Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Student Addresses the Gender Gap

I was really struck by this column in the Cornell Daily Sun, about the gender gap as it applies to paid vs. unpaid internships, particularly this argument:

"Thankfully, I stuck with my gut and took the courses that interested me; the difference wouldn’t have paid out, anyway. Even if I’d switched my major three years back and taken one of those paid internships, I’d probably be making less than the guys to my left and my right."


Jeffery said...

I'm always a bit suspicious of claims of gender gap statistics. I wonder how they actually collected those statistics. Could it be that men are more likely to exaggerate their income than women? I had a friend who graduated the same year as me, his starting salary was $58k/year. His sign on bonus was 3,000 shares in pre-IPO stock. So how much did he make his first year? That totally depends on how much you think his stock grant is worth. If the company tanks it's worth nothing, if it becomes the next Google it's enough to retire on.

If they collected these statistics by surveying people, I can totally see men being more willing to exaggerate how much they made, especially in order to impress women.

Another effect I think is that the variance in earnings between men is probably much higher than for women. A few billionaires and a bunch of millionaires will skew the statistic. If you look at all the hot internet companies that sprang up in the last 10 years, how many of the founders are women? You can't possibly say that there's gender discrimination there. Startups are pretty much pure meritocracies, especially internet startups. The users don't care if you're a man, woman, or dog.

Even comparing earnings among people from the same major is not reliable. I majored in math, and ended up writing software. Which is a lot more lucrative than someone who went into teaching high school math. Most engineering majors don't end up working in engineering. Only a handful of the best graduates do, and as far as I know the women who went into engineering made just as much if not more than the men for equivalent positions. I've actually seen a study where women made more than men at equal levels of experience in engineering. The difference is biggest in sales engineer jobs.


Jeffery said...