Giselle Bundchen

Err, Jeff?

By contrast, the beautiful Ms Bündchen, a catwalk superstar, has a figure that turns heads and a head that turns figures. She looks like a million bucks but refuses to be paid in dollars. She has worked out that accumulating assets in a depreciating currency is a mug\’s game.

You did spot that she (or rather, her sister, who is her manager) denied the paying in euros story?

Behind the greenback\’s slide towards "toilet currency" status is a 25-year binge by US consumers and government, hell bent on spending more than they earn. Warren Buffett, the legendary investor, explains: "Our country has been behaving like an extraordinarily rich family that possesses an immense farm. In order to consume more than we produce – that\’s the trade deficit – we have, day by day, been both selling pieces of the farm and increasing the mortgage on what we still own… goodbye pleasure, hello pain."

Well, actually, no.  The chickens that are coming home to roost are the effects of the dollar being over valued for the last decade or more. That over valuation is what has caused the trade deficit. The solution is thus that the dollar should fall in value relative to other currencies. Much as I personally hate it (the majority of my income is in $) that part of what is going on, the falling dollar, is in fact the solution, the right thing to be happening.


Yvonne Roberts


Women working full time earn 17% less than the full-time male salary. While this is down to a variety of factors, discrimination is at the root.

Whether discrimination is at the root or not is what we want to find out, not our starting assumption. When we do look in more detail and we find that there is no pay gap for lesbians, that never married no children women earn more than their male counterparts, that the pay gap is very small indeed, widens considerably in the prime child bearing years and then shrinks again we might in fact come to the conclusion that the gender pay gap has something to do with…..children!

Just like the exorbitant scale applied to the talent of superstars, the value given to a particular job at times appears arbitrary. Why, for instance, in 2006, did a car mechanic earn £9.72 an hour while a childminder earned £2 less? Don\’t say it\’s down to the difference in skill, since childminding now requires its own set of qualifications and standards. To "care" is no longer enough.

Err, lemme think. Could it be supply and demand?

Why not make it a legal obligation for all companies, large and small, as well as the self-employed to publish salary details and tax obligations of all employees (not just those on the board) in a manner accessible to all?

Err, because they\’re private contracts perhaps? You know, something personal like, something that people may keep hidden if they so wish? If such contracts are to be revealed then there\’s no reason that all contracts should not be published, is there?

That\’s a Thatcherite view of society in which unions are redundant and what the individual wants counts for more than a collective consensus of what is right, fair and just.

Ah, that\’s the real reason. You shouldn\’t do what you want as individuals, you should subject yourself to the tyranny of the majority.


A Step Forward and Then Two Back

Amanda Marcotte:

They have figured out what feminists have been noting for a long time—that the gap between men and women economically is now more a gap between mothers and everyone else.

It\’s not just feminists who have been saying this of couse, economists have been shouting it from the rooftops as well. Why, even I have been known to make the point a time or two. The gender pay gap is an issue of childbirth and child rearing, not a result of direct discrimination against women. Still good news that this important point is gaining traction on the wilder shores of the feminist blogosphere. That\’s the step forward.

But it’s also true that this is evidence that we need federally subsidized day care, more worker protections for working mothers, better maternal leave (and maybe even mandatory paternal leave), more flex time at work, and less social stigma on motherhood.

And that\’s the two steps back. For what is the mechanism by which child birth and child rearing create the gender pay gap? Why, it\’s because mothers of children are more expensive to employ. Because maternal leave costs money, because worker protections cost money, because flex time costs money. (Mandatory paternal leave would also cost money, which would convert the current gender pay gap into a parental pay gap.)

So the solution offered to the perceived inequity of economic income and freedom is to restrict said economic freedom and depress such incomes?

Perhaps slightly more thought is required here?



Rape Conviction Rates

I\’m reasonably certain that Daphna Baram didn\’t mean this to be taken this way but:

There is no indication of more judicial mistakes in rape convictions than in any other field of crime.

So, the low conviction rate is not a result of judicial mistakes, it\’s simply part and parcel of the nature of the crime and the difficulty of proving it. So can we have an end to the talk of the way in which the low conviction rates show that it\’s a uniquely badly dealth with crime?

The Myth of Mars and Venus

I love this. Deborah Cameron sets out to show that men and women are not as different as many claim. Things like the use of language, empathic versus systemizing behaviour etc. She even quotes Simon Baron Cohen:

The difference between the two lists reflects what Baron-Cohen takes to be the "essential difference" between male and female brains. The female-brain jobs make use of a capacity for empathy and communication, whereas the male ones exploit the ability to analyse complex systems. Baron-Cohen is careful to talk about -"people with the female/male brain" rather than "men and women". He stresses that there are men with female brains, women with male brains, and individuals of both sexes with "balanced" brains. He refers to the major brain types as "male" and "female", however, because the tendency is for males to have male brains and females to have female brains. And at many points it becomes clear that in spite of his caveats about not confusing gender with brain sex, he himself is doing exactly that.

Baron Cohen is very clear in his academic papers that he\’s talking about brain type, not XY or XX. Anyway, what amuses me is that having accused him of confusing gender with brain sex she then goes on to talk about the averages of men and women: that is, not making the distinction between brain type and gender.

Hmmm, Could it be?

Interesting little note here (yes, I know the survey was sponsored by the manufacturer of an energy drink):

It says: "Thirtysomething women today are on their knees suffering debilitating tiredness because there are simply not enough hours in their days to build in any relaxation time."

Eighty-five per cent of thirtysomething women say they frequently feel tired and 59 per cent of these feel tired all the time.

Only a quarter regularly enjoy seven or eight hours sleep a night, 75 per cent are lucky if they get six hours, and 40 per cent usually get by on less than six.

They snack, eat on the hoof, and almost half regularly phone in sick.

One in 10 has heart palpitations, a quarter suffer from asthma or eczema, and one in 10 suffers from shortness of breath.

The gender pay gap is virtually non-existent amongst those in their 20s, widens dramatically in the 30s and then starts to shrink again in the 40s and 50s. I wonder whether this could be anything to do with it?

One Difference Between Men and Women

I thought everyone knew this?

The profs measured the intelligence of 2,500 brothers and sisters and pronounced that males show a greater propensity for being both geniuses and morons than their female siblings.

Agreed, saying it is what got Larry Summers into so much trouble at Harvard but then it being something which the Harvard faculty insists it is impermissible to say bolsters rather than reduces the likelihood of its being true.

The distribution of attributes (whether it be height, intelligence, speed, strength, whatever) in males is wider than it is in females. Longer tails to the distribution if you like.

The most interesting (entirely unproven I might add) explanation for this came from a female biologist back when Summers was in all that trouble. It\’s exactly to do with the XX and XY. Y is such a truncated little thing that if there\’s a problem (read mutation?) with the sole X then there\’s no other copy of a gene to cover for it. Women, having two X\’s, are more likely (for a lack of a functioning gene in both X\’s is less likely than in just one) to have another copy of a gene that can take over. Thus, women are more likely to be "average", men more likely to be at the extremes of a distribution.*

Summers\’ problem was that he then mused that perhaps (and it very much was a perhaps) this explained the gender imbalance amongst Ivy League professors, especially in the hard sciences, where the people are drawn from the third and fouth standard deviations from the mean. Because there are more men in that pool. I don\’t think he would have got into so much trouble if he\’d pointed to the other end of the distribution, the population of those in homes for the feeble minded.

* Please note, I\’m absolutely certain that this will read wrongly to anyone who actually knows about this area of biology but the general gist should be clear.


Sex Discrimination

Really? This counts?

A couple of years ago, I advised a high flying professional who was being subject to overt sex discrimination at work. Not only was she told not to use her married name at work, on the basis that a switch from using her maiden name would demonstrate a lack of commitment to her job, but it transpired that the rest of her team had run a sweep stake on how soon she would leave work (to have children etc) after marrying. Fed up with this nonsense, she consequently resigned and there followed a substantial out of court settlement in her favour.

The nasty people are talking behind my back so giveme some money? That\’s sex discrimination these days?

We also get the classic statistical lie:

Women working full-time are still paid on average 17 per cent per cent less an hour than men (38 per cent less if they work part-time)

No, not true. Women, on average, who work part time. get paid 38% per hour less than men who work full time. Men who work part time also getpaid less per hour than men who work full time. In the private sector, the difference between male and female part time pay is around 11%.

That Gender Pay Gap Explained

Now, of course, we know that it shouldn\’t be like this. The law is the law and everyone should obey it. Indeed, we know that simply by passing a law we solve a problem and there are never any unintended consequences.

Women are losing out on jobs because some businesses avoid hiring those of child-bearing age because of maternity laws, research claims.

Some 63 per cent of executives say they find regulations pose a \”serious threat\” to their companies.

Almost one in five directors says they have avoided hiring women of child-bearing age because of the legal risk of being caught out by constant changes in rules on maternity pay and time off.

Such discrimination is illegal. But whether it is or not isn\’t quite the point. If 20% of directors avoid hiring women of child bearing age because of the maternity rules then that\’s one fifth of the economy off limits to such women of child bearing age. This will obviously have an effect upon the wages on offer. Just more fuel for the fire that is the obvious thought: the gender pay gap is, at least in part, caused by the laws on maternity leave etc.

My my, what a surprise. Perhaps it isn\’t possible to have it all, perhaps there really are trade offs that have to be made in real life?