Tuesday, 6 October 2009

My favourite pay equity cartoon

I remember seeing this a few years back, it's another one from Ampersand's leftycartoons:

To me this explains really well how the pay gap works for many individual women. Also in a broader sense it comments on the attitude that says that the gap doesn't need to be fixed in a systematic way, as the actions of individual men and women will eventually do the trick.


A Nonny Moose said...

I honest-to-FSM had almost this EXACT conversation with a colleague the other day. He was telling me how his wife had chosen to be a stay at home mom, because he had more qualifications and earning power, and that she'd look at getting a job/qualifications later when the kids were older.

I asked why she couldn't study while the kids were young - because they couldn't afford it out of "his" wages. When I asked why she couldn't work part time when the kids started school - "she" had to be home when the kids came home. When I asked "what if" they did job swap at some time so she could work and he stayed at home with the kids - he was horrorfied because he earned SO much more.

He's a nice guy and a good dad, but he wasn't hearing what was coming out of his own mouth.

Psycho Milt said...

What's the take-home message from this cartoon? That women are suckers?

Psycho Milt said...

On reflection the comment above, while accurately reflecting my response to the cartoon, perhaps wasn't a particularly helpful one. I'll elaborate.

What this cartoon says isn't that a woman was screwed over by a "small advantage," it says she stood by and let someone take advantage of her for years on end, and found afterwards that that person was now much better off than her. I didn't think "How unfair," I thought "Well, mug."

My own situation is comparable to the opening frame of that cartoon, but in reverse - my wife has and always will earn more than me. And yes, my line of work is female-dominated while hers isn't. But that has less to do with "pay equity" than with somewhat more relevant factors like the higher skill level of her line of work and its more direct contribution to business success or failure - ie, there is no "gap" needing to be fixed. I had a go at staying home and looking after our first child when he got to six months old and my wife went back to work. The result was that by the time he was 10 months old he was in full-time childcare and I was handing over half of my new, lower-than-before salary on paying for it - which I didn't mind doing, because I'd found full-time childcare and housework boring and unpleasant and had got myself a job. Now, suppose my wife had had very strong feelings at that point that a child needs one of its parents at home looking after it? Well, she would have known what she could do about it, wouldn't she.

In other words, yes it is about individuals' decisions. There was nothing about my situation needing to be "fixed in a systemic way," and there's nothing in that cartoon needing to be fixed in a systemic way. I'll certainly grant you though that there's no guarantee "the actions of individual men and women will eventually do the trick,"if individuals don't take the necessary actions.

stargazer said...

"Well, she would have known what she could do about it, wouldn't she."

these are the choices:

1. leave you and keep her job while having the kids in full-time daycare, thereby depriving her children of both parents during the day

2. leave you and quit her job, thereby depriving herself of significant financial well-being and a career.

3. stay with you and leave her job, thereby depriving herself of significant financial wellbeing and a career.

4. stay with you and keep her job, thereby depriving her children of both parents during the day.

these are the choices you left her with while your attitude in the post seems to be that you take little responsibility yourself. it's hardly any wonder that fewer women are choosing to have children with those kinds of choices put in front of them, and of course if they have kids, then being limited to those choices will obviously be a factor in the gender pay gap.

your answer seems to be that women should stop caring about their children, the way that men don't care, and simply go after a career. or they should just not have children. there are actually other alternatives to these, but they involve cultural change and a willingness to change institutional structures. otherwise, with only those 4 choices that you left your partner, she'd have been a mug to choose any one of them.

Psycho Milt said...

Those aren't quite the choices - in fact, no-one has to leave anyone.

These are the choices: one of the parents stays home, disadvantaging their career in the process; or they get someone else to look after the kids; or they avoid having kids.

Those choices aren't dictated by patriarchal oppression, they're dictated by physical reality. If you'd like a 4th choice, in which one parent stays home and looks after the kids but their career and income aren't in any way disadvantaged by it, what you need isn't a supportive govt but a different physical reality.

This cartoon is about which of the parents stays home and takes the career hit. If you don't think it should be you, don't let it be you. If you do think it should be you, what problem exactly are you wanting the govt to do something about?

stargazer said...

"If you don't think it should be you, don't let it be you."

i see. so you say you to your partner that you won't stay at home. how is she then supposed to not let it be her, if she wants one parent to stay at home with the kids?

it's her that has to make the sacrifice: career or kids. because you've just said you're not prepared to do it. the only way to not let it be her is to not have kids or to leave and find a better partner who might at least be interested in shared care. given there are so few of those around, she has little choice at all.

hence the need for cultural and instituational change.

and of course leaving you has to be part of the equation. if you're prepared to put her in the position of haveing to make that kind of choice, i'd think she should be seriously thinking about whether or not she wanted to stay in the relationship.

Psycho Milt said...

Interestingly enough, you're describing the situation exactly backwards. She'd already made a decision and gone back to work; the only decision remaining was whether I'd stay home or whether childcare would be required. Not her making any sacrifice at all.

hence the need for cultural and instituational change.

Which will occur how, if not through the decision-making of individuals? If women aren't willing to force this issue themselves in their own homes, and settle for hoping the govt will do it for them instead, they're on a hiding to nothing.

stargazer said...

i think where we're getting stuck is that you assume that women being willing to force this issue in their own homes will lead to a positive outcome. and i'm saying that if their partner flatly refuses to budge in terms of shared parenting, there are no positive outcomes for women.

A Nonny Moose said...

Milt, how does making a change only as a "quiet individual" help other women/families who don't HAVE that choice or a voice?

The Man Work/Woman Parent paradigm has been institutionalized in our society for millenia - they have to know they have a choice and support, and men have to know that things have to change.

This comes from a societal conversation - at a family, friend, community, AND governmental level.

Psycho Milt said...

i'm saying that if their partner flatly refuses to budge in terms of shared parenting, there are no positive outcomes for women.

And I'm saying I don't see a way for the govt to help them with that. Until such men can't find compliant wives, nothing any group of bureaucrats does or says is going to make any difference.

Milt, how does making a change only as a "quiet individual" help other women/families who don't HAVE that choice or a voice?

If those with a choice won't make that choice, what prospect is there for cultural change? Keep hoping for govt to drive it from the top down? Good luck with that one - I think the experience of Labour at the last election is a salutary warning about what people think of govts telling them how they should live their lives.

...men have to know that things have to change.

How will they come to know that? Because the govt runs a pay equity campaign and puts ads on the TV? Or because their wife won't let them treat her as a subordinate? Only one of those things has a chance of success, and it ain't the one with the govt in it.

A Nonny Moose said...

You're making it sound like the only way change is going to happen is by all women in the world simultaneously rising up, without provocation, leadership or support, and as one telling their husbands how it's going to be.

Yeah, way to negate the individual experience, class, race, economics and all the millions of other parts that makes up a woman, her power, and her family.

You're so terrorfied of the Nanny State (FSM I hate that word), you can't see what impact initiatives like child care, welfare, education and pay equity DO have on a woman's power to stand up and say "change".

Like I say, change happens with all people contributing at all levels.

Psycho Milt said...

I sympathise with your dislike of the term "nanny state," as someone who works in the public sector. But disliking blather about "nanny state" is not the same as wanting to see taxpayers' money pointlessly wasted. I'm open to hearing exactly how paying groups of bureaucrats to issue reports on pay equity empowers women as you describe, but I've yet to see a compelling account.

stargazer said...

"And I'm saying I don't see a way for the govt to help them with that"

a case of wilful blindness if ever i saw one. here are some simple examples of possible government actions;

1. increasing paid parental leave to 12 months, but only paying out the second six months if the father stays at home to look after the child. this is actually policy in a european country, but i can't remember which one. i'm sure that there are other financial incentives that could be put in place to encourage more equal participation in child-rearing. most government regulation is after all designed to encourage some types of behaviour and discourage others.

2. social marketing campaigns (such as the one around a father supporting a breastfeeding mother that i've seen on tv recently). there have been many successful social marketing campaigns (drink driving, mental health awareness etc).

3. changes to employment law. bringing back the 40 hour working week would be a good start, but i'm sure there are plenty of other changes to working conditions that could be thought of and implemented.

so you can see that there are many ways, it just depends on the will of government and the value society places on equity for women. a very simple measure which has been proposed in australia and i think implemented in one other country is to require employers to publicly report on pay for men and women. secrecy around pay rates allows not only gender discrimination but racial and other forms of discrimination to happen more easily. transparency around pay is actually in the best interests of most employees.

so i think your comment that nothing can be done by government is complete nonsense. the question is whether anything should be done, and the answer to that depends on how important you think it is to have equity in our society.

Psycho Milt said...

so you can see that there are many ways, it just depends on the will of government and the value society places on equity for women.

Really? I think there's actually next to nothing a govt can do about this in practical terms. For instance:

Re number 1, suppose a conservative govt was proposing to pay out for parental leave only if it's the woman who stays home - can you see how they might run into difficulty with that? We do have a bill of rights in this country, for all that govts sometimes ignore it.

Re number 2, govts already waste shitloads of my hard-earned cash on earnest ad campaigns exhorting me to be a better person, so I suppose it's no big deal if there's one more. But the "success" of these campaigns is usually asserted by the people responsible for them rather than measured in some well-defined and objective way, so I don't see any reason not to continue describing them as a waste of my money.

Re number 3, great. I agree. Don't see it as particularly relevant to this issue, though.

Maybe there are practical ways for govts to force the issue, I haven't really thought about it. What I am sure of is that there's no vote-winning incentive for a govt to buy into such a fight if the individuals concerned don't seem to care enough one way or the other to do anything about it themselves. The govt isn't some wise authority figure that stands aloof and ensures people do the right thing, it's a bunch of weasel politicians enjoying their time giving orders and doing their best to make sure they're still the ones giving the orders after the next election. For such a group, "Well, we're going to make you behave the way we want" is a recipe for electoral defeat.

A Nonny Moose said...

So how exactly do you expect societal change to happen Milt. Do you expect the girls to become enlightened over nappy changes in the public loos, and boys bending their elbows at the pub? Because those environments are sure condusive to intellectual discussion and debate!

Do you expect support groups at a community/grassroots level to do all the sit down with families themselves? And how are they supposed to do that, when you don't approve of them being financed by your Hands Off government?

How do you expect the information to get out there, when you don't support the medium of the information?

You're simply expecting massive societal change to happen from Chinese Whispers.

Change is slow - not every person is going to be enlightened over night. You have to be committed to the long haul, not shrugging your shoulders in the general direction of the government, or community level discussions like this.

Come up with some solutions that you think would be workable in the government. They have, what with Working For Families, 20 Hours free child care, education incentives etc.

hungrymama said...

I think the biggest difference of all would be if we as a society managed to increase the status of parenting so that someone entering the workforce after being home with kids has the skills they have gained during that time valued the same as skills gained in any other job and people choosing to leave paid work in order to parent don't feel like they are taking a 'step down'

Having both parents in paid work doesn't mean no one makes a sacrifice just that no grown-up makes a sacrifice.

Anonymous said...

If we accept in principle that

1. There is pay equity for the same job (yes, a big assumption)

2. that women choose lower-paid jobs because they are more interested in a feeling of satifcation or helping others (yes, another big assumption)

This means that this cartoon is saying that women are disadvantage because they missed out on years of income and career advancement while they were raising children.

I don't see this as an issue between men and women but between those with children and the childless.

Why should the childless subsidise those with children?

If I wanted children, I would attempt to have my own, and would pay for them.
As I'm choosing not to, why should I be subsidising the childless for their income lost during the years they are raising their children?