Friday, August 3, 2007

Some Good News, Some Bad

Since the recent Supreme Court ruling against Lilly Ledbetter, I have been feeling a bit gloomy about not having yet achieved one of the most basic aims of second wave feminism, equal pay for equal work. I had, in fact, started feeling a bit like a character from the movie Nine to Five. Then this article in this morning’s NYT gave me a bit of hope. According to the Times, “Young women in New York and several of the nation’s other largest cities who work full time have forged ahead of men in wages, according to an analysis of recent census data.” The article also notes that “…the wage gap between men and women nationally has narrowed more slowly and has even widened in recent years among one part of that group: college-educated women in their 20s.” Despite that bad news, it is still good to know that in some parts of the country, at least, we are achieving some of our basic aims.

Yet, I could not ignore the disturbing news that being perceived as angry, even when that anger is justified, hurts women in the work place more than men. According to a recent study done by Victoria Brescoll of Yale University, this bias translates into real differences in salary. The Reuters review of Dr. Brescoll’s research explains:

She conducted three tests in which men and women recruited randomly watched videos of a job interview and were asked to rate the applicant's status and assign them a salary.

In the first, the scripts were identical except where the candidate described feeling either angry or sad about losing an account due to a colleague's late arrival at a meeting.

Participants conferred the most status on the man who said he was angry, the second most on the woman who said she was sad, slightly less on the man who said he was sad, and least of all by a sizable margin on the woman who said she was angry.

The average salary assigned to the angry man was almost $38,000 compared to about $23,500 for the angry woman and in the region of $30,000 for the other two candidates.

So, I guess I still feel like I’m trapped in a 80’s movie like Nine to Five or Working Girl - it is possible for working women in New York to get ahead, as long as they cover their justified anger with fake smiles or sighs. The message seems to be: sure, be successful – but only if you can be sweet while charging ahead.

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