Cost-Saving Measure: Fire the Men, Promote the Women

Don Tennant

There appears to be a new, novel way to cut IT personnel costs: Get rid of the men and keep the women, because you know you can get away with paying them less.


According to Computerworld's "Salary Survey 2010," the perennial gender wage gap has remained firmly in place in the past year. For example, female application development managers made 7 percent less than their male counterparts, and female CIOs made a staggering 16 percent less.


It seems hardly coincidental that a study by recruiting firm Sheila Greco Associates, cited in the Computerworld report, found that the percentage of female CIOs and executive vice presidents of technology rose to 16.4 percent in 2009, compared to 12 percent in 2007. When women are clearly equally capable and you can pay them 16 percent less, why wouldn't you pad the upper echelons with as many women as availability will allow?


Employers are incentivized by the fact that women aren't as pesky about remuneration as men are. The Computerworld study found that in 2009, bonuses dropped by 5.6 percent for men, and by 15.5 percent for women. The reason for the huge difference: Women tend to keep quiet:

Women traditionally don't earn higher bonuses because they often don't ask, says Laura Sherbin, director of research at the Center for Work-Life Policy. "When your bonus pool is fixed, and men say 'I want this or I'm going to quit,' and women don't say anything -- men get the bonuses they want and women get what's left over," says Sherbin. "When they don't ask, their manager perceives that they don't care, or that they're in a second-earner situation where the money is not as important to them."

The result of all this is a new dynamic in home and work life for a lot of people. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for men in 2009 was 10 percent, compared to 7.9 percent for women. Increasingly, women are the primary breadwinners in the household. Computerworld cited the case of a female programmer in Wisconsin who was forced to take a 20 percent cut in pay and two weeks of unpaid vacation. She really had no choice-her IT manager husband has been unemployed for 14 months.


None of this will change until employers are brought to account for the gender wage disparity. That's why the Paycheck Fairness Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last year and currently under review in the U.S. Senate, is so important. According to the House Committee on Education & Labor, the Paycheck Fairness Act would:


  • Require that employers seeking to justify unequal pay bear the burden of proving that their actions are job-related and consistent with a business necessity.
  • Prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers.
  • Put gender-based discrimination sanctions on equal footing with other forms of wage discrimination-such as discrimination based on race, disability or age-by allowing women to sue for compensatory and punitive damages.
  • Require the Department of Labor to enhance outreach and training efforts to work with employers in order to eliminate pay disparities.
  • Require the Department of Labor to continue to collect and disseminate wage information based on gender.
  • Create a new grant program to help strengthen the negotiation skills of girls and women.


Chances are, you've never even heard of this act, because it's been under the radar of most of us. Chances are, your employer would like to keep it that way. We need to start spreading the word so that this act becomes the law of the land, and justice is done.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 5, 2010 8:04 AM Blue Blue  says:

I'm not sure your plan to fire all the man and hire only women will work, Don.  Women are leaving IT on their own accord due to lack of opportunity for everyone.  I actually replaced a woman whom decided to voluntarily leave IT for a new career.   She got paid more than I do too.  Go figure.

Apr 6, 2010 5:24 AM John Mobile John Mobile  says:

I don't think it will work either. I mean if you get rid of ALL the men the workers will only have other women to compare wages to and newer women coming into the company will demand slightly better pay than the person they're replacing/company they are leaving and things will eventually even out/level up to how they are now - only with no men.

Apr 20, 2010 1:21 AM Marc A Marc A  says:

The reason for the pay gap is not that women don't ask for raises, but that men work 90% of overtime while women have more balanced lives and prioritize flexible hours, shorter hours, shorter commutes, and less dangerous jobs. 

The 'pay gap' is only a snapshot of average yearly full-time incomes that does not account for these and other factors (such as physical risk - men make 92% of job deaths).  The Department of Labor funded a study that sheds light on this but the mass media didn't cover it.

In 'Why Men Earn More," Warren Farrell, Ph.D. examined 25 career/life choices men and women make (hours, commute times, etc.) that lead to men earning more and women having more balanced lives, and that showed how men in surveys prioritize money while women prioritize flexibility, shorter hours, shorter commutes, less physical risk and other factors conducive to their choice to be primary parents, an option men still largely don't have. That is why never-married childless women outearn their male counterparts, and female corporate directors now outearn their male counterparts.

Farrell also lists dozens of careers, including fields of science, where women outearn men.

Women simply have more options than men to be primary parents, and many of them exercise that option rather than work long, stressful hours.  That is why 57% of female graduates of Stanford and Harvard left the workforce within 15 years of entry into the workforce.


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