for TVA, the salaries were exactly the same for males and females. However, when I became a consulting engineer I did notice some differences. But these differences between males and females were more due to the amount of experience that most male engineers brought to the “table”. At this time in the late 1980’s most male engineers had much more experience than their female counterparts. This is some what like your example of Michael Jordan.

    • BrianR says:

      Exactly, Grey. And that amount of experience is also influenced by the time a woman may take off from her career for things like child-rearing, something the vast majority of men don’t do. Clearly that’s a difference, and it’s probably due to cultural influences if not natural instinct and human nature, but how is that “bias”?

      It’s not.

  2. garnet92 says:

    Brian, you correctly identified some of the reasons that it’s entirely reasonable that women don’t earn as much as men. I’d like to offer a few more real-world reasons.

    I owned a business and along with my two partners, hired lots of people, black and white, men and women. The majority of our workforce was professional and salaried, only the office staff was hourly.

    Over some 30 years, our experience was that women had more time away from work for “feminine problems,” pregnancy, and child care. When they were away from their job, they often had to be replaced with temporary help and that increased our costs. They were often less amenable to working late hours which was sometimes required to meet contractual deadlines.

    These instances of absence weren’t character flaws; they were just associated with being women. We understood that.

    Thus, as a rule, the average for males working for us was higher than the females – NOT because they were males, but because our return on investment was greater with a male having equal qualifications.

    On the other hand, our highest paid customer support rep was a black woman. She was highly paid because she was good. She was articulate, patient, and extremely knowledgeable about our product(s) and the requirements of payroll and human resources. She also had certification in her field. She was a gem and invaluable to our firm and its success.

    I believe that we were representative of small business and would have happily paid females equally to the men if their ROI was the same. We had no bias against females because they were females; we just generally got more “bang for our buck” from the males.

    That’s my story an’ I’m stickin’ to it.

    • BrianR says:

      As well you should, because I think it’s entirely reflective of the reality of the workplace, for both small AND large companies.

      Great comment. Thanks.

  3. captbogus2 says:

    Yeah, there is gender bias. And racial bias. And a bias in every free choice. I prefer Wonder Bread over other brands. I like Ford more than Chevrolet. I would rather watch NFL than lingeire football. Bias determines selection and advertising’s motive is to influence selection. Some segments of the population tries to eradicate bias. Poor, lost souls would do better removing sand from the Sahara with a tea spoon…

    • BrianR says:

      Of COURSE you’re right, Buck. That’s simply human nature. Any time we express a preference for anything, it’s a “bias”.

      So what it really boils down to is whether or not there’s a rational basis for a “bias”.

  4. CW says:

    “Maria Gutzeit is a chemical engineer, business owner, elected water official, and mom living in Santa Clarita.”

    What a pity this poor woman has been prevented from reaching her potential in life!

    I really hate it when women with better resumes than the average man whine about inequality and gender bias. The obsessive victimhood and perpetual whining is far more hurtful to women than whatever biases, justified and unjustified, may still remain. Just shut up already.

    Ms. Gutzeit said: “…when resumes are scrubbed of male and female names, the females do better, as commensurate with their qualifications.”

    That’s funny because as an engineer Ms. Gutzeit undoubtedly knows that female engineers are given preference in many large companies now because of pressure from the government and outside groups to equalize employment in this area despite the fact that there are far fewer female engineers in the education pipeline. What this means is that these companies will often reject better qualified males and offer disproportionately higher salaries to women to meet their quotas. As the mother of a son who will soon graduate with an engineering degree, I worry about the implications for him. Since Ms. Gutzeit is against gender bias in the workplace maybe she will join me in denouncing this practice. My son would be more than happy to compete for a job in an environment blind to gender, race and ethnicity.

    Fact is, this revival of the women’s movement at a time when women are free to compete in any field they are capable in is really an assault on free will, which is something liberals despise. They will not be happy until only they can decide who succeeds and to what extent.

  5. slowcowboy says:

    Well, Brian, female athletes are not as popular because there is bias, too, right? It has nothing to do with size, speed, and power, which do not make the game more exciting. Nope. Women’s sports are just as exciting, right? Has to be…

    Now, sarcasm aside, I think this qualifies as one of those things that just is. Attempts to suggest that women’s pay is less than men’s is due to bias against women ignores so many things that just are just true, no matter how much we try to ignore them. The financial realities of running a business, the simple biological functions men and women serve, the nature of the genders to take one role over another, interests of men and women (ie, what fields are they attracted to), etc, all play roles. And no matter how much we try, we cannot change that men are men and women are women. (And there is no judgment or value in the statement apart from the plain truth that men and women are not the same.)

    • BrianR says:

      Absolutely, Slow, I couldn’t agree more. Some things just “are”, often due to human nature, as you pointed out.

      Which would bring us to my “FLHHC” column a couple back. One of the “H”s is “Human nature”.

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