A recent article in the Economist,”Sex changes” claims that glass ceilings are giving way to glass partitions. That is, women are indeed making inroads into careers that were traditionally male dominated, but they are choosing to do so only in certain areas of these professions. And they are choosing the lower paying areas.
Maybe people are just sick of the usual gender inequality rhetoric and they just want to sing a different tune, but for a reputed magazine like Economist, I would say the case needs to be supported better by more data and analysis. The only trends shown in the article shows an increasing trend of women in the three male dominated professions they have chosen to analyse. But when it comes to driving home the point that there are less women in the higher paying areas, the numbers presented are sketchy and inadequate. When making a claim like this, it is insufficient to use “anecdotal evidence” to “suggests that few female commercial barristers return to work after having babies“. And the “worries” of a a member of barrister’s guild about “those mothers who do return to the commercial bar will revert to type, taking only short, low-profile cases” just ain’t evidence either.
About the Church of England example, the evidence that “the most recent figures show 314 women training to be non-stipendiary priests, compared with just 200 men” isn’t enough to say that “women priests also show a preference for non-stipendiary (unpaid) work“. Yes, the absolute numbers are higher, but what really needs to be compared in this case is the % of women vs men. The article further states that “whatever their pastoral value, such clergy are less likely to secure the top jobs in the Church, if they are ever allowed to apply for them“. Perhaps that is precisely the reason that women tend to apply for non-stipend work (if that claim is indeed true). The clergy profession, in its very essence, is service-oriented and without the motivation of being able to apply for higher pastoral jobs, they take up unpaid work. This is not glass partitions, it is a glass ceiling for sure!
A publication like Economist tends to be taken seriously, and when they make claims about changes in gender trends, one wishes that these claims will be well researched and well analysed. There just isn’t enough evidence in the article presented to make these claims. It goes against my common sense that well-educated women, who have worked as hard or more (given that some of them may have faced discrimination, they might have had to work harder) than men to attain their qualifications, will just sit back and choose to be working in the less paying areas of their professions. Its not always about pay too – the higher paying ones tend to be the most challenging and most exciting – and any self respecting professional would not want to excluded from the fun.
If indeed the claims are true, a good analysis would go beyond the superficial reasoning of thats “what a girl wants” to what the underlying reasons for this trend are. Is it because women are better suited for these jobs? Or are they being pressured by their family commitments to take up professions that are less taxing? Do their spouses have ridiculous egos that resent wives who get paid more? Are women who paid more less attractive socially and hence, there is a subconscious negative selection of higher paying jobs? Or is it the expectations of the society that women have to be paid less and thus, even when they are forced to break the glass ceilings they have to replace it with the glass partitions? Or is there a wrongful distribution of pay in the professions, which HR managers need to look at? The possibilities are endless, and without adequate research, one can only speculate. And this is the kind of analysis I would have expected Economist to make before laying out such claims.