Saturday, October 21, 2006

Double standards at work

Double standards - don't feminists love to bleat on about those? Especially the imaginary ones, like the myth that women earn less than men. That claim has been thoroughly disproved, but in any feminist literature you read that comes from the mothership you will see that "addressing the wage gap" is still a major issue for feminists.

Never mind that the wage gap may have existed in such a large proportion in the 1970s.
Never mind that the wage gap is brought about by women choosing the motherhood track instead of the career track.

I wonder what would happen if somebody studied the average wages of white women versus white men who recently graduated from college. Hmm, I wonder what the results would be...

The results would make it clear that women in the same major probably earn at the same level or more than men with similar resumes. They will earn at least as much as men because of the law (which has been in effect since 1963) or they will earn more than men because they are a rarity in pretty much any field that isn't completely dominated by women. I know that women engineers are highly in demand because companies want to hire more women to appear diverse, and to find a white American woman with Computer Science on her resume is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

What other double standards are there at work in the workplace?
I vividly remember my first 9-5 (well, 8:00 to 4:30) job. I worked at Wells Fargo in an out-of-the-way filing location. This location was bigger than the average county library, and filled with files and drudgery. The women in the office could be classified into three categories - retarded white women in a dead-end position, black women in a dead-end position, and normal white entitlement queens women in a high-end position. The only men in the office were those who did the grunt work, and these men were all black. These men and women were the permanent employees.

I came in with a temp team. The team consisted of 8 men, none of them white, and around 15 women, mostly black but a few of them were white. On the first day, after orientation, we were assigned to one of two ladies, who headed up two teams. Was it a coincidence that all the men and one token woman were assigned to one team, and the rest assigned to the other. It definitely was not a coincidence that the men had to work outside in the dock, in the blazing July heat (it was a summer job) to bring in pallets loaded with boxes full of files. Pretty much any college student who has ever moved has realized that paper is extremely heavy for the size. A medium-sized box loaded up with A4 size paper and a few books can quickly become too heavy to lift.

So anyway, we thought we were being paid at the same rate. They wouldn't give us different pay rates just because the women were doing their work sitting down, in an air conditioned office while we toiled in the heat, absolutely tired at the end of the day... right?

WRONG! I got talking to a girl named Nicole, an airheaded blonde whose looks were fading and whose hair looked like it had just climbed out of a hydrogen peroxide bottle. In the course of our conversation, she let slip that she, and most of the other girls she had talked to, were being paid $10.75 an hour. How much was I making, you ask? I was making a measly $9.50 an hour. Apparently when recruiting us, the temp agency had already selected us into the two groups. What about that one girl? Well, she was put in charge of writing down the numbers of the boxes the men brought in. I think that should speak volumes about the kind of discrimination that happens in the workplace when one group is traditionally not protected. Like men. Or minorities. Or minority men. Certainly not white women, who have been protected by men around them since time immemorial.

A few assignments after that, I was recruited to a project for a big insurance company. The recruiter actually called me and my girlfriend separately, and we both accepted. The pay was $12.87 for both of us. Then, the night before the project was due to start, I received a call from the recruiter telling me not to come in. I dropped off my girlfriend and she confirmed my suspicions - all of the people on the project were women. A few days later, I received a call from the same recruiter telling me that I could come in for a slightly different position, for the same pay.

Slightly different? The first position was on the 10th floor, required professional dress, and had you interacting with the people who mattered.
The second position was in the basement, required jeans and a t-shirt, and had you interacting with the mentally challenged, the uneducated, and people who generally you would avoid at a party, that's if they were invited in the first place. The work was harder, the supervisors harsher, and it was generally not a pleasant place to be in. Since my girlfriend worked in the same building, I made a trip up to see her and when I saw her workstation, I decided to immediately start looking for something better - this workplace was not for me. Whereas my desk was in the middle of a crowded area with bare concrete walls and harsh overhead lighting, hers was where the middle managers worked, and it was a much nicer area. Naturally, the vast majority of the people I saw upstairs were women. It goes without saying that they were almost all white.

The group I was in was much more "diverse" - many more blacks, internationals who could barely speak English, and many more men. In fact, the only white woman was the supervisor. The rest of the women were black. There were a few white men though, including one man in his 40s. I struck up a conversation with him, and learned that he was in his late 40s and divorced a few years ago. His wife got the house and the kids, and he was kicked out onto the street. He lost his job because he was depressed and didn't go to work for a few days, while the wife had never had a job in the first place. His wife is married again now, but he is still paying for his first marriage and the house was sold by the wife so she could move away, uprooting his children in the process. Encounters like this only further my determination to never get married in the west, and not even cohabit if laws like the UK come to the US.

Anyway, we as a group were literally the underbelly of the building, and everyone else realized that. We ate our lunches in the basement, and were not encouraged to go upstairs, where the suits were. Now that I'm in a better position, thanks to my hard work and my father's backing, if I meet someone like that, I make it a point to be polite to them, because I remember when I was in that position.


  1. A medium-sized box loaded up with A4 size paper

    They don't use A4 in the US.

  2. When I was in highschool, I applied at the local Lowes grocery store for the position of a stocker/bag boy. I was refused the position and was put on the cash register instead, even though the help wanted ad on the door read 'now hiring stockers.'The reason my employer gave for me not being hired as one, was "only guys are bag boys and stock the shelves," mind you this was about 10 years ago. But because I'm not a guy, I couldn't put merchandise on the shelves, roll out customers grocery bags, and collect carts. That annoyed the hell out of me. I couldn't stand being a check out girl and dealing with irrate customers who always seemed to be trying to get something for nothing. Customer service certainly isn't my strong suit and I would have much rather had a position that had as little interaction with them as possible. It was ironic that the manager enforcing this silly rule was a guy.

  3. They don't use A4 in the US.

    I know. A4 size is very close to letter size though. It doesn't matter what size, a box full of that stuff is HEAVY!

  4. Now, now Pete, I'm SURE you're exaggerating ... because we all know that women are all about EQUALITY ... we are all THE SAME ... and should all be treated THE SAME ...

    Except, of course, if being treated the same involves the slightest risk of working up a sweat, breaking a nail or otherwise having to actually work.

    I've seen the same things myself in my highly varied career.

  5. iwouldbefree, I used to work at the cafeteria in my college. The split between men/women was around 60/40, but the dishroom (the lowest rung in the ladder at the cafeteria) was always staffed by men. The cashier was always one of the women or one of the male supervisors. The women were much more likely to be picked for the easier shifts, while the men were always picked for the harder, disgusting stuff - like throwing out the putrid garbage into the vomit-inducing dumpster or doing the heavy lifting.

    Anyway, I checked out your blog. You don't update it anymore?