[Paleopsych] NYT: At Lunch With Warren Farrell: Are Women Responsible for Their Own Low Pay?

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Business > Your Money > At Lunch With Warren
Farrell: Are Women Responsible for Their Own Low Pay?
February 27, 2005


    DO you think that Lawrence H. Summers, Harvard's president, stirred
    up a hornets' nest by suggesting that women's brains are not
    genetically wired for math or science? Wait until you hear Warren
    Farrell on the subject of women's pay.

    Sure, Dr. Farrell accepts that women, as a group, are paid less than
    men. But the way he sees it, using pay statistics to prove sex
    discrimination is akin to using the horizon to prove that the world is

    Women, he believes, methodically engineer their own paltry pay. They
    choose psychically fulfilling jobs, like librarian or art historian,
    that attract enough applicants for the law of supply and demand to
    kick in and depress pay. They avoid well-paid but presumably risky
    work - hence, the paucity of women flying planes. And they tend to put
    in fewer hours than men - no small point, he says, because people who
    work 44 hours a week make almost twice as much as those who work 34
    and are more likely to be promoted.

    In fact, Dr. Farrell points to subgroups - male and female college
    professors who have never married, or men and women in part-time jobs
    - in which women average higher pay than their male counterparts.
    "Control for all these things, and the women make as much, or more,"
    said Dr. Farrell, 61, whose new book on the shaky myths of pay
    disparity, "Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap
    - and What Women Can Do About It" (Amacom), arrived in bookstores in
    January. "Let's face it: men do a lot of things in the workplace that
    women just don't do."

    Ready to brand him a sexist? Wait, there's more. Dr. Farrell says he
    thinks that the whole debate over gender-linked skills is superfluous.
    "Men may well be hard-wired to be better at math, and women to excel
    at verbal skills, but so what?" he asked. He said the human ability to
    adapt to circumstances and limitations was equally hard-wired, and
    that fascination with a field could easily trump innate abilities.

    It's pretty subversive stuff. But then, Dr. Farrell - the doctorate is
    in political science, "but I walk and talk like a psychologist," he
    said - is accustomed to flouting convention. In the early 1970's, when
    the idea of equality for women still had novelty status, he served on
    the board of the New York chapter of the National Organization for
    Women. In 2003, by then living in San Diego, he unsuccessfully sought
    the Democratic nomination for governor of California on a platform
    promoting legislation to force courts to grant divorced fathers equal
    time with their children. He has a lucrative business as an expert
    witness in custody cases, and in speaking and consulting on fatherhood
    issues. (He has no children, but he has served as a stepdad to

    When a book tour took him to Manhattan recently, he had lunch with a
    reporter at Eleven Madison Park, on Madison Avenue at East 24th
    Street, to elaborate on why, as he phrases it, women should stop
    trying to play off "victim power" and start wielding their true
    earning power.

    "Companies like [2]I.B.M. have offered women scholarships to study
    engineering for years, and women engineers routinely get higher
    starting salaries than men," he said.

    Noting that his current and former wives, businesswomen both, make
    more than he does, he added: "Men have not stacked the decks against

    Even as a child, Warren Farrell had little patience for the gender
    roles mandated by society. His family was conventional enough: a New
    Jersey suburban home, three children (he was the oldest), an
    accountant father who was definitely the primary earner.

    But the young Warren refused to be pigeonholed by anyone's view of
    proper behavior for a boy. In seventh grade, he entered - and won - a
    beauty contest for boys. "I was elected class prince," he recalled
    with a still-proud laugh. In eighth grade, he was tagged as a math
    whiz, but he found math too boring to pursue. Although he was tall and
    athletic, he hated fighting, so, of course, he attracted the taunting
    of the local bullies in high school. He finally fought one. He won,
    and the bully clique respected him after that.

    "It made me sad - winning a wrestling match is such a stupid reason to
    respect someone," he said.

    Dr. Farrell always suspected that women tended to undermine
    themselves. One day, while he was teaching urban politics at Rutgers,
    he attended a convention at which one attendee, an attractive young
    woman, wanted to make a point but was beset with stage fright. "I
    encouraged her to speak up, and when she did, she blew everyone away,"
    he said. She and Dr. Farrell soon married and, after she became a
    well-known corporate executive, she offered to be primary breadwinner
    while he pursued a doctorate in political science from New York
    University. (He asked that her name be withheld to protect her
    privacy.) He did his dissertation on the women's movement.

    "My wife's income allowed me to do what I really loved," he said. "I
    realized that women's liberation is men's liberation, too."

    After they divorced - they remain friends, he said - Dr. Farrell moved
    to San Diego, where he still lives. Ten years ago he met, and
    eventually married, Liz Dowling, a California entrepreneur with two
    daughters - Alex, now 17, and Erin, 18. Although he has written
    extensively about issues like sexual harassment and fatherhood, he
    says he is not spurred on by personal experiences. "I've always been
    motivated to stop people from doing dysfunctional things," he said.

    Which, of course, provided a nice segue into his thoughts on how women
    can stop the self-sabotage that so often leads to low pay.
    Refreshingly, he steered clear of advice about body language,
    attitudes, dress and communication skills; women are already better at
    all of those than men, he said. But he did offer other observations:

    There can be good jobs in fields you think you hate. So what if you
    are all thumbs. "A woman with organizing skills can run a construction
    company without ever picking up a hammer and nail," Dr. Farrell said.
    Do you like medicine, but can't stand blood? "Pharmacists can make as
    much as doctors," he said, and can have more control over their lives.

    Jobs that are hazardous for men can be pretty safe for women. Women in
    the military are rarely sent to the front lines, Dr. Farrell said.
    Studies have shown that women who are cabdrivers usually pull daytime
    hours, female postal workers get safer routes, and male coal miners
    try to keep their few female colleagues out of danger. "When women
    need protection, men will compete to give it," he said.

    Many jobs pay women more than men. Some of them - say, advertising
    executive, speech pathologist or statistician - are in fields that
    have long welcomed women. But many are jobs that many women
    erroneously believe are closed to them, like tool-and- die makers,
    funeral service workers, automotive mechanics, radiation therapists
    and sales engineers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides pay
    comparisons for many jobs.

    A little extra training can yield a lot more money. Are you good with
    numbers? "Financial analysts make a lot more than accountants," Dr.
    Farrell said. Similarly, he notes, a nurse anesthetist makes twice as
    much as a regular nurse.

    The "line versus staff" rule applies to women, too. Men have long
    realized that jobs in manufacturing and sales - line jobs in business
    parlance - are better for their careers than staff support jobs in
    human resources and public relations. "C.E.O.'s are selected from
    among those assuming bottom-line responsibilities for a company," he
    said, "so these fields pave the way for women who want to break
    alleged glass ceilings."

    It is O.K. to trade a fatter paycheck for more time with children and
    hobbies. Just recognize that society did not force the choice on you.
    "Feel powerful and happy that you have control over your own life,"
    Dr. Farrell said. "It's better than feeling like an angry victim of


    1. http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=CLAUDIA%20H.%20DEUTSCH&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=CLAUDIA%20H.%20DEUTSCH&inline=nyt-per
    2. http://www.nytimes.com/redirect/marketwatch/redirect.ctx?MW=http://custom.marketwatch.com/custom/nyt-com/html-companyprofile.asp&symb=IBM

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