Discrimination against women?

September 2, 2015 22:57
Women in Jerusalem

Women in Jerusalem. (photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

According to Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2012 the discrepancy between the average salaries of men and women in Israel was a whopping 33.9 percent.

This despite the fact that on average women are now better educated than men.

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Statistics, of course, can be misleading, especially when as in this case they ignore specifics such as age, professional training and status, number of children and other ineffable but sometimes crucial characteristics of the “human factor” sort.

Furthermore a strong case can be made that the salary gap between men and women does not result from different pay for the same hours worked. It can therefore not be fixed by any law or better enforcement of equal-pay laws. Women are paid less because they work in less profitable jobs (e.g. in academics, you will find more female sociologists than physicists), work less hours even when fully employed, and interrupt frequently their career (child bearing and caring), thus accumulating less work experience or “seniority.”

This said, the mere fact that such a huge wage differential exists, for whatever cause, should give us pause, even if the fact that it exists does not prove that there was a willful intention to discriminate (as obviously there often is), and not even that there was some conspiracy to do so. The mere fact that such a discrepancy exists is discriminatory per se. It negatively impacts on women’s welfare and on their families, and therefore poses a grave social problem.

Such phenomena as the wage gap between men and women, as most human phenomena, cannot be ascribed to only one chain of causation. Human behavior usually has multiple causes that interact and crisscross, generating “feedback” effects that are not always given to logical linear analysis. Chaos theory, anyone? The government’s Employment Service data further indicates that women are underrepresented in all levels of management in the Israeli public sector. In 2011 the proportion of women in public employment was 64%, but their representation in the highest level of management was only 33%, in the second level 36% and in the lowest around 41%. The number of women under the poverty line was in 2011 about 18% higher than in men according to the National Insurance Institute.

Some of these gaps may be due, as several serious economists explained, to women’s double, heavy role as mothers and employees. Few women can invest in their careers the same amount of time and effort as men do, or maintain the same focus and continuity.

So some discrepancy in salaries may be justified. But 33%? Rather questionable, especially if you factor in the equally plausible, though mostly intuitive argument that women’s productivity may be sometimes higher than men’s.

There are many protests against discrimination against women but they are relatively weak and ineffective. Gender discrimination is generally accepted as normal. It may get a frown of disapproval from sensitive souls, but it has been tolerated for decades now. As is evident from the results, not enough consistent efforts have been made to overcome it. This despite the fact that low salaries in Israel ($2,000 at best) and the sky-high cost of living (higher than in Manhattan) make life for women who have to care for children, plus help with the family’s income, exceedingly difficult.

Generally, women in Israel, as with most workers only even more so, suffer from the widespread discrimination caused by our twisted labor markets that are dominated and distorted by our monopolistic Labor Federation (Histadrut).

Labor’s leadership maintains power by serving the interests of corrupt, nepotism- ridden monopoly labor unions, as in the Port of Ashdod, the Electric Corporation, Mekorot, the aviation and defense industry, the unions of airport and public transportation services and even in putative private businesses such as our banks.

Most workplaces in Israel are thoroughly politicized.

Advancement and even productivity premiums are not related to merit or achievement but to the right connections with union bosses, who take care of their boys at the expense of all other workers, especially women, who lack the right connections to make it in politics (how many Daliah Itziks or Gila Gamliels can Israel boast of?).

The breakup of monopoly unions – that destroy productivity and defend our corrupt anti-growth economic system – can do wonders for the Israeli economy and especially for its workers, most especially the ones who lack political clout, the lowest paid workers and women. But political realities being what they are the chances of such a revolution are not high, and women will have to pay a higher share for the distortion of Israeli labor markets than workers generally do.

Astonishingly, discrimination against women is equally prevalent in sectors where you would least expect it, because allegedly these are sectors manned (!) by our best and brightest, by our most educated and therefore supposedly most prejudice-free men, both in academia and in hi-tech.

In the universities, though women have come to perform significantly better than men their proportion among tenured professors is pitifully small (though the situation may be improving) and their chances of advancement, they report, are poor. A recent report by a Committee to Advance Women in Higher Education noted that the rate of women in the higher echelons of Israeli universities is much lower than is common in the West. It is 29% in universities and 39% in colleges.

Only 16% of full professors are women.

The social sciences and humanities departments of the universities have become dominated via the tenure system (that enables an ideological old boys’ network to promote only true believers) by a cabal of zealous post-modernists and neo-Marxists.

They do not allow anyone who does not adhere to the faith to teach or get promoted, and they make sure their students never have time to read anything except what they dictate. Israel’s most precious resource, its human capital, is literally trashed by producing university graduates that mostly lack general knowledge but are well versed in the shibboleths of post-modernism or neo-Marxism. They have been rendered incapable of thinking independently or writing coherently and lack most skills required for making a living in a modern economy.

Another handicap for women is that in order to get promoted you have to publish.

Because of the extensive research required it is often necessary that papers be submitted by groups of academics.

Lead authors naturally invite their colleagues to co-author their papers. Few women or “outsiders” generally can aspire to be included in these “connected” groups.

They often form in early life, in neighborhood groups and associations, in schools, in soccer clubs but mostly in the army. They eventually evolve into the networks that govern Israeli society, our “Buddyocracy” that has been serving our tycoons, their political allies and their hundreds of facilitators, lawyers, accountants, lobbyists, PR and media people, almost all male.

These buddy networks infect Israeli society, especially its economy, with heavy nepotism. Nepotism results in inefficiency and waste but also discriminates heavily against the unconnected, those who lack “access.”

Often women, even more than other workers, are “discriminated” against simply because they lack access to the right networks.

One additional major reason for women’s disadvantage may be the generally poor quality of Israeli education that affects especially those with only a high school education, as is the case with many women who work in less remunerative jobs.

Israeli education is bureaucracy- ridden and dominated by a moldy “liberal” mindset which undermines even a semblance of order or focus necessary for class instruction.

Badly trained teachers are boring; so much time is wasted on enforcing discipline on restless kids. Bad, poorly educated teachers are protected by the corrupt teachers unions, so education keeps deteriorating. Women who lack a university degree suffer most from this particular deficiency of Israeli education.

Women have become in the past few decades better educated than men, but there are also strong indications that women tend to be not only more adept at multi-tasking, demanding a better ability to focus, but are also generally more pragmatic and less dogmatic than educated men whose minds are often heavily covered with the barnacles of academic preconceptions and lingo. Academic studies also instill in many men a feeling of “I know it all” (little knowledge is often a barrier against more knowledge); to challenge “the experts” seems absurd and offensive. Academic women are apparently not immune to this professional hazard but generally women do seem to have a less confrontational style, and a more conciliatory, problem-solving disposition.

Is sometimes makes them better team workers (there are of course many women bosses who are as tyrannical as the worst of men and who engage in office politics with the same venom).

If true – and there are good intuitive indications that it may be – then woman may be on the whole more productive than men. If salaries aught to be determined by a person’s productivity rather than by hours spent on the job, then many women deserve perhaps not only salaries equal to man but maybe higher.

The popular departments of gender studies that are mostly devoted to divisive sexual politics could do well by studying women’s productivity and helping women get equitably compensated for their work.

It may have a huge impact on women’s welfare.

There are also repeated claims, mostly from women, that some of the handicaps women face are aggravated at least by their lack of “push” and assertiveness (instilled in them by cultural conditioning and by education), and by the negative attitudes of women that “made it” and want to preserve their special status among men. But should such handicaps not prompt us to make even greater efforts to overcome their damaging consequences? Israelis often complain about the demeaning attitude to women common among many Muslims and Orthodox Jews. Those who consider themselves so enlightened should exert greater efforts to put a stop to the prolonged wrong of gender discrimination.

A lot can be done – and relatively quickly – to improve the status of women and their economic productivity for the benefit of all. But it should not be done by any kind of so-called “affirmative action” based on legislative initiatives. Where legislated already, anti-discriminatory legislation should be better enforced of course, but the Israeli penchant to use the law to enforce social change must be resisted. Our law books are already full of laws and regulations of the affirmative-action type. At best they do not accomplish much, and usually just make matters worse and at a high cost to society, and especially to those intended to benefit from them. Look what decades of the welfare state did to the poor. The alacrity to legislate does wonders for our politicians and for their lawyer colleagues, who make a mint by “settling” such problems, but it seldom achieves its intended purposes. It only clogs the courts and makes a mockery of the law as its impotence to affect real change is revealed.

A lot can be done to improve women’s status in the job market by removing the great obstacles and distortions created by unions, by the government bureaucracies that distort labor markets and by poor education. Better, more relevant education could help a lot, since the obsession with the moldy ideologies and the dogmas of liberalism that rule elementary and middle schooling, and of post-modernism and neo-Marxism in the universities, are leaving most students bereft of knowledge of the real world and lacking the skills necessary to navigate it.

Economic measures have a proven ability to cause great and relatively quick changes.

In two to three centuries they have liberated Europe from deep poverty, and are doing the same now in China and India.

Training to improve the skills, and therefore the productivity of women who are secretaries, nurses, teachers and salespersons can make a dramatic improvement in their productivity and enhance the status of their occupations. These professions are now considered lowly, not for their lack of potential to create social and economic benefit but because their practitioners are usually poorly trained. It should not be hard or costly to accomplish the upgrading of skills. The resulting higher productivity will also greatly benefit the general economy by inducing a great spurt of growth through the better utilization of the rich human capital that women possess.

Women give us life. They shape our character and fate.

They help us grow through difficult times such as adolescence, and generally support us for the rest of their lives. How can we justify our indifference to the unfair compensation they receive and the heavy burden it imposes on them? We can do a lot to make their

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