We’re very fortunate in the quality of commentators on this website, and it’s always worth checking them out. Yesterday we posted comments by Groan on the ‘gender pay gap’, PutinCooksSocks left comments, and Groan responsed. We start with PutinCooksSocks:
A further cause of any absolute difference in pay between men and women is the often overlooked concept of “survivor bias”.
Men take more risks. Sometimes, those risks pay off very well, and sometimes very badly. When risks pay off very well, the individual man can find himself very rich indeed. But if things go wrong, chances are he will end up getting the sack or sometimes even being killed at work.
Straightforward averages of income will include the former but not the latter group of men, i.e. they will take into account the men who got rich, but not the men who got sacked or even killed. So the average will skew towards the rich men, and as usual the less fortunate men will be ignored.
This sort of thing has long interested me and I have (trigger warning here) read a lot of Feminist Academic research on the “invention problem”. Put simply this is the problem that across history, anthropology and contemporary societies females are unbelievably rare as innovating, creating something new. This is put down to the much greater male capacity to take risks, repeatedly.
I’m interested in this as one of the most intractable problems in Social Work (confirmed in endless reports and reviews) is indecision and inaction due to deep reluctance to decide on a course of action and follow it through. At its core is a reluctance to be identified as the person who decided on a course of action. Now of course this is the reverse of male behaviour in which males generally are keen to be identified as the decision maker when they believe this shows their puissance. This of course is a big risk for it is clear who to blame if it goes wrong as it is to gain success if it goes right. They don’t have the “invention problem” but of course every invention or decision is a “risk”, of going wrong.
By contrast my experience is that females work hard to avoid individual responsibility. Huge energy is devoted to meetings as a means of collective decision making and spreading the risk across “services”(other people in fact). The subtle working of this means that inertia is endemic and the small number of males do “rise” as they are managers and innovators rather than administrators of a system, which women are more comfortable with . Of course the result is that men achieve higher rank more readily but also are more exposed when something goes wrong, they are clearly responsible individually responsible and reap the rewards of “success”.
I’ve been told of an interesting manifestation of this phenomenon in the state education sector. Women are less inclined than men to apply to be head teachers, but more inclined than men to be deputy head teachers. You will not be surprised to learn that deputy head teachers are paid almost as much as head teachers.