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)