Wednesday, December 16, 2015

How should we fix the CEO gender pay gap?

Emily Crockett, writing for Vox, has posted a thing about The CEO gender gap, in 3 depressing charts. I ultimately agree with Clickhole's take on this problem (h/t Abi Wilkinson) and am on record with my general criticism of this genre of leftism. If you don't believe that grieving the identitarian woes of our oligarchic overlords is an actual genre, maybe these Vox headlines will change your mind:


In any case, sure, optimizing pay discrepancies among the top 1% should have a place in the left's agenda (perhaps we should talk about it ~1% of the time). But how would we go about doing this? Ryan Cooper has directed me to a piece by Jessica Valenti where she floats a solid, constructive proposal:
But what if the boldest solution for the wage gap isn’t about raising women’s salaries at all? What if we paid men less?
By any leftist analysis, this is a fantastic idea: it satisfies the socialist imperative of reducing net inequality while addressing identitarian concerns over gender discrepancies.

The only problem, as Valenti acknowledges, is that this approach happens to be illegal, since you can't lower wages for men just to combat pay discrimination. One solution here would be to simply legalize it; in general, affirmative measures to directly legislate gender inequality out of existence can be extremely productive, as I noted in my recent article about getting women on the ballot.

But here is an alternative, which I think deserves some reflection among the identitarian left. If we care about material inequality, and not simply symbolic milestones, you can also reduce it (in absolute terms) with salary cuts across the board. Cut the median compensation for all bank CEOs in half, and women are still making only about 77% what men make - but instead of making $147k less, they're only making $74k less. And on top of that, you suddenly have $573k to redistribute to the working class, in any way you like.

Unlike Valenti's proposal, this approach is completely legal. And it narrows the absolute pay gap while providing even more funds for redistribution than you would have if you only lowered men's pay the same amount. But it makes no symbolic progress in terms of reducing percentages, and it asks us to acknowledge that even women can have privilege that needs to be torn down. Of course, the approach I just outlined is really just the classic socialist project of redistribution. Is there a coherent argument against it?