« Inequality and poverty | Main | On socialized preferences »

April 05, 2018


Christian Moon

High gender-equality countries such as the Scandinavians turn out to have higher levels of occupational segregation by gender not lower. This is know as the Nordic gender equality paradox.

It suggests that occupational preference is not actually the result of socialisation in the way you suggest.

Instead those environments seem to give greater freedom to each gender to express differing innate tendencies.

Handy Mike

"But there’s another point here that is grossly under-appreciated. It’s that preferences are not natural and given. As Simone de Beauvoir said, “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” Women’s relative lack of pushiness or ambition, or their preference for less well-paid work, might be due instead to the way they are socialized.

To cite just two examples from conventional social science..."

Now then, maybe there are some other 'examples' you could look at that might tell against the idea that preferences are socialised.

I wonder if there's any research or literature on that stuff?


Re. 'the tyranny of metrics': metrics is all they have by way of evidence and is the only proof that any gender gap has been eliminated. It's also why the figures produce a pay gap favouring men even when the overwhelming majority of employees in an organisation are women (i.e. a greater number of men at the top skewing the average). The audit doesn't measure how many people underwent unconscious bias training.

PS: 'As Claer Barrett advises, women should be pushier.' Hislop and Merton implied a variation on this argument re. women on HIGNFY. They got a kicking.

Nicholas Gruen

I wrote a column on the gender division of labour in the household here



«not due to employers discriminating against women. But nevertheless it might also be true that women are the victims of sexism because of (among other things) how they are socialized.»

Ahhhhhh but that is a deeply political incorrect argument, one that could be claimed to be deeply "misogynist": if women are not discriminated against just because they are women, but are merely disadvantaged because of how they they are socialized (*by their own mothers* andother women in practice), that means that they are just of one of many groups with a grievance, be they "the poor" etc.
In that case it becomes possible to point out that pale stale white privileged men are socialized to pay 2/3 of the costs of the welfare state while women take 2/3 of the benefits, and are socialized to suffer the largest number of disabilities and deaths because of working dangerous jobs, etc.

The point of the "identity discrimination" argument is that a billionaire woman CEO from an upper-middle class background is a hero because she overcame discrimination by men against her, while a tenuously employed pale stale man working in a warehouse from a very poor area is a privileged example of colossal failure despite having every advantage because he is a man.

The essence of political correctness is that "identity" is far more important than mere social/class forces, that "the markets" reward everyone according to their true worth unless they are discriminated against by privileged white men.

Our blogger should accordingly "Check his privilege"...

Rob Miller

@Christian Moon

"It suggests that occupational preference is not actually the result of socialisation in the way you suggest."

Not necessarily – if there was greater equality in pay between, say, pilots and cabin crew then you'd see less of a gender pay gap while still having gender-based occupational preferences. The existence of the latter doesn't require a gender-based pay gap.

Broadly: if it's the case that we systematically socialise women to believe that certain occupations are more appropriate for them, that's one thing; if we then systematically pay people in those occupations less than in traditionally masculine ones, then that's another, separate effect. Having both is one way (but not the only way) to create a gender pay gap.


Those "impersonal mechanisms" led the BBC to pay women less than equivalent men. Being useless isn't an excuse, especially when you argue that top pay is deserved by bosses who fail to even consider gender inequality as an issue worth assessing in their organisation.


«if it's the case that we systematically socialise women to believe that certain occupations are more appropriate for them»

Those tend to be occupations that are less dangerous and nasty, and are more friendly to part time work to free time for non-vocational pursuits.

For example in some countries 90% of math university students are women, while 70% of math university professors are men, and the reason is simple: a math degree leads to a math school teacher job, and in those countries teachers are only required to be at school in the morning (they revise work and prepare lessons at home); university professors instead have to attend their departments all day (and some more :->).

Because of socialization the labour laws used to discriminate against women and children by reserving many dangerous and nasty jobs to men, and we are still socialized as a culture so that they still largely discriminate against children doing them :-).


"Airlines, for example, have big gender pay gaps because women tend to be low-paid cabin crew whilst men are higher-paid pilots."

Interesting point about precisely that industry: BA has the lowest gap, Ryanair the biggest. BA has always been unionised as long as it has existed, Ryanair only cracked recently after a long and bitter struggle and IIRC that was the pilots - I don't know about cabin or ground people. Easyjet is halfway between the two, and guess what? It's been union for longer than Ryanair, but not as long as BA.

Conclusion: unions are good.

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