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Monday, June 04, 2018

The tradeoff between feminist policies and feminist outcomes

A Nordic mystery - Schumpeter

"THE Nordic countries have done more than anywhere else to provide women with equal opportunities. Maternity leave is generous. State provision of child care is first-rate. Female university graduates outnumber males by six to four. Half of Finland’s cabinet ministers and 57% of Sweden’s are female. The latest Global Gender Gap Index, compiled by the World Economic Forum (WEF), awards the first five places to the Vikings: Iceland comes top, followed by Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The region has also led the world in introducing quotas for corporate boards. Norway started the trend, and now requires stockmarket-listed companies to allot at least 40% of board seats to women. Iceland, Finland and some other European countries have introduced similar requirements.

But such rules cover only board seats, and only at listed firms. Visit a typical Nordic company headquarters and you will notice something striking among the standing desks and modernist furniture: the senior managers are still mostly men, and most of the women are PAs... There may be more women sitting round the table at board meetings, but the person who runs the show is almost always a man: only 6% of Norwegian listed firms had a female chief executive in 2013, little better than the 5% of American companies on the Fortune 500 list that have a woman as CEO.

There is much discussion about why Viking women have failed to crack the glass ceiling. The left reckons they must still be suffering from unconscious prejudice. The right maintains it is a matter of individual women choosing to give priority to their children. The Nordics can hardly be faulted for spending too little money: as a share of GDP their public spending on child care is between seven and nine times America’s (where the proportion is a measly 0.1%). But there is no simple relationship between providing equality of opportunity and securing equality of results.

Indeed, it is possible that generous social policies can backfire. Studies by Nina Smith, an economist at Aarhus University in Denmark, and others raise two striking possibilities. First, Nordic women may suffer lower earnings later in their careers because generous maternity leave encourages them to take long breaks to raise children earlier on, when male competitors are gaining valuable experience. Second, women trying to climb the career ladder seem to find it harder to afford domestic help than their American equivalents, because those generous social policies have to be paid for with high taxes. And, when chores cannot be offloaded to domestic staff, working women still get lumbered with the time-inflexible household tasks, such as picking up children from school, whereas men do “their” chores at the weekend. Public-sector employers are more inclined to provide female staff with child-friendly hours, ample family leave and so on; and they have a larger proportion of women bosses than private firms. But the wage structure in such workplaces is much more compressed than in the predominantly male-led private sector.

Overall, then, policies that reduce the gender gap for the mass of workers may be increasing it at the upper levels of management. Ms Smith calculates that in Denmark and Sweden the gap between men and women at the upper end of the pay scale has actually increased in recent decades...

Overall, then, policies that reduce the gender gap for the mass of workers may be increasing it at the upper levels of management. Ms Smith calculates that in Denmark and Sweden the gap between men and women at the upper end of the pay scale has actually increased in recent decades.

Furthermore, in the first substantial study of the Norwegian reforms, Marianne Bertrand of the University of Chicago’s Booth business school and three colleagues conclude that “there is no evidence that these gains at the very top trickled down.” They have done nothing to improve the career prospects of highly qualified women below board level. They have not helped close the gender gap in the incomes of recent business-school graduates. Nor have they done anything to encourage younger women to go to business school in the first place."

You can't legislate productivity.

Ironically a high minimum wage means it is hard for working women to get hired help - which would help them do better in their careers.

The fact that greedy companies exited the stock market in huge numbers suggests that they realised how damaging quotas would be.

Feminist logic - the most feminist policies in the world hasn't helped women, so it shows patriarchy is that strong and we need even more feminism (burning the witch didn't end the drought, so it shows that witch magic is very powerful and you need to burn more witches).

So much for the role model or women helping other women effect.
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