May
18th 2010
Patriarchal equilibrium: UR doin’ in rite!

Posted under: Gender, jobs, unhappy endings, wankers, women's history

I'll get you my pretties. . . at mid-career, too!

Ever wonder why there remains a significant and persistent pay gap between men and women in academia?  Female Science Professor provides a case study from a recent discussion about her salary compression with an administrator:

For some reason a certain administrator recently told me that, although I had had (in his opinion) “a spectacular year” in terms of publications, grants, students graduated, teaching, service, honors etc., he was going to allocate what few extra resources he had at his discretion to some of the assistant professors. He said his decision is not based on “merit” but on what he thinks is fair.

OK, that’s fine.. sort of. I am not going to argue that I deserve more of these scarce resources than my hard-working junior colleagues, and my morale is not crushed by this turn of events. My so-called “spectacular” year was made possible in part by the fact that I am a mid-career professor with an established research group that is functioning well. My younger colleagues are still building their research programs, and the contents of their annual reports should therefore by viewed in this context, rather than by a strict comparison of numbers of publications or grants etc.

And yet, there is still a very large difference between my salary and that of a peer (male) colleague whose higher salary is not based on the fact that he is more productive than I am (because he is not). He was hired as a full professor and negotiated a higher salary than what his nearest peer colleague (that’s me) was making. My initially low salary has of course increased over the years, but not at a rate that would put me at the same level as this colleague anytime soon, if ever.

I told the aforementioned administrator that I understood and even supported his plan to help some of the assistant professors, but I also said that I didn’t want my situation to fall entirely off the radar screen in future years, as I saw it as an equity issue. One could argue that my colleague is paid “too much” and that my salary is more appropriate for my position and job, but that still leaves me as a good example of a woman paid ~85% of what a man makes for the same job.

The aforementioned administrator replied that I should have done a better job negotiating my salary when I was first hired. 

Ah yes, maybe I should have. And maybe the assistant professors who need an economic boost to bring their salaries in line with other young colleagues should have done the same thing or else they also would not now be in such dire need of assistance.

But for some reason, my poor negotiating skills are relevant here, not theirs.

I was OK with the plan until the administrator made this gratuitous swipe at the circumstances of my hiring more than a dozen years ago with a different department chair and in a situation involving a 2-person hire.

Why did he think it was reasonable to criticize my negotiating skills and not those of my younger colleagues? (FYI, these younger colleagues are all men). He was telling me that I should just accept my salary situation relative to my peers but he’s going to help these other colleagues who are experiencing salary compression for the exact same reason that I am??

FSP, don’t you get it?  They are always deserving of more.  You are barely deserving of what you have, because somewhere, sometime you made a mistake in managing your career.  They will always have a friend looking out for them in the Dean’s office, baking them cookies and pouring milk for them, whereas you (and the rest of us on the XX team) never will.  That’s how it works!

43 Comments »

43 Responses to “Patriarchal equilibrium: UR doin’ in rite!”

  1. Clio Bluestocking on 18 May 2010 at 7:06 am #

    So much for blind meritocracy. I have fantasies that, one of these days, one of these d00ds screws up and says, “besides, sweetie, you should be home having babies and keeping your husband happy and let a well-deserving man have your job. We’d be willing to pay him better.” In my fantasy, the woman in question has a tape recorder and wins a massive settlement and a review of salaries as prelude to making them equal across gender lines.

    I have a rich fantasy life.

  2. Dr. Crazy on 18 May 2010 at 7:26 am #

    You know, but here’s the thing. Peer colleague “was hired as a full professor and negotiated a higher salary than what his nearest peer colleague (that’s me) was making.” From FSP’s narrative, it sounds like she was hired as an assistant professor and promoted up through the ranks at one institution. I am NOT at all saying that patriarchy is not at work here (I think that the whole “I’m giving all the resources to the boys who rank beneath you” thing is BS) BUT I also think that once one reaches the associate rank, it’s pretty clearly the norm for both men and women that in order to keep one’s salary on the upward move one needs to do one of three things: 1) change jobs, so that one can negotiate an uncompressed salary; 2) get another job offer, so that one can renegotiate salary at one’s current institution (though at my institution they have a history of saying, “enjoy your new job” and refusing to play, so this is a risk); 3) move into an administrative position that will give your salary a permanent bump, even after returning to a faculty role (though of course this means that one needs to work in that admin position for a few years).

    So. Is it fair that FSP’s less productive peer is making more than she does? No. But I do think that her situation is pretty typical for academics at mid-career generally. For female academics at mid-career specifically? From what I can tell, one is NEVER going to get treated equitably by asking one’s dean nicely or by being a “team player” who allows resources to go elsewhere even when one has earned them for herself.

  3. May on 18 May 2010 at 7:28 am #

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Women will never win even when they do everything right in their careers.

  4. wini on 18 May 2010 at 7:48 am #

    At my institution, the only people that got raises last year were female full professors. That went a huge way towards solving our salary inequities.

    To address Dr. Crazy’s point, it seems to me that the requirement that we either move or change jobs is also patriarchal equilibrium. Most of the female faculty I know are partnered with other academics (hard to move) or partnered with people in jobs that are hard to rip up and move. On the other hand, in my hallway right now, all but one of the men is married to a stay at home parent or freelancer. (And the last male is married to my colleague.) Telling someone that has put roots down in a community that “oh, didn’t you know, the game (whose rules were written by men) says that you have to pull up those roots and shuffle your family around unwillingly in order to get paid what ‘the market’ says you’re worth,” not acceptable. One of my single female colleagues was just complaining about this the other day, too. How she’d like to be partnered one day, although it is not central to her world. She’s in her mid-30s and really feels like she’d like to have the option of having kids one day. Moving across the country for better lab space right now would be a decision to probably never have kids, and she doesn’t want to be forced into that decision just so she can make enough money to one day support said kids. Again, our male colleagues often have their first kids around 45, so this isn’t an issue for them.

    In addition, there is lots of research out there about how when female employees get a counter offer and negotiate a higher salary they are subsequently punished in the workplace for their success in negotiation. I don’t know the citations for this (but I’d be happy to look later in the day), but I got to see a great presentation on it at the Gender Equity forum at my university.

  5. FrauTech on 18 May 2010 at 8:32 am #

    The hardest part for me is not getting the cookies.

  6. Historiann on 18 May 2010 at 8:38 am #

    Dr. Crazy: many of the commenters over at FSP’s place made the same comment you did, which is to tell FSP to move (or at least go on interviews and get some counter-offers.) This might work to temporarily ameliorate her own salary, but the larger system stays in place. Let’s say she moves *and* negotiates perfectly an awesome salary. In that case, the department Chair or college Dean might then work really, really hard to ameliorate the effects of compression on all of teh poor, poor menz in that department. Or, she might be otherwise punished by her new colleagues because of her successful negotiating strategy. Or both.

    The point of my post here is not to give FSP career advice, as though there’s a magical solution to pay inequity that we dumb broads could find if only we did this or that, or if only we avoided this or that. The point is to highlight how, even in the face of demonstrated and recognized superiority in her research, the administrator in this story has rationalized once again passing around the plate of cookies only to the men in her department.

  7. Historiann on 18 May 2010 at 8:39 am #

    Frau Tech: you will never get cookies. Never! Nor the rich, creamy whole milk.

  8. Emma on 18 May 2010 at 9:41 am #

    Talk to a lawyer.

  9. thefrogprincess on 18 May 2010 at 9:58 am #

    And by the Dean’s Office baking cookies and warming up milk, we do mean the Dean’s wife is doing the baking and warming, right?

  10. Historiann on 18 May 2010 at 10:04 am #

    Depends. Not all Deans are married to women, or want to be married to women. (But, good point, thefrogprincess.)

  11. Janice on 18 May 2010 at 10:07 am #

    Yes, strange, isn’t it, that when men face these problems as junior faculty, it’s the administrator’s duty to help them but when women are facing the consequences, it’s because they didn’t negotiate tough enough? If I was FSP, I would be pushing very hard on this because you just know that next year, unless it is MORE spectacular than this year, she’ll be told that “Well, you should have asked for a raise last year when your package was better.”

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, but if you don’t try, you’re even worse off!

  12. Notorious Ph.D. on 18 May 2010 at 10:23 am #

    Okay, you’ve just inspired a post (for when I get home) on how and what to negotiate for. I mean, getting the job is such an outside game that nobody really tells outgoing PhDs how to do this one, last, critical part of the job search. I know that I had no idea I *could* negotiate for a better salary.

    Cogitating…

  13. John S. on 18 May 2010 at 10:32 am #

    Notorious: please let me know when you post it. Having just learned yesterday that I am one of the lower paid Asst Profs in my dept–despite the fact that I have more seniority than the others and am at a higher step on the “official” wage scale–I would like some pointers. Or at least to know where I went wrong.

  14. fannie on 18 May 2010 at 11:26 am #

    Yet, when women negotiate for higher salaries, they are perceived as “bitchy.”

    I know this is old news, but:

    “Although it may well be true that women often hurt themselves by not trying to negotiate, this study found that women’s reluctance was based on an entirely reasonable and accurate view of how they were likely to be treated if they did. Both men and women were more likely to subtly penalize women who asked for more — the perception was that women who asked for more were ‘less nice.’”

  15. Historiann on 18 May 2010 at 11:40 am #

    Fannie, it is old news, but it’s still our operating reality. Women get penalized for not asking (as in the case FSP reports), or they get penalized for asking.

    Commenter Indyanna mentioned this article to me last weekend, but it was such a hot mess of contradictions that I decided I couldn’t really say much beyond that. But, I bring it to your attention, since it turns out that it’s relevant to today’s post and this thread.

    Don’t miss this exciting, and totally bewildering, advice:

    And if you’re thinking about using an outside offer to help negotiate a raise, take heed. It’s effective, but Ms. Riley Bowles said her studies have found that it tends to leave a more negative impression on women. “Women may need to be more strategic than men about how they raise an outside offer so that it doesn’t put them in a negative light,” she added.

    Got that? So, apparently the people here and over at FSP’s place who told her to get a counter-offer have found another way for FSP to blow it. And it will still be all her fault!

  16. cgeye on 18 May 2010 at 11:54 am #

    So, this is hell.

    And WTF about the mens procreating at 45? It’s as if they expect women to take care of their kids while they build their career, while they get the high-level jobs, *and* when they keel over in their 60s due to overwork. Their female peers don’t win (pregnancies get harder, and timing never works, and don’t start me on the whole FMLA mess we’ve discussed), and the wives don’t win, either. Everyone but the men has to act like they’re spinsters, or in a single-parent family. It’s as if they want successive generations of kids of academics to hate academia itself.

  17. koshem bos on 18 May 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    It’s not a very convincing post/case. Newcomers at a high rank tend to get higher pay than equally ranked old timers. It hardly serves as a proof for women’s lower pay (which on the average is).

    “Merit” is a measure of your success and people’s perception of your “merit.” The latter is quite significant. Therefore, to claim that merit is a tangible measure is unrealistic. There are always hot air blowers who are considered big success without much justification.

  18. Susan on 18 May 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    The real thing is to organize all the women and have a class complaint for equity across campus. Because it’s not a personal issue, and the solution should not be personal.

  19. Historiann on 18 May 2010 at 2:04 pm #

    “it’s not a personal issue, and the solution should not be personal.”

    Susan–haven’t you gotten the memo yet? We’re all Postfeminist now! We won! Equality has arrived! (Unless it hasn’t, and in those cases it’s the fault of women for having children/taking time off of work/being less aggressive/being more focused on the success of the group and not their own success/not neotiating their salaries more effectively/being too aggressive/not being team players/being complainers, etc.)

  20. Indyanna on 18 May 2010 at 2:07 pm #

    Well, but the “decider” in question spoke to the issue of “perception” with the phrase “specacular.” Whether newcomers “tend to” do better is an empirical question. The question on the table here is what the decider can and will do about it, given the reality of “what few extra” resources (a linguistically pregnant category if there ever was one) are available to him. He didn’t say “look, this is what I’d *like* to do, but this is what I think I *need* to do,” and then use a little of the “few extra resources” to try to at least make a gesture of support for the value of “spectacular” results, while still helping out the fledglings. He didn’t say I’ve already spoken to the big guy, and next year, *he’s* the one who is going to have to sit tight so I can work on all aspects of the problem over time. He didn’t say I’ve taken this matter to the College level to try to augment my “few extra resources.” He just enunciated a mechanistic solution that left FSP hung up between the bases, left the Big Guy feeling presumably even more privileged than before, gave the newcomers reason not to worry about it too much at this point, and enunciated the principle that your situation is more important than what you DO in your situation.

    I’d “work to rule” on the basis of that kind of information, and if you’re tenured, “rule” is presumably pretty much whatever you want it to be. But the fact that a term like “work to rule” is in my vocabulary is an indication that I’m in a unionized faculty, and I don’t even have any idea what an “annual salary exercise” is. There are plusses and minuses in a circumstance like that. “Moving on steps” is what we do. Contributions to knowledge are for fun, not profit.

  21. fannie on 18 May 2010 at 2:44 pm #

    “And if you’re thinking about using an outside offer to help negotiate a raise, take heed. It’s effective, but Ms. Riley Bowles said her studies have found that it tends to leave a more negative impression on women. ‘Women may need to be more strategic than men about how they raise an outside offer so that it doesn’t put them in a negative light,’ she added.”

    I….ummm….thanks?

  22. Historiann on 18 May 2010 at 5:09 pm #

    Yeah, clear as mud, ain’t it? Well, they have to keep up the confuse-a-cat games to maintain that wage gap!

  23. LadyProf on 18 May 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    Years ago when I was disgruntled about my unfairly low salary, I did just what CPP advises on the FSP thread: told the bossman that I would leave if I got a better offer. Got a better offer without even trying/applying–that’s how easy it was for any school to come up with something better than my pittance at School #1.

    Ace in the hole? Not quite. Consistent with what that awful NYT story reports, Bossman replied that just because some other dude out there had taken leave of his senses didn’t mean he had to do the same. As parents used to say to their teenagers: would you jump off a bridge just because everyone else was doing so?

    Took the offer and what do you know, it was just as Historiann called it! The poor poor menz at School #2 felt emasculated by being out-earned by a lady, and so over the next few years my new boss had to allocate all the salary money to these gentlemen, leaving none for me. Feeling dissed, I decided to leave for a third school, this time collecting no salary boost.

    I’m resigned to working at a discount. Pay equity won’t happen in my lifetime. Oh, and women in my discipline are expected to do more (and more tedious) committee work than what men have to do.

  24. LadyProf on 18 May 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    Another postscript on the NYT story: The expert they quoted, Hannah Riley Bowles, told all the women reading that even though there’s no negotiation strategy that will work, women have to try, because they are letting down the side when they’re paid less than men:

    “People associate men with higher pay because men tend to hold higher-paying and higher-level positions than women,” Ms. Riley Bowles said. “When a woman negotiates persuasively for higher compensation, she clears the path for other women to follow.”

    Whatever you’re doing, ur doin’ it rong.

  25. LadyProf on 18 May 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    Sorry about that! I did see fannie’s comment but got distracted while posting.

  26. Comrade PhysioProf on 18 May 2010 at 8:22 pm #

    Years ago when I was disgruntled about my unfairly low salary, I did just what CPP advises on the FSP thread: told the bossman that I would leave if I got a better offer.

    I hope you will forgive me for clarifying here that my suggestion on FSP’s post was not meant to imply that it is OK that FSP’s administrator fucked her over, not to imply that FSP somehow deserved being treated that way. My only point was that asshole administrators do not give a flying fuck about what is or isn’t fair or equitable or decent; all they care about is consequences. And by deploying the language of fairness, equity, and decency with an asshole administrator, rather than the language of consequences–good and/or bad–you are giving the green light to the administrator to keep fucking you over.

  27. Historiann on 18 May 2010 at 8:51 pm #

    Heh. It’s like I’m psychic or something, eh LadyProf?

    CPP: I don’t think anyone disagrees with your advice. (At least, I don’t. I’ve also done what LadyProf reports, which is to leave a bad job for a better one that also paid me better.) What I think many of us are skeptical of is Riley Bowles’s comment that “when a woman negotiates persuasively for higher compensation, she clears the path for other women to follow.” Some of us have been able to ameilorate our circumstances for a little while, but it never seems to change anything. (That is, as LadyProf and FSP report, when a woman manages to get something, that becomes an impetus in & of itself to scramble to make sure that that woman doesn’t keep the lead in anything, let alone “clear the path for other women to follow.”

    Patriarchal equilibrium ‘n’stuff, you know.

  28. Emma on 19 May 2010 at 8:19 am #

    When employers choose to pay women less — as has been done here — it’s not women’s “lack” of “negotiating skills” that are at fault. How does one negotiate a fait accompli? “Hello, I’m not going to give you money you richly deserve. I’ve decided to give it to men who are less qualified than you to ‘encourage’ them to become just as qualified as you so that I can then pay them more than you on the fiction that they negotiated better than you.” Yes, please, “negotiate” that.

    The deck is stacked and noone can successfully negotiate against a stacked deck. It is, first and foremost, stacked with the assumption that women deserve less and it’s perfectly okay to pay them less. It’s stacked by secrecy of wage information. It’s stacked by society always blaming women for getting paid less. “Employer paying you less than your male colleagues? Congratulations! It’s all your fault!!” Thank you, New York Times.

    The person in this post did NOT fail to negotiate successfully. The person in this post has been discriminated against because her employer has chosen to give money to younger male employees rather than her, and pays a comparable male employee more than her. There’s nothing to “negotiate” here unless the negotiation is backed up by threat of legal action.

    I was OK with the plan Really? REALLY?!? Why, for fuck’s sake, would ANYBODY be okay with a plan that took money away from her and gave it to much less qualified individuals?! If it’s really all about women being piss-poor negotiators, well than the piss-poor negotiating continues! But, of course, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the administrator coming up with a “plan” of discrimination and relying on the NY Times to tell you it’s your fault b/c you didn’t “negotiate” your way out of it 15 years ago.

  29. FrauTech on 19 May 2010 at 8:40 am #

    Yup, damned if you do and damned if you don’t. To carry the cookie thing a little further, my manager’s wife makes some mean cookies. I’m always afraid to bake, because then you’re branded as a woman who bakes! Not serious enough! Probably not competent at my job if I also have room in my head for baking skills. Though, maybe bringing cookies to my next salary negotiation would be helpful.

    I was thinking about that episode of Mad Men from the first season when what’s his name (I stopped watching) brings his boss home for dinner and the wife has to cook for and impress the boss, and how “common” that was for up and comers in that era. I recently went to an outside event where several senior people would be present. I told my husband it was his job to make like a 1950′s housewife and make me look good :) the advantages of the private sector, at least we have a few…

  30. Historiann on 19 May 2010 at 8:42 am #

    Emma: I agree with you here, but when FSP wrote “I was OK with the plan,” I can understand that, too. Along with another Associate Professor, I advanced a motion a few years ago that voted untenured people in their first three years in our department an extra portion of travel money so that they could get to conferences and do their research. We did this because we realized that bad, bad things were going to happen very shortly, and we wanted to give our new hires a little extra dough as well as a signal that we acknowledged their plight and wanted to make a good faith effort to show we support their work.

    So, before the conversation turned to FSP’s allegedly poor skills negotiating her startup salary, I can see why FSP was initially inclined to support the plan to redirect some funds downward. After all, as she explains, “My so-called “spectacular” year was made possible in part by the fact that I am a mid-career professor with an established research group that is functioning well. My younger colleagues are still building their research programs, and the contents of their annual reports should therefore by viewed in this context, rather than by a strict comparison of numbers of publications or grants etc.”

    That’s the kind of senior colleague most junior faculty want to have. I recognize that I was given the benefit of the doubt when I was new, and had colleagues who deferred to my research needs by picking up more service and supporting my applications for competitive in-house research grants. So my sense is that FSP was paying it forward, as my colleague and I were trying to do with our travel money.

    This is the good part of tenure: it permits senior colleagues to be more generous than they otherwise might be inclined. (But, my generosity would have turned right at the point that FSP’s generosity turned.)

  31. Historiann on 19 May 2010 at 8:49 am #

    FrauTech: I think you’re referring to the scene in which Don brings Roger Sterling home, and Betty not only had to cook but had to endure Roger’s drunken groping of her. Good times!

    Yeah–I’m with you on the no-baking rule. I don’t really bake outside of Christmas cookies–who’s got the time, and who needs the carbs?–but purely on principle, I will never bake for students or colleagues. Most women, whatever their personal lives and choices, have to fight against the expectation that we be all warm, nurturing, and maternal, so I don’t want to give any mixed signals about that. At work, I’m the wire monkey mom, if you know what I mean.

  32. Emma on 19 May 2010 at 9:14 am #

    This is the good part of tenure: it permits senior colleagues to be more generous than they otherwise might be inclined. (But, my generosity would have turned right at the point that FSP’s generosity turned.)

    With all due respect, if you want pay equity you have to understand that you’re going to have to screw somebody else to get it. The time to be generous is after you’ve achieved pay equity, not before.

    If women want pay equity, somebody is going to have to pay for it. You know who understands this? Women who sue universities for not complying with Title IX and the universities who have to cut men’s sports programs to comply with it. Do you think for a second that the women and lawyers who sued to get better opportunities for women spent a second wringing their hands over the fate of the men’s wresting program and how awful it’s going to be for those men when their program is cut? No! A thousand times no!!

    Inequality costs you, achieving equality costs those who benefit from your inequality. Which bill would your rather have paid?

    Money is tight everywhere. Would you rather the consequences of that be distributed on a gender-equal or gender-unequal basis? It’s a zero-sum game, figure out who you want to get the zero and who you want to get the sum.

  33. Historiann on 19 May 2010 at 9:18 am #

    Emma–as I said, I agree with your analysis. I was trying to explain why initially FSP was on board with the “fairness” plan outlined by the administrator. Initially she was–but then she changed her mind when it became clear that the administrator wasn’t acting out of “fairness” to everyone.

  34. Emma on 19 May 2010 at 9:41 am #

    I’m not trying to blame either you or FSP for the actions of others. Since I’m a lawyer, I think like a lawyer, and react like a lawyer.

    I have seen women who think that their 5, 10, 15, 20+ of putting up with unequal treatment somehow makes them “better” employees who, after all, only were thinking about the good of their employer. But tolerating discrimination doesn’t make one a good employee who deserves good treatment. It makes one a woman who wasn’t discriminated against. After all, if you approved paying junior men more money, how could it be discrimination?

    It’s a dynamic that employers depend upon to continue their unfair treatment. And I understand your position — get out of dysfunctional employment relationships as soon as possible. But then, you end up with this:

    I’m resigned to working at a discount. Pay equity won’t happen in my lifetime. Oh, and women in my discipline are expected to do more (and more tedious) committee work than what men have to do.

    No, it won’t “happen”. That’s true. Unless you take CPP’s advice:

    And by deploying the language of fairness, equity, and decency with an asshole administrator, rather than the language of consequences–good and/or bad–you are giving the green light to the administrator to keep fucking you over.

    I’m not trying to blame anybody. I’m trying to make the dynamics at play very clear. And “you are never going to get the cookies” does not illuminate the dynamic or sugggest corrective action so much as it encourages women to settle because, you know, pay equity will never happen, anyway.

    There is a chance to get the cookies, if you’re willing to upset the cookie cart.

  35. LadyProf on 20 May 2010 at 6:07 pm #

    No, I don’t think so, Emma. I got a big pay raise when I moved several years ago, and in relative terms I have now lost it, because it enraged too many d00dz. Colleagues and bosses have agreed that it’s wrongity-wrong for a woman to be paid more than a cohort of men.

    What’s the right response? Threaten to quit again, get blown off (because my salary already appears WAY high, for a girl you know, and the d00dz are complaining about being emasculated), quit, move, provoke patriarchal equilibrium again, get no raises again, threaten to quit again, get blown off, etc.? Although I loves me some pay equity, I can’t make an obsession of it; I have work to do.

    I hope I have done enough to transfer the distribution of cookies, because I don’t have any more to give.

  36. Historiann on 20 May 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    LadyProf: I’m sorry.

    Of course, no one wants to take wage discrimination sitting down. But this is not a problem that individuals can solve–even for themselves in their own lives.

    I’d like to believe the fantasy that *one* of us can change anything. But, I’m afraid I’ve lived and worked too long. I’m over that fantasy. I know this will sound defeatest, but to anyone who thinks that, I say good luck. Maybe you can do better than every other woman before you. Maybe you are the woman to whom the rules of history won’t apply. I hope that’s the case, but I remain doubtful.

  37. LadyProf on 21 May 2010 at 12:01 am #

    Thanks, Historiann. Your being sorry makes me feel abashed–my jobs haven’t been a bad gig in the scheme of things. But your point about the Whiggish narrative is brilliant, your takedown of the NY Times article the best one I’ve seen.

  38. Emma on 21 May 2010 at 8:44 am #

    What’s the right response?

    Talk to a lawyer and sue if you can. I don’t belieive that’s the “right” response — people choose not to litigate, or litigate, for all sorts of reasons. The “right” response is what allows you to live your life in a way that works for you. And one can’t drag a plaintiff into the courthouse kicking and screaming.

    But there is a mechanism out there which is meant to address pay inequity. It’s not perfect, it doesn’t always work, it requires plaintiffs to do a lot of work and take a lot of risks, and the relief is often partial. All that is true. And if you don’t want to do it, that’s a perfectly acceptable choice for whatever reason.

    You don’t have to do anything, especially you don’t have to sue if you don’t want to. But the mechanism to obtain relief exists whether you choose to try to engage it or not.

  39. LadyProf on 21 May 2010 at 10:27 am #

    Emma, at job #1 I did talk to a lawyer. Several, actually: very few lawyers are willing to take employment discrimination cases because the doctrine is so anti-plaintiff and even if you win there’s little money.

    I filed a complaint with the state human rights commission. (Because doing so isn’t technically suing, I thought it would be a safer path; I wanted to avoid being attacked as a litigious troublemaker. This part of my plan actually succeeded.) My lawyer said my chances were remote, and he was right: I was complaining about a salary considerably higher than that of my female investigator. It was considerably lower than that of inferior male colleagues, of course, but in the eyes of this decider, I was a whiny spoiled richbitch.

    Check out the literature on sex discrimination claims made by academics and you’ll see my experience is perfectly typical. It’s better than par, actually, in that I escaped being branded as litigious and crazy. I have no idea where you got the notion that female professors can use the law to attain fair pay. “It’s not perfect, it doesn’t always work, it requires plaintiffs to do a lot of work and take a lot of risks, and the relief is often partial” sounds modest, but in fact it grossly overstates the odds that one will succeed.

  40. Emma on 21 May 2010 at 4:31 pm #

    I have no idea where you got the notion that female professors can use the law to attain fair pay.

    Maybe because I’m a plaintiff’s employment lawyer?

    I’m sorry things turned out for you as they did. Yes, state human rights commissions and the EEOC are largely useless.

  41. LadyProf on 21 May 2010 at 5:41 pm #

    Emma, the federal trial courts are pretty horrible too, from what I hear, and getting worse now that the Supreme Court has demanded that plaintiffs more or less prove their whole case at the complaint stage, before they can start discovery.

    As a plaintiff’s employment lawyer, have you ever won a good result–settlement or jury verdict–for a female academic client with a wage discimination claim? Hell, I’d be happy to hear about a good result for an academic client with any kind of sex discrimination claim: I’m told that fighting a tenure denial is just as bleak.

    (Apologies to all if my conversation with Emma isn’t of general interest.)

  42. Emma on 23 May 2010 at 8:43 am #

    I have gotten a few decent settlement for academics on the community college level. I don’t get a ton of cases since not very many profs walk through my door or call my office.

  43. Emma on 24 May 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    In my experience, one of the hardest things about employment discrimination in academia is that nobody — man or woman — will rat out the discriminatory hiring decisions or discriminatory decision makers.

    In particular, because tenure is enshrined in the law as so entirely, essentially, and unchangeably subjective, you really need highly placed people who are willing to rat out the bias and discrimination. Much more so than in other work environments where at least there’s a play at objectivity.

    It reminds me of the poster here awhile ago who said she witnessed an academic hiring decision that was blatantly discriminatory but, for her own reasons, she did not challenge it in any way or even tell the non-hired woman the real reason for her not being hired.

    If people are not willing to come forward, then no, things aren’t going to change. I don’t say any of this to make moral judgments, but to describe the reality. I’m sorry that so much of the onus is on you, truly I am. But the reality is that it is. One woman probably won’t change anything because, in your field, she absolutely needs the support of women and men who are in a position to know the truth of what happened.