Happy Tuesday all.
…So I recently read a great article by Ben Casselman at FiveThirtyEight here that talks about why women are no longer making material progress towards narrowing the pay gap between men and women. Long story short, there are a number of variables that drive the pay gap (such as men’s tendency to opt into high earning careers at greater rates and women’s tendency to negotiate less often), but the one I want to talk about today deals with the article’s primary focus – namely that as a society we are increasingly compensating employees at higher and higher rates for working longer hours – regardless of exemption status. From the piece:
Men make up a bit more than half the full-time workforce, but they account for more than 70 percent of those working 50 hours a week or more. So as wage gains have gone disproportionately to people working long hours, they have also gone disproportionately to men, widening the earnings divide between men and women overall.
The effect being denoted above is illustrated really well in the below chart:
…Essentially, men work more hours than women because women disproportionately shoulder home-life / childcare duties. And because men work more hours than women, over time their earnings start to diverge progressively more from their female peers who are more likely to take a step back in work hours and/or opt out of the work force entirely.
Of course, this begs the question: What role should organizations – particularly HR – be playing in addressing the cultural legacy issues that leave women disproportionately shouldering home-life issues at the expense of their careers? Should the private sector look to play a greater role in changing expectations around gender roles through more balanced parental leave policies? There are companies that have taken this view, with the outcome of such policies leading to more work-life balance for both genders and a more balanced workload between men and women in the office. And yet anyone arguing that dramatically expanding parental leave policies has the potential to be costly to net workforce productivity would be right; accordingly, implementation of any new leave policy must to be done with the demographics and operating environment of one’s organization top of mind.
…That said, I will close by asking if trying to tackle gender imbalances in the workplace by making it easier for *everyone* (regardless of gender) to work more hours is the wrong way to even think about the issue? Does anyone *really* need to consistently work 80+ hour weeks? What does the data say? I am not sure, but have a sneaking suspicion that if societal expectations around work/life balance shift that much the pay imbalance we see today will shift with it.
Please share any personal/professional experiences and/or studies in the comment section below.