Show me the sexism!

Men with retro views of women's role get paid more, a study finds.

Published September 22, 2008 9:10PM (EDT)

What do you know, sexisms hurt men's paychecks, too -- that is, if they aren't sexist. A new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that men with egalitarian views earned $11,930 less a year than men with rigid, old-school views of women's societal role. Women, however, are not similarly rewarded on payday: Women with retro beliefs made $14,404 less each year than men with a similar attitude. In other words: Sexism pays, so long as you're a dude.

The Washington Post further breaks down the findings: "If you divide workers into four groups -- men with traditional attitudes, men with egalitarian attitudes, women with traditional attitudes and women with egalitarian attitudes -- men with traditional attitudes earn far more for the same work than those in any of the other groups. There are small disparities among the three disadvantaged groups, but the bulk of the income inequality is between the first group and the rest." Indeed, when it comes to workers with egalitarian views, the pay gap shrinks dramatically: Men made $1,422 more a year than women. As the Post points out, that "raises the provocative possibility that a substantial part of the widely discussed gap in income between men and women who do the same work is really a gap between men with a traditional outlook and everyone else." It just might be that the pay gap is largely a sociopolitical gap.

The larger question -- and, boy, is it a big question -- is why a worker's view of sex roles affects his or her salary. The first explanation that comes to mind is that the pay gap reflects career choices and the number of hours worked -- factors that seem to intuitively explain traditional men's higher earnings -- except that the study controlled for all of those factors. The study's researchers suggest two possible explanations: 1) Men with throwback attitudes feel a greater burden to bring home the bacon, so they fight harder for a higher salary (while egalitarian men and women -- and certainly traditional women -- feel less pressure to be the breadwinner). And 2) some employers punish women for not recognizing that their place is in the home. I would add that employers might feel compelled to pad the salary of a man who is the sole earner in his household, and one would assume traditional men are more likely to take on that traditional role.

Any other guesses out there?

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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