A reason for the gender pay gap and how to avoid it came up in our discussions with early career awardees at the MBI during a seminar.
I’m fortunate to be a postdoc at the MBI instead of a member of a regular lab. Here, there is a clear agenda for preparing and helping the postdocs to enter the job market. Professional development seminar is an essential part of this preparation process.
During the recent seminar, MBI latest Early career awardees1 Pamela Pyzza and Megan Powell shared their experience of getting an academic jab. The discussion was constructive in many ways; an interesting one was the negotiation for the startup fund and all other financial details of the offer, e.g., relocation reimbursement, travel fund, etc.
Both awardees were emphasizing on strong early negotiation, and then Megan mentioned something like “it seems that one of the reasons that the gender pay gap exists, is that women are not negotiating tough enough.”. I was delighted to see that this idea has spread around.
I’m following the gender pay gap topic (and all other “(none)equality of outcome” claims) carefully and one of the best explanation that I’ve heard is from Professor Jordan B. Peterson, whom I admire.
He is explaining the gap as a consequence of women on average being more agreeable than men. (of course this one of the many factors.) Agreeableness is one of the BIG 5 personality traits that are very well-studied in psychology. Men and women (on average) are very different along agreeableness dimension. The evolutionary argument for this is that women have been evolved to care for infants and agreeableness has helped them to climb up their dominance hierarchy. Now that they are fighting their way in the male dominance hierarchy, this trait (at least in this context) is not helpful, and they need to learn to become disagreeable.
Coincidentally, JBP had an interview a few days ago on Channel 4 (in the UK) where these ideas came up. The interview gained attention for a certain “Ha! Gotcha!” moment. He stayed rational, consistent, and calm during a heated interview and went offense (to prove a point about the freedom of speech) and made the interviewer speechless for a minute.
Here is the Youtube video of the interview where he talks about his recent book and answer a wide range of question, including equality of outcome vs. opportunity and the pay gap:
Cathy Newman, the interviewer, went against the argument of “difference in personality contributes to the pay gap” by proposing that we should make the workplace less masculine to which a Youtuber responded: “The feminist problem with equal treatment is that they are being treated like men.”!