The origins of the Gender Wage Gap and The Cost of Being a Girl

This week in North Philly Notes, Yasemin Besen-Cassino, author of The Cost of Being a Girl: Working Teens and the Origins of the Gender Wage Gapreveals her findings about how the origins of the gender wage gap begin as teens enter the workforce. 

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In the past few weeks, we have been bombarded with news from all over the world on gender inequality in the workplace. From Hollywood to media to politics, many sectors point to unequal pay in the workplace as well as other problems such as sexual harassment. Unequal pay has been a systematic problem of workplaces and women’s lives. A wide range of discipline and approaches have offered explanations to this persistent problem. Some have focused on the women and have argued the women have lower pay because of their own characteristics- they study different topics, have lower education, less job experience especially because they leave the workforce due to childcare and parental leave. Some have focused on occupational characteristics: women and men are concentrated in different jobs, different sectors and different positions. Women’s positions tend to pay less and have less authority. No matter how they looked at the pay, there always remained an unexplained portion: the cost of being a woman. As I studied these dominant theories, I sat at a coffee shop, where a teenage barista brought my coffee. It occurred to me at that coffee shop that we were looking at this problem all wrong. Even though the focus of the theories seemed different (workers vs. jobs), almost all the studies on the wage gap studied the same population: the adult workforce. However, work experience does not begin with the completion of formal education. Many teenagers work while still in school as working part-time while still school is a quintessentially American phenomenon. Therefore, work experience, and potentially the wage gap starts long before the start of “real” jobs. In The Cost of Being a Girl, I look at a substantial yet previously neglected portion of the workforce: teenage workers. Focusing on this group includes a previously understudied portion of our workforce to offer a more comprehensive understanding. More importantly, the teenage workforce is like a social laboratory: at these early ages these typical explanations of the wage gap “women have babies” “women leave the workforce” “women do more house work” are not relevant. If we look at 12-13 year-olds: they do not have spouses, they don’t have children. They are at the same education and skill level: what happens when we look at the wage gap?

  • Using NLSY data, I find that 12- and 13-year-old boys and girls have equal pay. Once they become 14 and 15, we see the emergence of the first wage gap which widens with age.
  • Some individual characteristics, such as race and age, exacerbate the wage gap. Age makes the wage gap wider—the older girls get, the wider the gap; African American girls have an even wider pay gap
  • The types of jobs are important too: girls remain in freelance jobs whereas boys move into employee type jobs. Even within employee type jobs, girls are put in positions to deal with difficult customers, do more aesthetic labor (buy more clothes to fit the look) and are less likely to deal with money.
  • Girls are expected as part of their jobs to buy the clothes and products they are selling to maintain the look of the company; as such, many girls end up accumulating credit card debt.
  • Among freelance jobs: girls tend to do babysitting. Through informal networks, their job description changes, includes unpaid hours and many other chores, whereas many boys who babysit have higher pay, little unpaid hours and clear job descriptions.
  • Experiments show that potential employers are not willing to give female babysitters raises: if she shows a connection to the child, and asks for money, she is seen as manipulative. If she does not show an attachment, she is seen as cold. Either way, care is seen in opposition to money, and asking for money is discouraged.
  • These early jobs also have long-term effects. With the longitudinal data set, I find that women, many years later, experience the effects of having worked as a teenager. Early work experiences benefit men but not women: results in lower pay for women. Especially girls who have worked in apparel sector report feeling overweight years later.
  • Girls are given mixed messages: they are told they can be anything they want at home and school but they are discouraged because they experience firsthand the problems of the workplace.
  • Girls are less likely to report serious issues in jobs like sexual harassment because they feel it is “not their real job.”
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Remembering Allan G. Johnson

Temple University Press was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of author Allan G. Johnson. He was the author of the press bestsellers The Forest and the Trees and The Gender Knot, as well as the memoir, Not From Here. 

His obituary, reprinted below, was published January 7 in the New York Times and the Hartford Courant.  If anyone would like to leave memories or condolences, please use this legacy.com site

 

Noted sociologist and novelist Allan G. Johnson, an influential figure in the profeminist men’s movement and the broader progressive movements for social justice, died on December 24 at his home in Canton, Connecticut, surrounded by family and friends. He was 71. Author both of nonfiction books and novels, his work coupled keen analysis with engaging, accessible writing in books addressing gender, race, and class. Best known among them are The Gender Knot, and Privilege, Power, and Difference. “Allan was passionately committed to ending men’s violence against women, which is how I was initially drawn to his work, and to him,” said the author and cultural critic, Jackson Katz. “He made a major contribution to our theoretical and practical understanding of how men-especially white men-can and should play a role in the struggles for gender, racial and economic justice.” Paula Rothenberg, editor of Race, Class, and Gender in the United States said by unraveling society’s patriarchal legacy, The Gender Knot was “one of the best, most readable, and most comprehensive accounts of patriarchy that is available in print.”

Born on January 26, 1946, the son of Valdemar Nels Johnson of Sequim, Wash., and Alice Griswold Johnson of Newburyport, Mass., Allan lived in Washington, D.C. until he was six, when his family moved to Oslo, Norway for two years, where his father was posted with the U.S. Navy. Upon returning to the U.S., the family settled in Andover, Massachusetts. Johnson began writing while in high school at Philips Andover Academy, graduating with prizes in poetry and short fiction in 1964. He earned his B.A. in Sociology and English at Dartmouth College, and a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Michigan. His dissertation focused on women’s roles in Mexico City, where he lived for eight months.

It was while he was a professor of sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, that he began a lifelong commitment to understanding the fundamental nature of social life and systems of oppression and privilege, including how and why systems of privilege are created and maintained by society. The issue that first drew him to these problems was men’s violence against women. In the late 1970s, he began volunteering at the Rape Crisis Service in Hartford, Conn. He developed an undergraduate course on the sociology of gender to explore the structure and culture of patriarchal systems and male privilege. A consultant with the National Center for the Prevention of Rape, he served on the board of the Connecticut Coalition against Domestic Violence, as well as testifying before the state judiciary committee on laws to protect the rights of sexual assault victims.

His first book, Social Statistics without Tears, was published in 1976. After leaving Wesleyan, he wrote his next book, Human Arrangements: An Introduction to Sociology. During this time he also rediscovered his love of fiction, writing short stories and working for a brief time in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with the American novelist, poet, and editor, Leonard Wallace Robinson. Returning to the U.S., he joined the faculty at Hartford College for Women where he taught sociology and women’s studies. During this period, he wrote his most important nonfiction works, including The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy; The Forest and the Trees: Sociology as Life, Practice, and Promise; The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology; and Privilege, Power, and Difference.

In 1995, he began speaking and conducting trainings around the country addressing topics of race and gender, initially on behalf of diversity consulting firms in corporate settings. Following publication of The Gender Knot, he shifted his focus to presentations and workshops at colleges, universities, and non-educational settings. He also blogged regularly at http://www.agjohnson.us.

His first novel, The First Thing and the Last, was published in 2010 after meeting with considerable resistance from mainstream publishers because of its realistic portrayal of domestic violence. Publishers Weekly recognized it as a notable debut work of fiction, and Oprah Magazine listed it as one of ten “Great Reads” in April, 2010. Nothing Left to Lose, his second novel, was published the following year and revolved around an American family in crisis during the Vietnam War.

Not from Here was his last book, a memoir published in 2015 that explored the meaning of being white in North America. In addition to his writing, Allan was an avid swimmer and musician. He continued to swim a mile a day at a local pool until just before his death, and passed his love for swimming on to his children and grandchildren. He studied jazz piano as an adult and his house was always filled with music.

Allan is survived by his beloved life partner, Nora Jamieson, a healer, writer, and gatherer of women with whom he shared his life for 37 years; his sister, Annalee Johnson of Newburyport, Mass.; his brother, Dudley Paul Johnson of Alberta, Canada; his children, Paul Johnson of Arlington, Mass. (Karla MacDonald), and Emily Johnson of Los Angeles, Calif.; his niece, Petra Jamieson Gillette of Alstead, NH, and four grandchildren, Andrew, Fiona, Oscar and Simon. He also is survived by his beloved dog Roxie.

“He was a man of integrity and depth of soul,” Nora said of him, “who carried and wrote of suffering, creating exquisite beauty that pierced the heart. More than anything, Allan wanted to walk the path of a real human being.”

Following a home funeral and family-led graveside service, Johnson was buried in the North Canton Cemetery on December 29. A memorial gathering to honor his life is being planned for a later date. For updates on details please subscribe to https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/allanjohnson5. Individuals wishing to make a contribution in his memory can do so by donating to WorldTrust (https://world-trust.org).

Temple University Press’s 2017 Best Sellers

This week in North Philly Notes, we showcase our most popular books of the past year: The Top 10 best sellers of 2017!

  1. Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden Cityby Joseph E. B. Elliott, Nathaniel Popkin, and Peter Woodall. Revealing the physical and cultural intricacies of Philadelphia, from the intimate to the monumental.
  2. The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhoodby Tommy J. Curry. Introduces the conceptual foundations for Black Male Studies, going beyond gender theories that cast the Black Male as a pathological aspiring patriarch.
  3. The Forest and the Trees: Sociology as Life, Practice, and Promise, Third Editionby Allan G. Johnson. An updated exploration of sociology as a way of thinking.
  4.  Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America, by Daniel R. Biddle and Murray Dubin. The life and times of the extraordinary Octavius Catto, and the first civil rights movement in America.
  5. The New Eagles Encyclopedia, Ray Didinger with Robert Lyons. The best-selling book on the Philadelphia Eagles, completely updated and expanded.
  6. The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics, Revised and Expanded Edition, by George Lipsitz. A widely influential book—revised to reveal racial privilege at work in the 21st century.
  7. Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past, by Sam Wineburg, How do historians know what they know?
  8. We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change, by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, edited by Brenda Bell, John Gaventa, and John Peters. Two pioneers of education discuss their diverse experiences and ideas.
  9. Believing in Cleveland: Managing Decline in “The Best Location in the Nation,” by J. Mark Souther. Explores how civic and business leaders used image-making in an effort to reimagine and revive Cleveland in the decades after World War II.
  10. Phil Jasner “On the Case:” His Best Writing on the Sixers, the Dream Team, and Beyond, edited by Andy Jasner. Three decades of reporting by renowned Philadelphia Hall of Fame sportswriter Phil Jasner.

 

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