Saturday, April 27, 2019

A Widening Gender Gap

Reality bites. It bites more fiercely when you have conjured up an idealistic view of human behavior and then imagine that the marketplace is going to accommodate your adolescent illusions. That means, reality bites when two young professionals marry and discover that she is the one who becomes a mother and that he is the one who becomes the breadwinner. Whoever imagined such an injustice?

Claire Cain Miller reports this ghastly phenomenon, but offers an analysis that downplays the role that gender might play. She remarks that more and more high intensity executive jobs require people to be on call all the time, to work ungodly long hours. By the way, the people, mostly men, who do these jobs are very well rewarded for their efforts, but they can only do the jobs and have a family if their wives are on call all the time at home.

In our age of networked communications, an executive must be available all the time. A client in Shanghai needs to talk to you. It’s 3:00 a.m. You talk to the client. If you don’t do it, if you are not available, your client will stop doing business with you. In a competitive marketplace, if you do not put in the extra time, someone else will do it.

We will mention in passing, because no one seems to care about it, and because even Miller does not report it, but if a woman spends more time on the job she will be neglecting her children. Working part time, as the woman Miller profiles does, might be a very good thing for children. And, hopefully we have all gotten over the notion that toxic males are adequate mother substitutes.

Miller de-emphasizes the role of gender. Thus, she considers it a problem to be solved, a blip on the path to gender equality. So she argues, and reports on the works of feminist theorists, to the effect that the workplace should restructure itself to accommodate feminist fantasies. 

This would make it possible for more men to remain at the pinnacle of their professions while spending less time on call. Since the global marketplace, and the competition coming from around the world has produced this system, the natural conclusion would be that feminists need to convince everyone everywhere to change the way they work and the way they bring up children. It sounds like a pipe dream, because it is a pipe dream.

This propagandizing will produce one singular result. Some men, having taken the bait, will work less, will demand more time to care for their children, and will fall behind in the race to corporate excellence. Then, their wives will disparage them as losers. If you think that this is an easy problem, think again.

Miller blames the structure of work. It is easier than imagining that it might have something to do with human nature.  Or with the fact that children do better when they are brought up by their mothers. 

So, here is the profiled couple:

Daniela Jampel and Matthew Schneid met in college at Cornell, and both later earned law degrees. They both got jobs at big law firms, the kind that reward people who make partner with seven-figure pay packages.

One marriage and 10 years later, she works 21 hours a week as a lawyer for New York City, a job that enables her to spend two days a week at home with their children, ages 5 and 1, and to shuffle her hours if something urgent comes up. He’s a partner at a midsize law firm and works 60-hour weeks — up to 80 if he’s closing a big deal — and is on call nights and weekends. He earns four to six times what she does, depending on the year.

It isn’t the way they’d imagined splitting the breadwinning and the caregiving. But he’s been able to be so financially successful in part because of her flexibility, they said. “I’m here if he needs to work late or go out with clients,” Ms. Jampel said. “Snow days are not an issue. I do all the doctor appointments on my days off. Really, the benefit is he doesn’t have to think about it. If he has to work late or on weekends, he’s not like, ‘Oh my gosh, who’s going to watch the children?’ The thought never crosses his mind.”

Is this a bad thing? Is this a problem? Is something wrong with having a mother who is so totally responsible that her husband never has to think about the children? These two people have jobs, roles and function that complement each other. If it had happened that he needed to worry about whether or not someone was caring for his children, he would lose focus at work and would be less effective. He would also not be as well rewarded.

True enough, his wife has a law degree also. But, ask yourself this: if she were a neglectful mother, abandoning her children to an army of Nannies, would she be as effective a lawyer as he is.

So, in certain jobs, being on call all the time is an advantage. Theorists blame it on the economy and on certain types of jobs, the types that own your time. If you are going to be making large sums of money and if you bear executive responsibility, your time will not be your own. You can blame it on the advent of the greedy professions, but the truth is, most women do not want to do such jobs. They do not gain what men gain by moving up the status hierarchy.

Miller blames it on telecommunications and of a networked work world. And the system of international free trade. As for whether the gender disparity is unintentional, one might point out that it has nearly always been the case that women spend more time bringing up their children an making a home. It’s nice to have a new scapegoat, but, in truth, the reality is far more complex.

She writes:

The returns to working long, inflexible hours have greatly increased. This is particularly true in managerial jobs and what social scientists call the greedy professions, like finance, law and consulting — an unintentional side effect of the nation’s embrace of a winner-take-all economy. It’s so powerful, researchers say, that it has canceled the effect of women’s educational gains.

Just as more women earned degrees, the jobs that require those degrees started paying disproportionately more to people with round-the-clock availability. At the same time, more highly educated women began to marry men with similar educations, and to have children. But parents can be on call at work only if someone is on call at home. Usually, that person is the mother.

In other words, the absurd feminist illusion of men and women sharing equally home making and child rearing was a lie. As was the illusion of men and women having equal careers. Motherhood makes that largely impossible. But, again, we have no indications that women, regardless, are willing to make the sacrifices needed to be on call all the time. After all, rising up the status hierarchy will make a woman less attractive to men. It will produce the opposite effect for men.

This is not about educated women opting out of work (they are the least likely to stop working after having children, even if they move to less demanding jobs). It’s about how the nature of work has changed in ways that push couples who have equal career potential to take on unequal roles.

“Because of rising inequality, if you put in the extra hours, if you’re around for the Sunday evening discussion, you’ll get a lot more,” said Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard who is writing a book on the topic. To maximize the family’s income but still keep the children alive, it’s logical for one parent to take an intensive job and the other to take a less demanding one, she said. “It just so happens that in most couples, if there’s a woman and a man, the woman takes the back seat.”

Women don’t step back from work because they have rich husbands, she said. They have rich husbands because they step back from work.

So, it’s a trade-off. A woman who wants to see her husband succeed to the point of accumulating riches, will step back from work and will be on call at home all the time. If she does not want to do that, her husband’s career prospects will suffer. And he might blame her when he falls behind his cohorts. 

Of course, in the old days, when men fought wars, women stayed home and cared for children.

Overwork is most extreme in managerial jobs and in the greedy professions, a term coined by the sociologist Lewis Coser in 1974 to describe institutions that “seek exclusive and undivided loyalty.” (Rose Laub Coser, a sociologist and his wife, also used it to describe the expectations of motherhood). But overwork (or at least time in the office or online, regardless of whether much work is getting done) has become increasingly common in more jobs, whether it’s accounting, information technology or any job in which someone’s manager stays late or sends emails on weekends and expects employees to follow suit.

Technology is one reason for the change, researchers say; workers are now more easily reachable and can do more work remotely. Also, business has become more global, so people are working across time zones. A big driver is the widening gap between the highest and lowest earners, and increasingly unstable employment. More jobs requiring advanced degrees are up-or-out — make partner or leave, for example. Even if they aren’t, work has become more competitive, and long hours have become a status symbol.

“The reward to become the winner is a lot higher now than in the past,” Ms. Cha said. “You have to stick out among workers, and one way is by your hours.”

Researchers are especially concerned about women’s unused career potential.

With the rise of college-educated, dual-earner power couples, it was realistic to imagine that two people could each work in jobs at the top of their fields and share the duties at home. But at the same time as work became more demanding, family life changed, too.

People are increasingly marrying people with similar educations and career potential — a doctor is likely to be married to another doctor instead of a nurse. Yet the pay gap between husbands and wives is biggest for those with higher education and white-collar jobs. Some parents on elite career paths each continue on them and outsource child care, while others decide not to maximize their family earnings and each take lower-paying, more flexible jobs. But researchers say that because of the changes in work and family, many educated couples are finding that couple equity is out of reach — and many women are left with unused career potential.

True enough, women now tend to outperform men in school. How does it happen that the underperformers are more likely to be working their way up the corporate ladder. 

This might or might not be a problem, but we must also note that the academic system is increasingly geared to advantage females. Men are disparaged and denigrated in the American school system, and in some of their European counterparts. Thus, women excel and men tend to slack off. 

But then, once they graduate from school, men have a chance to work in a world that values manly virtues. They might complain that they are being overworked but they are surely willing to go to great lengths to avoid returning to the female centered world where they are treated as toxic excrescences.


trigger warning said...

"The greedy professions"!?? Thanks for the chortle, Schneiderman! Leave it to "social scientists", a group of people who are most notable for being reliably wrong and/or irrelevant, as well as in excess supply in proportion to demand, to come up with such a pietistic, virtue-twerking label.

Wraith said...

"Just as more women earned degrees, the jobs that require those degrees started paying disproportionately more to people with round-the-clock availability."

This is obviously the fault of the Evil Oppressive Patriarchy, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the law of supply and demand. Sexist!

sestamibi said...

The widespread phenomenon of "assortative mating", as you noted, also has contributed significantly to income inequality in the US, an unpleasant reality that most "progressives" won't acknowledge, although I did read an article about it in the NY Times a few years ago.

One example in my own family: my nephew, a surgeon, married another doctor--she's an ob/gyn specialist. Just shows that even among those at the top, hypergamy still rules, as surgery is still more prestigious than ob/gyn work.

David Foster said...

Actually, I thought "greedy professions" was a good label: if refers not to any financial greed on the part of the people doing the work, but to the greed of the profession itself to absorb every hour of a person's life.

Anonymous said...

Time to pass laws to triple the salaries of all professions! All Gender and Diversity Studies professors deserve 6 figure salary.

Anonymous said...

Hell yeah! Triple Jordan Peterson's salary.

Walt said...

Ignoring the male/female paradigm posed here, men can also choose jobs that pay well -enough (though not 7 figures) but meanwhile don't co-opt their entire lives. The issue of man as "corporate slave" goes back to the birth of the Corporate Man in the 1950s and was the subject not only of sociological treatises but popular fiction. Your choice depends on what you value.

Anonymous said...

You may enjoy Chateau's summary of, "Girls, Boys, and High Achievers."

His summary is here:
¡SCIENCE!: Feminism Surrenders Before The Intoxicating Alpha Male
April 26, 2019 by CH

A reader passes along this bombshell April 2019 study which I missed,

CH, you’ve got to check out this recent study – high school aged girls who are around high-achieving guy are less likely to go to college and more likely to have kids. And the effect is even stronger for girls who go to good schools and have a college educated parent. Of course article is positioned as this is a negative, instead of it saying that even young women want to have kids with top men.

trigger warning said...

DF: According to Coser's wife,
motherhood is a "greedy profession". Unless, of course, the Proverbial Credentialed Village raises one's children. Or a nanny, which is affordable only with a "greedy profession".

UbuMaccabee said...

Well, the Guatemalan nanny they hire to raise one anemic crybaby is having 5 healthy kids who will veto their plans for him.

Sam L. said...

Are those REAL-LIFE names?