Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

February 22, 2010

The Glass Ceiling

I want to share with you a fascinating article from Jezebel Online Magazine. Do you read Jezebel? I'd encourage you all to do so. There's a lot of crap, I'll grant, and a lot of stuff I find very wrong-headed, but it certainly has its finger on the pulse of modern women. Modern secular women, that is. Anyway, in this article author Latoya Peterson discusses many recent articles that look at the lack of women in executive roles on Wall Street and in the business world.

It's an interesting article, and worth perusing; it puts the blame on culture which I think is fair, but not nuanced enough. Yes, our culture still hasn't figured out that balance between equality for women in the workplace and encouraging our natural inclinations towards motherhood. But it's not an either or question: it's a both and answer.

That is: women of equal merit should have no barriers to earning the same salary, to obtaining the same positions, etc. as men do. But, society also ought to support the choice to be a mother. Nor should it put motherhood in opposition to careers (and both sides do this!) This is a huge problem, and one I hope to start discussing more on the blog because, as a young women who doesn't have motherhood in her immediate future, and is trying to make a life for herself (and that necessarily means a career), I do have to grapple with these questions, and often.

But I don't have an answer today. But its something I want to begin discussing pretty regularly on the blog. In the meantime, lets roll up our sleeves and get to work.

UPDATE: Sorry gals, here's the article.

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Speaking of women in the workplace--though the FOX show House, M.D. is almost totally unrealistic--one could do worse than modelling oneself after Dr. Cutty, Dean of Medicine, and an all around tough-as-nails-won't-get-pushed-around administrator, and yet still has the heart of a women. In a recent episode, they showed the whole day from her perspective. "5 tom 9" was the best episode of this season, and a real treat to watch:

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Dear Magdalenes:

An acquaintance of mine, and a fine scholar, Dr. Walter Block of Loyola University in New Orleans and the Ludwig von Mises Institute got in trouble with the PC Police at Loyola in Baltimore for speaking the truth about the question of the glass ceiling. A link to one of his articles on the subject is here:

This link also describes the dispute that arose thanks to the PC Police.

"Section II, The Lecture" summarizes his arguments on the subject and is pertinent to your questions.

I'd like to higlight the main point. In a market free of political interference, it is very difficult for actual wage discrimination to occur because of the tendency for all workers to be paid their marginal product. Employers who single out any group and pay them a wage below their marginal product because they are members of that group open up a profit opportunity to any employer who does not care about their group membership. The latter employer can bid away the productivity of the members of that group by offering a higher wage even if that wage is still below their marginal product. But then other employers can still bid away the group members from him, and the process tends to continue until the members of the group would all be paid their marginal product, which is the same as the (free) market wage.

Since entrepreneurs' knowledge is imperfect, this does not have to happen immediately, but there will nevertheless be a decided tendency in this direction because the function of the entrepreneur is to recognize opportunities such as this. Which is why Block argues that a discriminatory situation "cannot long endure."

His explanation of why married women tend to be less productive on average speaks for itself, as do his statistics that show that among the never married, male and female, there is no wage gap, as there is none among the young not-yet-married.

In light of this analysis, I would take issue with some of your comments. There is nothing for "our culture" (whoever that is) to figure out regarding the workplace or motherhood, except perhaps to just leave the market alone. As long as women are on average less productive in the workplace (an opportunity cost of being married and having children) they will on average be paid less than men. For some remarkable women (like your mom, Maggie) productivity in the workplace will not suffer in spite of marriage, and they will be compensated accordingly. For some unremarkable men, even the benefits of a well-ordered home life managed by a worthy wife will not make up for their lack of productivity, and their reward in the workplace will suffer accordingly.

You say "society should support the choice to be a mother." Do not "reify" concepts that do not refer to actual things. "Society," like "culture" is not a sentient being with reason and will--it does not act, it does not support or inhibit. Talking this way leads to analytical mistakes. What you need to say is that there should be no political interference, no coercion, no "legislation" (I will not dignify it with the name law) that forces people into paths they would prefer not to choose. In this sense you are quite correct to say that the answer is a both/and answer--in the absense of coercion a woman may effectively choose whichever options are most suitable for her well-being.


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