Why the U.S. Economy Is Biased Against Men

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That women earn 77 cents for every $1 earned by a man is a popular refrain. But look closer. Prejudice against guys in the economy is real and widespread.

[Update: Also see the response column, Why the Economy Is Not Biased Against Men]

615 man recession bias.jpg

Reuters

You've just landed on Planet Zuto.

The Intergalactic Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (IEEOC) has sent you to determine whether Zuto's economy is fair to its two sexes: vozems and zems. Your boss suggests you'll probably find sexism against the vozems.

But your first discovery is that 60 vozems graduate from college for every 40 zems. You discover clues as to why. Despite the under-representation of zems, many scholarships are set aside for vozems, few for zems. The curriculum accentuates vozems' accomplishments, zems' failings. Student groups are funded to encourage vozems, for example, Future BusinessVozems, far fewer for zems.

You beam your first report back to the IEEOC: Zuto U's appear to be sexist against zems, not vozems.

Next, you examine the Zuto Bureau of Labor Statistics and find that the unemployment rate for vozems is 20% lower than for zems. You are shocked to discover that rather than trying to help zems land work, the government deliberately exacerbates zems' deficit: vozem-owned businesses get special preferences in landing government contracts and taxpayer-backed small-business loans are set aside for vozems.

You beam back your next report to the IEEOC: More signs of sexism against zems. Your boss responds, "But vozems earn 77 zits for every 100 zems earn!"

***

Unless you really are from Planet Zuto, you know that the preceding was about men and women. Indeed, every statement made about Zuto is true of the U.S. And so are these.

The 77-cents-on-the-dollars statistic is calculated in a way that is biased against men. For example, while among all physicians, men earn more than women, men are more likely to be in specialties requiring longer training, high-stress, and irregular hours, for example, surgery and cardiology. In contrast, women are more likely to be pediatricians. Despite that bias, across all careers, surveys report that childless women under 30 make more than men. More than 90 percent of workplace deaths, military deaths, and severe workplace injuries (e.g., amputations, black lung disease) occur to men. Such dangerous work justify higher pay for men.

Visit American workplaces, especially major corporations, and you'll find that anti-men practices are not only tolerated but routinely imposed by employers. Women but not men are encouraged to form committees and caucuses to advance their sex's causes in the workplace, often at men's expense. Examples:

• Mentor programs for women only

• Special training for women only

• Fast-track-to-executive position for women only

In honest conversation, most people will agree that, on average, men are more often willing to do the things it takes to get promoted, for example, to make time to take advanced technical courses by forgoing recreation such as sports or shopping. Men are more likely to be willing to move to a God-forsaken place (Montgomery, Alabama, anyone?) for a promotion, and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to work longer hours.

Most people will also agree that, on average, women are more eager to have children and to be deeply involving in their upbringing. So women's committees and caucuses, with the help of outside advocacy groups with close ties to the media such as Catalyst, NOW, and AAUW, have pressured workplaces to institute programs for employees' children, for example:

• On-site child care, which diverts money from all employees' salaries and/or raises company products' prices, which ultimately costs jobs.

• Formal or informal policies that allow parents to leave work early, for example, to attend their kid's soccer game, leaving non-parents of both sexes to pick up the slack. And those non-parents, especially men, dare not raise a peep of objection lest they be dubbed sexist, which can hurt their career.

• Women's advocacy groups also were successful in pressuring the government to create The Family and Medical Leave Act*, which allows employees to--usually with minimal verification of need--take up to 12 weeks every year(!) to care for a relative, with a guarantee that their job will be held for them until they choose to return. (Women take the majority of FMLA days.) Now those advocacy groups are pressuring employers to make FMLA days-off paid days.

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Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley specializing in the evaluation of innovation. His columns have appeared in the Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle, and his sixth book, just published, is How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School. More

Marty Nemko was called "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach" by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and subsequently taught in its graduate school. His columns and features have appeared in U.S. News, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle. The archive of his hundreds of published articles, his blog, plus chapters from his book, Cool Careers for Dummies, plus mp3s of his KALW-FM (NPR-San Francisco) show are on www.martynemko.com.
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