Friday, October 3, 2014

Point-Counterpoint at Anderson on Female/Male Pay Ratio

A well known finance professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management recently published a blog entry at Huffington Post which dealt with the female-to-male pay ratio in higher ed.  In his entry which he circulated to all faculty, Prof. Bhagwan Chowdhry postulated a model in which males and females are paid the same when adjusted for quality of research, etc., but there are fewer females in the pipeline.  He then shuffles the proportions of high and low quality faculty between high and low quality universities producing a pay gap.  The result of such a reconfiguration produces a pay gap even though everyone is paid equally adjusted for quality.  Best to read it yourself, however.  You can find his article at

A number of Anderson faculty have written an email reply (and the discussion back and forth is proceeding as your truly types this post).

Email text:

The following message is being sent on behalf of  the several faculty listed below.

Dear Bhagwan, 

Thank you for circulating your interesting thought experiment suggesting that gender pay gaps may exist even without intentional discrimination.  While we appreciate the free exchange of ideas, many of us are disappointed by the unintentional justification you provide for not attempting to fix the real biases that do exist for women in both academia and corporate America.  


Even though you may personally be aware that many of the assumptions on which your simplified island economy is based are false and that discrimination is real, your post is likely to lead some readers to think, “well, I guess pay discrimination is built into the system without any bias, so there’s nothing we can do to fix it.”  Creating an artificial simulation where the pay gap persists, without first acknowledging that its two fundamental assumptions – 1) that women and men of equal quality receive equal pay, and 2) that women and men of equal objective quality are equally likely to be categorized and rewarded as “superstars” – are unfounded, seriously undermines our attempts to make people appreciate the importance of debiasing the system.


Your argument, at its essence, absolves everyone of personal responsibility for the current climate, and therefore prevents us as a school from making any real progress on this important issue. The hypothetical case you consider is an interesting exercise for a student, but it has little to do with the reality of gendered pay .  We'd be happy to share with you some of the large body of research that has been devoted to this issue, and look forward to continued discussion of it on a school-wide basis.



Corinne Bendersky

Aimee Drolet Rossi

Mariko Sakakibara

Carol Scott
Margaret Shi

Suzanne Shu

Maia Young

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