There is a media feeding frenzy over the last study released from the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation about the wage gap: All hands on deck!!! Women don't make as much as men do!!! There is a lot of hoop-la about this study, which says that the wage gap happens immediately upon entry after graduation. Here is the Associated Press article that got picked up everywhere.
The reason women don't make as much as men is that when women have kids, they are more distracted by them than men are. Even if men and women have the same experience and are in the same job, and they both have kids, the woman will probably earn less. So the wage gap comes when women have kids.
But this is not shocking because most parents will tell you that in the case of all things being equal, the woman will be the one who interviews the nanny, not the man. The small things add up and it's not far-fetched to say that on balance, women who work in an office spend more time taking care of kids than men who work in an office. So, the wage gap is not going to change until this changes. (Men, here is a secret about women: In front of you, your wife says you are an equal parent. On girls' night out, it's a different story.)
The person who did interviews about the study is Catherine Hill. I like her a lot. She has spent a lot of time on the phone with me letting me argue with her about her research.
So this time, it turns out that the pay gap between genders in business is dramatically smaller than other professions, like science professors, and the mean of the gap is skewed. In fact, the pay gap between genders in business is so small that Hill says the gap is "statistically not significant." Yet no one is reporting this.
I also asked her why a pay gap matters. I told her I think it only matters if women are not as happy as men at work. Hill says this is very hard to study --workplace happiness. So she studies wage gap instead. I would argue, though, that it's an irrelevant topic. If we don't know the harm in a gap, then we can't decide what to do about it. And I think it would be tough to argue right now that women are not as happy as men are at work.
So if they are equally happy then maybe the issue of pay gap puts too much emphasis on money and not enough on happiness. Tim Ferriss is the author of a book that has catapulted to the top ranks of Amazon: The Four-Hour Work Week. One of the most interesting ideas of this book is that money is not a primary goal. Rather, quality of life is the end goal, and the yard stick for measuring your success. And quality of life is not about money earned but how you bring time and mobility into your life. Ferriss lays great groundwork for a discussion of why the wage gap doesn't matter. I suggest we take Ferriss' cue and concern ourselves not with the wage gap between genders, but the time gap.
Or, here's another idea. Instead of worrying about the wage gap let's worry about the Web 2.0 gap. The second round of the Internet revolution is being run largely by men. In fact, as tech companies need less and less marketing, the usual spots for women in tech companies are disappearing. And as the barrier to entry gets lower and lower, and founders get younger and younger, the hours people put in to start a company verge on 100 percent of waking time, something that women seem to be just plain not interested in doing.
I am not sure what should be done about the Web 2.0 gap. I have a feeling that it ends up getting more and more male-centric -- just like video games. For example, most blogs are aimed at technical types. (Something we might be able to overcome.) Yet the most prominent blog ranking site, Technorati, ranks blogs based on how many people link to them. So a blog catering to people who don't blog themselves would be ranked lower in the blogosphere. The subtle burying of women's voices online.
I'm not sure if it's a big deal or not. But I am definitely sure the time gap and the Web 2.0 gap are having more impact on the business opportunities women see than that statistically irrelevant pay gap is. It's just that the mainstream media is accustomed to writing about pay gap, and not about who is playing poker with the founders of Digg and who is playing Xbox with the founders of Reddit.
But look, if you want to make sure you're getting your fair share, don't be afraid to negotiate salary, sure. But before that, get clear on what you want in your life and your career. Don't get derailed by letting someone else frame your issues for you.