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Resolved: New Journeys

Jiab Wasserman, 4:06 am ET

WE RETIRED AND MOVED to Spain in 2018. We were excited and eager to explore our new home and a new culture. We traveled a lot, mostly in Spain, but also the rest of Europe and Asia. But since the pandemic started, our travel has been limited.

Indeed, COVID-19 sped our return to Dallas. I’m happy that we’re now closer to our sons, and can see family and friends in person. But having lived in Dallas for 28 years, I already know the city well. Still, I plan to keep exploring—but this year I’ve resolved to take my retirement journey in two different directions.

First, during the ultra-strict Spanish lockdown in early 2020, I discovered my love of drawing and painting, and even set up online art shops. Creating art has helped me deal with the stress of the pandemic and of my mother’s situation. It has become my way of turning off the outside noise. This year, I’ve resolved to continue to draw and paint in my sketchbook every day. Whether that will translate into making more money isn’t important to me, though I’ll admit that I get excited and enjoy the extra validation that comes with selling a piece of art.

My second journey for 2022 is returning to graduate school. Like my husband Jim, I was recently admitted to the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program at the University of Texas at Dallas. My focus will be gender studies and economics.

Why? I spent my career in the male-dominated world of finance and banking, and I’ve written about my experiences and the challenges women face. I’ve also been interviewed about the gender pay gap. It’s an issue I’m passionate about and want to explore in depth. Classes are set to start in late January. I hope that, by drawing on multiple academic disciplines, I’ll have the opportunity to turn my personal experience and interest into a more complete understanding of the issue—and then I want to work to broaden opportunities for women who are still in the game.

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DrLefty
DrLefty
5 months ago

This is anecdotal and not data, but my own experience as a woman in academia for over 30 years has been interesting with regard to pay. I got my first professor job at age 30, and as to pay, I started low and stayed low. I’m not sure if that was because of gender or because I was too young and stupid to know how to negotiate, but I do know that men hired around the same time as me got tenured and promoted more quickly and easily than I did, even though I was a better teacher, publishing regularly, and even chairing committees and directing programs. On the other hand, the job was relatively less stressful in that it focused more heavily on teaching than on publishing, and it worked well for me at the time I had young children, even if the financial rewards were somewhat limited.

Fast forward and my kids are grown and I’m now at a different university. I’m in a humanities division in a STEM university, and the majority of more advanced professors are still men. As a result, there have been several “equity adjustments” based on an algorithm which determined that as a woman in a non-STEM field, I was under-compensated, so I got extra equity raises. Because of this and my own success at the merit increase process, my salary has more than doubled in 13 years from where it was after 18 years at the previous place. At the moment, I’m the highest paid member of my department, a fact that has made a couple of much younger men complain bitterly (salaries at state universities in my state are publicly searchable). So I guess—and again this is anecdotal—I’ve seen some progress over my working life?

[The other thing is the extra labor women take on in the workplace, usually uncompensated or under-compensated. That’s a whole other thing, and I’ve definitely experienced that. I still do to this day.]

Jiab Wasserman
Jiab Wasserman
5 months ago
Reply to  DrLefty

DrLefty,
Thanks for sharing your experience. Even though you said your experience is anecdotal, it happens to many women all over the world and the aggregated data has supported your and my experiences that most women are underpaid. With the requirement for salary transparency, I hope things will get better for women.
Good point about extra unpaid labor, I see it in my friend now who is working in IT and does the extra labor she takes on unpaid. I try to counsel her to stop or let someone (preferably other men in the team) else share the load.

R Quinn
R Quinn
5 months ago

For many reasons, even beyond gender discrimination, historically there has been a gender pay gap. However, do you feel that a woman entering the workforce today or even within the last several years is paid less than a man all factors being equal?

parkslope
parkslope
5 months ago
Reply to  R Quinn

While there is little, if any, gender gap in starting salaries today, women still fall behind their male counterparts over time, especially in higher paying jobs. Much of this gap can be explained by women taking more time off for family responsibilities (e.g., taking longer LOAs, working shorter hours when their children are young). While many would not consider pay gaps that result from working shorter hours due to family responsibilities to be discriminatory, they are still gender pay gaps. Furthermore, because women have smaller salaries after returning to full time work, equal percentage pay increases cause them to fall even further behind over time.

Last edited 5 months ago by parkslope
Jim Wasserman
Jim Wasserman
5 months ago
Reply to  R Quinn

well, Pew research still thinks so (as of 2020) though it is smaller for younger women: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/05/25/gender-pay-gap-facts/. Forbes also thinks it still exists, although factoring in “non-gender” factors such as education, experience, location, and industry, they shrink it to 2%. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomspiggle/2021/05/25/the-gender-pay-gap-why-its-still-here/?sh=4aaa96f07baf) Before we say “Mission accomplished!” however, Forbes goes on to say why that 2% is still significant and can be magnified by other factors. I would also point out that the “non-gender” factors are themselves gender-swayed. If women were not given experience before because of gender bias, for example, it’s problematic to now call experience a non-gender factor. Then there’s covid’s effect. As Forbes points out (and can we agree Forbes is not some left-wing revolutionary periodical?), the gender gap closed in part because covid took a heavier toll on low-wage jobs held more by women, so they were no longer factored into calculating the gender wage gap. Drop the bottom, the gap decreases.

R Quinn
R Quinn
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Wasserman

But the data you sight is aggregate. It includes all the accumulated inequity of the past. Note the gap was smaller for younger women, presumably those in the workforce more recently. My question related to hiring today. Will employers intentionally pay a women less than a man they hire in 2022 for the same job? The past will take time to fix overall, but with our laws and better attitudes it must change.

Jim Wasserman
Jim Wasserman
5 months ago
Reply to  R Quinn

True it is aggregate, but the “older” women who suffered from wage discrimination are still alive and in the workforce. We can’t just write them off and say it’s in the past, let’s just draw a line and look at hiring today. These women need redress for the discrimination against them. Some are nearing retirement and have less to live off of and generally longer lives, so what do we do about them? Also, “Older” is defined as 34+ years, so they have a good 30 years more of working at a reduced rate. Finally, the situation for the younger ones is “better,” but how much wage injustice is tolerable? As long as there is any amount of wage disparity, it is a problem.

And yes, the data says employers STILL discriminate against women in pay, whether it be from basing it on factors with discrimination per-baked in (experience, STEM exclusion), tacitly considering illegal factors (pregnancy), or outright offering less in hiring or as a percentage of previous salary due to non-transparency of wages.

R Quinn
R Quinn
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Wasserman

As a former compensation director, I would like to hear how all the past could be addressed without total disruption of a companies compensation structure. If I wanted to hire a woman who was underpaid in the past, am I responsible to make up the shortfall? Would it be prudent as an employer to do so? Should I give the woman a greater raise than a man being hired in the same position? It may sound simple, but it really isn’t. There are disincentives for employers to hire women in certain cases because when they do so they can immediately throw off their aggregate equal pay stats unless they absorb the full cost of creating equity. Needless to say the discrimination existing is violating scores of federal and local laws.

Jiab Wasserman
Jiab Wasserman
5 months ago
Reply to  R Quinn

See Dr. Lefty as an example. It can be done and it can be disruptive. But underpaid women for doing the same job as men is not an acceptable solution either.

Jim Wasserman
Jim Wasserman
5 months ago
Reply to  R Quinn

So, let me ask you. If you found out your former employer owed you ten of thousands of dollars in back pay you should have gotten but said, “It’s too disruptive to pay you what you should have gotten,” would you let it go? Disruption, let alone deconstruction, is scary to those who support the status quo and is always used as a cudgel against change. The same fear of disruption argument was made about integrating people of color. It’s like saying, “Sure, you’ve been screwed with lower pay and discrimination, but it’s too much a burden on us to make the system fair at this point.” The fact is not everything has to be undone (many companies have already begun to adjust), though some things might. A good start is transparency of all wages with no retaliation by employers for workers disclosing their pay (Cal. Equal Pay Act). No one is asking for women to get a higher raise than a man, but the woman and man should get the SAME pay at the SAME level and that might mean salary adjustment for the lower-paid woman immediately. If that’s a burden on employers, then consider it the bill coming due for the years they underpaid women for their work. Change is hard, but continued discrimination and underpay is harder.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jim Wasserman
Mik Cajon
Mik Cajon
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Wasserman

If the data you suggest is accurate then why don’t companies hire more women to increase profits ??

Last edited 5 months ago by Mik Cajon
Jim Wasserman
Jim Wasserman
5 months ago
Reply to  Mik Cajon

It’s still illegal and can’t be done openly (though, like speeding, some still do it openly), but it is still done de facto. Unfortunately, the same attitude that sees women’s work as worth less pay sees it as less desirable as hiring a man. Much of the gender pay gap is effected surreptitiously (thanks to opacity of salary non-disclosure).

Last edited 5 months ago by Jim Wasserman
Mik Cajon
Mik Cajon
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Wasserman

We can both agree that paying women less than men is illegal, but claiming women are also viewed by same as “less desirable” is your opinion only…I’m curious if you’re as apologetic for other authors on Humble Dollar?

Last edited 5 months ago by Mik Cajon
Jim Wasserman
Jim Wasserman
5 months ago
Reply to  Mik Cajon

I am discussing the issue, one on which I am passionate about; you’ll note that none of my comments are in regard to the author. I can guide you to other pieces on other sites about the same topic about which I wrote similarly, or consider that I taught for many years at an all-girls school where the topic was a recurring subject of discussion.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jim Wasserman
Mik Cajon
Mik Cajon
5 months ago

It appears your career was successful being both a vice-president at BoA and financially able to retire early…we ALL face challenges in life regardless of gender and/or ethnicity…perception is not always reality.

Last edited 5 months ago by Mik Cajon
Mik Cajon
Mik Cajon
5 months ago

Last edited 5 months ago by Mik Cajon

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