If I read another article about how women are overtaking men and how little boys are falling hopelessly behind, I think I will explode. First, there was that Hanna Rosin piece in the Atlantic ("The End of Men"). Then just a few days ago, New York Times ran Cristina Hoff Sommers's warning about how schools don't support boys ("The Boys at the Back of the Class"). Maybe Rosin and Sommers are taking a very long view of gender history but from what I see, women aren't close to trouncing men. In some ways, women are as behind as ever.
Think I'm just blowing smoke? Look at the following:
1. Secretary is (still) the top job for women: Yup—more women work as secretaries than any other profession, reports a recent CNN Money post. That was true in 1950—and in 2010. According to the U.S. Census, CNN says "four million workers in the United States fell under the category of 'secretaries and administrative assistants' between 2006 and 2010, and 96 percent of them were women."
In fact, if you compare the top five jobs for women in 1950 versus 2010, you're bound to have a back-to-the-future experience. Just try to take a guess which list is from which year:
1. Secretary; bank teller or clerical worker; sales clerk; household worker; and teacher.
2. Secretary; cashier; elementary and middle school teacher; nurse; and nursing aide.
Not that it really matters, but the first list is the one from 1950. To add insult to injury, even in the female ghetto of secretarial work, men now make more. CNN Money reports that "full-time female secretaries and administrative assistants earned an average salary of $34,304 in 2010," while "for men, it was $39,641."
And what about the future? Will women break out of the dutiful, efficient stereotype as a helper/server to others? "Administrative assistant could very well continue to be the top job for women in 2020," reports CNN.
2. The gender gap starts early—really early. You don't have to wait until you're in the middle of your career to see a discrepancy in the pay between men and women. CNN Money reports that women working full-time jobs one year after their college graduation earned 82 cents for every dollar men make, according to a report from the American Association of University Women, which analyzed data from a 2009 Department of Education survey of 15,000 graduates.
3. The real kicker: Even women think women are less qualified. In a Yale University study last year, science professors—male and female—"widely regard female undergraduates as less competent than male students with the same accomplishments and skills," reports The New York Times.
In the study, biology, chemistry, and physics professors at six major research universities were asked to evaluate an application from a recent graduate to be a laboratory manager:
All of the professors received the same one-page summary, which portrayed the applicant as promising but not stellar. But in half of the descriptions, the mythical applicant was named John and in half the applicant was named Jennifer.
The result: John got a higher score ("4") for competence while Jennifer got a lower one ("3.3"). Moreover, "John was also seen more favorably as someone they might hire for their laboratories or would be willing to mentor." Their salaries differed significantly too: "The average starting salary offered to Jennifer was $26,508. To John it was $30,328."
Though the experiment focused on the scientific academic community, my hunch is that the results would be essentially the same across a range of fields, including law. Come to think of it, it might be interesting to use the same experiment in a law firm context to see who wins the bonus or partnership prize—a kind of battle of the sexes contest.
That could be such fun! Too bad the outcome is so predictable.
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