Wednesday, August 4, 2010

72: The Self-Empowered Woman: Work and Women

Dear Followers,

Instead of writing about one individual woman today, I'd like to share information from New York Times economic write David Leonhardt. In today's paper he wrote a thought-provoking article about mothers and the labor market that punishes them.

Leonhardt uses the Supreme Court as a prototype for the job market. He points out that the last three men nominated to the court were all married and had seven children among them. But the last three women have all been single and childless.

He reminds us that only 15 Fortune 500 companies have a female chief executive, and men dominate the next executive rung as well. Sadly, full-time women workers earn almost 25% less than male employees. And, many experts think it's because there is a price to pay for not following "the old-fashioned career path." And according to Jane Wadfogel, a Columbia University professor who studies family and work: "Women do almost as well as men today as long as they don't have children."

A University of Chicago study found that shortly after graduation men and women usually worked the same weekly hours and had nearly-identical incomes. But 15 years later, the men were earning about 75% more than the women. The only group of women who kept pace with men were those who had no children and (therefore) never needed to take time off. This may explain why so many mothers stop working - since there are few options for part-time work, the switch is made to full-time parenting.

Leonhardt closes his column with this observation: "For almost 200 years, the Supreme Court did not have a single woman on its bench. Sometime later this week, it is likely to have three."

Looking forward to your comments...


  1. As usual, Leonhardt's article is a mish-mash of economic factoids and liberal nostrums. Despite his later talk about 'gender inequality,' his main point is that it's less a struggle of women vs men in the marketplace any more than it is moms and part-timers vs non-moms and full-timers, and the have-not moms and part-timers need to be saved from their plight by government subsidies and regulations.

    I believe he misses the very central fact that most mothers per se don't wish to be 'equal' to fathers or men or childless women or whomever one wishes to call the comparative other, but rather want to be the best mothers they can be. It's not about enforced 'workplace equality' but about values and preferences and choices.

    Could being the best possible mother inherently preclude being the best possible employee in an efficient economy? Perhaps the economy (i.e. the collective well-being) is weakened by having the government force the payment of the same rewards to those who wish to be the best possible mothers as to those whose great ambition is to be the best possible employee. In other words, is pay equality the best goal for us to pursue in disregard of personal choices and values and passions?

    The modern mania for chasing a social Utopia through subsidies and entitlements, having officials constantly engaged in penalizing this citizen to advantage that one, is a fool's errand if there ever was one.

    Our current disaster-in-the-making has nothing to do with any gender or workplace inequality, but is an enormous entitlement/subsidy bubble which, when it explodes, will dwarf the damage done by the housing/derivative,, savings-and-loan and junk bond bubbles of recent decades. We see the frightening inflation of this bubble in the frequency of discussions about Medicare, Social Security and public employee benefit liabilities. It really is irresponsible of someone claiming to be an economic thinker to put out column after column advocating yet more entitlements and subsidies.

    I'll end with a bit of wry humor. I had to laugh when I read about the unemployed German mother, single with two young children, who was protesting recently-proposed cuts in subsidies (needed to prop up the Euro by helping the Greeks pay for their obscenely-excessive subsidies and entitlements): "As a mom I'm doing my part for the German economy," she said, "which is why my kids and I deserve a nice apartment rental and the other government payments we get." Interestingly, it was the National Socialist (yes, Nazi) Party that initiated childraising pensions.

    Oops! I forgot to mention the 10 million missing jobs. Here's what Robert Reich, liberal luminary and former Clinton Secretary of Labor, had to say about them last week: "If you're over 55 and been laid off, you'll probably never work again." How's that for a take on the economy? My wife would gladly settle for just having her old job with benefits back at 75% of her former salary. Never mind the gender equality or childraising subsidies.

  2. Yes. I completely agree with you and find your post very useful. I also read another article here which talks about 7 habits of self-empowered people with some nice stories.