Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Women Pay a Steep Price for Their More Flexible Work Schedules

ARCHIVES
Kzenon/Shutterstock.com

One big reason women make less than men is because they tend to demand more flexible schedules. And new economic research shows that if more workplaces adopted a more team-oriented, job-sharing approach—like physicians in a group practice—the cost of flexible work would dissipate and the premium for long hours would too.

“That’s how physicians have been able to not be 24/7, not be on call all the time, to have lives of their own,” says Claudia Goldin, a Harvard professor of economics. Her new  paper, A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter (pdf), is to be published soon in the American Economic Review, and explores the reasons behind pay differential between genders even as women have caught up with men in education, experience, and other measures.

The bottom line:  The way work is structured and rewarded, especially in traditional organizations, must adapt to changes in society and technology. Many companies still  richly reward people who are available and work long, continuous hours,  Goldin says.  They give premium pay to certain key players—mostly men who don’t take time off for children or aging relatives. So women or men who need flexible schedules obtain them ”at a high price, particularly in the corporate, finance and legal worlds,”  Goldin writes in her paper.  Technology and science fields are better off in pay equity, as are certain health care careers.

She does not quantify the exact cost of flexible work schedules, though she has studied the pay gap that develops over time for women in other research.  “What happens within each occupation is far more important than the occupations in which women wind up,” she writes.

She asks: Why should someone who works 80 hours a week be worth more than two people who work 40 hours a week?

“It isn’t quote a women’s issue,” says Goldin in an interview with Quartz. The pay disparity shows up equally when male MBAs need reduced schedules or time off for personal or family needs.

Men’s and women’s occupations, education and roles at work have converged in the last decades, and equal pay could be the last cornerstone. It’s already near equal when women and men start their careers, then starts diverging after five years and is wider by 15 years of experience.

Government intervention will not help, but economic incentives such as lower costs could. “Some things simply occur organically,” Goldin noted.

Goldin’s research and papers have focused on education and women’s careers, and she’s previously singled out pharmacists as “The Most Egalitarian of All Professions.” (pdf)

“Pharmacists have become very good substitutes for each other. …Being good substitutes for each other means it doesn’t matter who does the last hour,” she says.

In workplaces where staff have no “perfect substitutes”  people may be penalized if they work shorter hours or must depart for a few hours during the work day, she writes. Those who have a “perfect substitute”—someone who can pick up when you leave off, or take the last few hours so a parent can put their child to bed—will not earn a premium in earnings and their pay increases are linear, based mainly on hours worked and experience levels.

Goldin saw the “perfect substitute” up close recently when she had a minor surgical procedure and a team of doctors took care of her. “That’s how physicians have been able to not be 24/7, not be on call all the time and have lives of their own,” she said admiringly, noting that 36% of pediatricians work very low hours.

So go ahead and groom your “perfect substitute”—preferably before your next vacation or baby arrive.

(Image via Kzenon/Shutterstock.com)

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.