Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Salary disparities between men and women

It turns out that one of the big problems is, as the author puts it, that "the altruism is so heavily concentrated in one sex." More social engineering, anyone?

Discussions - 10 Comments

What a strikingly stupid article. Astonishing. The author is trying to suggest that women make less than men for the same work, but then every example of income disparity she offers compares completely different vocations. A graduate in accounting earns more than one in anthropology; a computer science graduate earns more at a high tech company than their first year than a first year math teacher.

Newsflash for Linda Hirshman (the author of the article): some things are worth more than other things. I'm quite certain Ms. Hirschman does not pay the guy who cleans her gutters the same amount she pays her female OB-GYN. So I'm pretty certain Ms. Hirschman understands the concept of relative value ... but that's not the purpose of this article.

What this article is really trying to argue is that those lower-paying jobs that are traditionally female-oriented should pay more. And, unspoken in the article but no doubt in Ms. Hirschman's mind, if the market won't pay more than the government ought to force it or subsidize it.

The sad thing is there are many, many people who think the logic of this article is inescapable. And there'd be no way to show them why the logic is faulty. They'd flop back to some area of sentimental mush in their minds and think, "Well, of course a middle school art teacher should be paid the same as an engineering professor at a university!" Of course, these are the same people who then complain about their property taxes, not seeing the connection between taxes and the cost of school administration.

Don, the article is actually much more funny and interesting than you say. It's not really about "comparable worth" but about the stupidity of women in choosing, knowingly choosing, less lucrative careers or lives. And Joe put his finger on the funniest sentence in the piece!


You've got it. What she wants is for all young women to become "manly" in their approach to preparation for and participation in the job market.

By her standards, of course, I'm not manly either, since I have yet to achieve the salary level attained by anyone who made a more--dare I say it?--bourgeois choice of career.

I went back and re-read the piece more carefully. I'll grant that it's not clearly a piece on comparable worth. But I doubt very much Ms. Hirschman was intending it to be about the "stupidity of women" in choosing. If anything, I'd say the article was trying to illustrate that women, in choosing based on their natural inclinations, are once again finding themselves discriminated against. She quotes the Tulane psychology major: She's frustrated with the "unfairness" of her classmates' earning so much more when she is "helping people."

True, Ms. Hirschman does not come right out and call for "comparable worth." In the second to the last paragraph she concedes that women are, in fact, free to choose. But she then says "the social consequences of these decisions are not positive." There are two ways to remedy that: encourage more women to pursue the higher-paying career paths ... and you can be certain that's already taking place in the areas of medicine and engineering, despite Ms. Hirschman claiming "colleges offer precious little career counseling to tell women a different story from the one society has always told them."

The other way to remedy the problem is to seek to elevate in stature the professions women tend to gravitate towards. Certainly they can try to a public relations campaign to try to make the more "caring" roles in society more prestigious. But another approach is to force the pay higher through government intervention and thus elevate by proxy the role.

I could be completely wrong here. But in 15 years of reading the Washington Post I've seen precious little -- other than from columnists such as Will and Krauthammer -- that would suggest they ever advocate personal responsibility and enduring the consequences of one's decisions.


Read it again. Women have to be encouraged to behave like stereotypical men, else their less market-oriented decisions will channel them into the mommy track. They make choices, but career counselors and others have to encourage--very strongly, it seesm--to make different choices. Otherwise, they betray the sisterhood. it takes a village to raise a corporate woman.

Joe ... I see the point you're trying to make. But I'm looking one move beyond that. Let's say young women don't respond to the feminist career counselors. Then what?

I just can't believe the end game of this will be a collective, "Well, we tried ... but women prefer lower paying jobs."

Now, whether Ms. Hirschman is thinking any of this I can't say. And perhaps my cynical nature is getting the better of me here. But if in fact the article is truly (and sincerely) suggesting that women should make different choices for higher pay or live with the consequences of their existing choices ... well, then I'd be doubly astonished. That's a darn conservative stance for the Washington Post to allow in any of its articles.

Yes, and after that? Joe, who's going to be left to be altruistic? Us bohemian males?

Good point, Robert. If having progressive altruism is considered a good thing -- and it is -- then someone must be encouraged to do that. Another argument for trying, by all means possible, to elevate the stature and pay of those professions so women, who naturally tend towards those professions, are paid more and held in higher regard.

Again, the article might not be suggesting any of this. But as an initiative of the feminist left, I just can't believe their strategy is to encourage women to make more rewarding choices. Society should move towards women, not women moving towards society.


You're right; when HRC is president, the columns will be written differently, because then taxes will be raised so as truly to reward the helping professions; the latter will be staffed by means of a gender-neutral lottery, so that they are never again identified as "women's work."

Stated more seriously, I think that the proposal in the column is more "radical" than comparable worth, since it proposes, not the reallocation of resources, but the restructuring of individual choices.

Yes, Joe, whatever the writer's intent, the article says that women are not men. It is a complaint that women are not manly when they make their decisions. Too bad, isn't it? It is society's fault, or the fault of college counselors, or the women ought to pull themselves together and "Get to Work . . . and Get a Life, Before It's Too Late." which is the title of her book. Comparable worth will do nothing for women who ask, ASK for less money to do the same job as a man asks. She's telling women to overcome whatever natural inclinations they have, including child-bearing.

I find it a very happy article in that such feminist pressure is not exactly working, or that it can only take us so far in social engineering.

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