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The Grooming Gap: What “Looking the Part” Costs Women

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Image result for mindy isserMadison, who works a customer service job at an airport spa, has an employee handbook that says “makeup should be well maintained” and “hands and nails must be well manicured.” She says the few men she works with just ignore these guidelines “because they’re meant for women but [it] doesn’t explicitly say that.” Her wages ($13.25 per hour + 15% retail commission) do not include additional pay to purchase manicures or makeup. During her interview, her now-boss commented on how nice her makeup looked and how well her shoes matched her purse—comments that make her feel like she needs to keep up that kind of appearance even though she already has the job.

It’s well known that a persistent wage gap exists for women workers in the United States, a gap that becomes even wider when race, industry, age and geography are taken into account. But less frequently discussed is the often silent expectation around appearance imposed on women workers, which has its own financial costs—known as the “grooming gap.” The grooming gap refers to the set of social norms regarding grooming and appearance for women, including the time women workers must spend to conform to these norms and the material consequences it has on their lives.

We’ve all heard the common advice to “look the part” at work. For men, that can often just mean business casual clothing and a short haircut. For women, it can mean hours spent each week on makeup, hair styling and curating an outfit that’s both attractive and professional.

The rules are usually unspoken; even when employers do not explicitly require workers to wear makeup, for example, women workers often feel required to wear it anyway.

They’re not wrong: Sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner found that physically attractive workers have higher incomes than average-looking workers, but that this relationship is eliminated when controlling for grooming in women. In other words, if you purchase the right clothes, makeup and haircut, higher wages are more within reach. It’s true that men need to abide by certain grooming rules, too, but they are less complex, less expensive and less time consuming. Men’s haircuts, for example, often cost much less than women’s haircuts—regardless of hair length. The grooming gap essentially constitutes a pay cut catch-22: If women don’t conform, they are paid less; if they do conform, they’re expected to use those higher wages on beauty products and grooming regimens.

Grooming costs for women can be extremely expensive; the global beauty industry, valued at $532 billion worldwide, directs aggressive advertising toward women to convince them they need to purchase a whole host of products to have a chance at being beautiful, well-liked or successful. The industry relies on maintaining impossible expectations around women’s looks so it can continue to rake in enormous profits. One 2017 study found the average woman puts $8 worth of product on her face each day; another found the average woman spends up to $225,000 on skincare and makeup during her lifetime. And then there’s the “pink tax”: Studies confirm that, 42% of the time, products marketed to women are more expensive than comparable products targeted to men.

The grooming gap also results in a loss of free time: 55 minutes each day for the average woman, the equivalent of two full weeks each year. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFACWA), says that, in her industry—a workforce that is 79.3% women—the expectation around appearance literally “interrupts your sleep”: Flight attendants get minimal rest between flights, and that rest time is further shrunk because they are expected to appear “perfectly coifed” before their next flight. Nelson says that all of her grooming tasks took 30–40 minutes each day (more than two hours in a five-day work week). Madison agrees: it takes her 45 minutes to do her makeup and style her hair before her 7 a.m. shift—and she wakes up at 5 a.m. to get it all done. Prior to this job, Madison says she worked at the beauty department at Target, where she spent $200 on products every other week.

Restaurant and hospitality workers are perhaps hardest hit by the grooming gap, as they rely on tips to survive. When I was a barista in 2010–2011, the only official dress code rule was to wear closed-toed shoes, for safety. Still, I knew I had to show up looking pretty to pay the rent; I made less than $10 an hour and I needed the tips.

Katie, 36, a veteran bartender and server in Fort Smith, Ark., says at her current job, it’s “understood” she should wear makeup. At a previous restaurant, a manager even told her and her coworkers they would “make better tips if [they] wore makeup.”

“Based on my own appearance—weight fluctuations, makeup versus no makeup, jewelry versus no jewelry—there’s a definite difference,” Katie says. She adds that she was passed over for the most lucrative bartending shifts at her previous job after overhearing her managers say they wanted “cuter girls” to bartend instead.

Multi-billion dollar industries also market fad diets and anti-aging products to women. Both Katie and Jeeva, 24, a bartender and member of UNITE HERE, the union representing hospitality, hotel and airport workers, worry about aging. “As you get older, as a female bartender, your tips can go down,” Jeeva says. Katie says she “hope[s] to leave [the service industry] in the next 10 years, before I get too ugly.”

The grooming gap’s effects are compounded for women of color. According to Restaurant Opportunity Center, restaurant owners look for workers who are “clean-cut, [have] good hygiene or a professional appearance, all potential code words for race.” For instance, Black women spent $473 million on relaxers, weaves and other hair care in 2017, in part because of racist ideas that natural Black hair is not professional or attractive. Black workers annually spend nine times more on hair and beauty products than other workers.

For transgender women, too, there can be an added layer of work, stress and self-consciousness. Autumn, who transitioned while at her current publishing job in Washington, D.C., says she quickly realized how much time and energy it takes to perform femininity for work. She used to spend 20 minutes to get ready in the morning, but now takes at least 45 minutes. Autumn adds, “I have to do things that cis women don’t have to… [but] it’s gotten easier with time and practice,” like tucking and dealing with facial hair. Because she presents extremely femme, Autumn says she hasn’t dealt with enforcement around her appearance, but other women workers around the country have been disciplined and even fired for appearing insufficiently feminine. Women workers have sued—and won—over gender discrimination that manifests as attractiveness discrimination.

Nat, a trans woman who works at a union in the Washington, D.C., area, says, “I didn’t feel like I was allowed to be a woman if I liked masculine things. It delayed any kind of self-reflection” about gender and identity “for such a long time.”

At work and in the world, all women—cis and trans—feel the pressure to conform to normative standards of femininity and attractiveness. But the solution to this problem isn’t to throw away all the eyeshadow or take out a new line of credit for weekly manicures. The solution is to organize together.

“Building your union in the workplace is also about tackling the social issues that are directly applicable to your economic experience,” says Nelson. Because they were organized and had a voice in management’s ear, AFA-CWA flight attendants were able to relax and modernize aspects of their dress code. Prior to 2006, newly hired female flight attendants were required to attend a one-day training with a makeup artist (while men had the day off). Women were also encouraged to buy makeup if they didn’t have any, since female flight attendants were required to wear makeup. There are still appearance standards “that put a greater burden on women than men,” says Nelson, but there’s no longer a makeup training day, and no requirement to buy or wear makeup.

Because the vast majority of union contracts include language around wages, promotions, discipline and firing, the ways in which unionized women workers move up (or down) in a company are clear. They don’t have to wonder if they’re being pushed out because their boss doesn’t like the way they look—every infraction must be documented and explained. And because union workers receive raises based on seniority, gendered gaps around wages and promotions are far less likely, which gives women workers more freedom to ignore unspoken pressures around grooming, and a vehicle to further expand their rights at work.

Regardless of whether a workplace is unionized, workers can still organize to challenge gender inequity on the job. There’s a nascent movement around organizing for workers to be paid wages for time spent commuting to work, since commuting is a necessity. The same could be said of the grooming that women do before leaving for work. Working women, in unions and outside of them, could organize around extra compensation for women’s grooming products, as well as the time spent applying them; Madison suggests a “stipend.” Women workers also could fight against the tipped minimum wage, which invites pay discrimination based on appearance and which predominantly affects women.

Ultimately, social understandings of beauty and the many ways they impact women’s working conditions are just a piece of a bigger, systemic problem: the larger impacts of a patriarchal society’s effects on women. Women are constantly bombarded with advertisements and images of the ideal woman: thin, white, cis and beautiful—ideals that, of course, carry over into the workplace. The vast majority of women do not fit into these narrow, normative archetypes of beauty, and they can lose out financially because of them. But there are clear ways to organize at work around these issues: by forming unions or by standing together and fighting for legislation that ends the gender pay gap and the tipped minimum wage.

Closing the grooming gap and engaging in the struggles that will be needed to fundamentally challenge these exploitative systems—in and out of the workplace—will not be easy. But when has the fight to create the world we deserve ever been easy?

This article was originally published at InTheseTimes on January 2, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mindy Isser works in the labor movement and lives in Philadelphia.

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Reckoning With the Hidden Rules of Gender in the Tax Code: How Low Taxes on Corporations and the Wealthy Impact Women’s Economic Opportunity and Security

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Reckoning With the Hidden Rules of Gender in the Tax Code: How Low Taxes on Corporations and the Wealthy Impact Women’s Economic Opportunity and Security We’re excited to announce that NWLC, in partnership with Groundwork Collaborative, the Roosevelt Institute, and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, released three reports about gender and racial bias in the tax code and how to harness our tax laws as a tool for equity.
Reckoning With The Hidden Rules of Gender in the Tax Code, tackles some aspects of the tax code that shape corporate and individual behaviors in ways that have negative downstream effects on women and especially women of color. Among other things, this report analyzes how the tax code incents or enables exorbitant executive compensation at the expense of worker pay; how the tax code’s treatment of debt fuels predatory behavior by private equity firms; how particular tax provisions could encourage worker misclassification; and how corporations with a high share of women and people of color as employees engaged in big stock buybacks at the expense of increasing worker pay in the wake of the 2017 tax law.  We call out specific examples from Starbucks, Toys R Us, and Hilton.
You can access the final reports and executive summary here, and an article by Annie Lowrey at the Atlantic here.

This article was originally published at National Women’s Law Center. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: This report, co-authored by Katy Milani (Roosevelt Institute,  https://rooseveltinstitute.org), Melissa Boteach (NWLC), Steph Sterling (Roosevelt Institute), and Sarah Hassmer (NWLC), discusses how low taxes for the wealthy and corporations have played a role in enabling – and in some cases encouraging – those with the highest incomes and the most capital to accumulate outsized wealth and power in our economy. Centuries of discrimination and subjugation of women and people of color interact today with widening income inequality, such that white, non-Hispanic men are disproportionately represented among the wealthiest households, while labor and economic contributions from women of color are consistently undervalued. An agenda to advance racial and gender justice must reckon with provisions in our tax code perpetuate and enable these inequities.

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Few nurses are men, but they’re still paid more than women

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Laura ClawsonNursing is an occupation massively dominated by women. But the small fraction of nurses who are men earn substantially more than the women, according to an analysis of two large data sets:

Every year, each of the data sets found men earned more than women; the unadjusted pay gap ranged from $10,243 to $11,306 in one survey and from $9,163 to $9,961 in the other.There was a gap for hospital nurses, $3,783, and an even bigger one, $7,678, for nurses in outpatient settings.

Men out-earned women in every specialty except orthopedics, with the gap ranging from $3,792 in chronic care to $17,290 for nurse anesthetists.

Some of the usual possible explanations for how it’s totally not sexism apply, except that those explanations themselves typically involve some form of sexism, if not direct wage discrimination. So, yes, maybe women are more likely to work part-time (because they’re doing the work of caring for families that men don’t bother with).But given pay differentials this pervasive within one occupation (so we know it’s not that women make less because men are on Wall Street and women are secretaries) and across specialties within that occupation, a few of the “it’s not sexism because it’s really about women’s choices, which I am pretending are not constrained by sexism” excuses for the gender pay gap are eliminated. Which makes it just one more big glaring data point on the mile-long list of data points showing that women are systematically underpaid (or men are systematically overpaid) throughout the American economy.

This blog originally appeared on dailykos.com on March 24, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Labor editor since 2011. Laura at Daily Kos

 


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Yahoo CEO Doesn’t ‘Play The Gender Card’ Because Gender Isn’t ‘Relevant’ In Tech

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Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer tries to stay far away from the gender-based stereotypes plaguing the tech industry.

“I never play the gender card…The moment you play into that, it’s an issue,” Mayer told Medium for an article centered on Yahoo’s two-decade legacy and Mayer’s hand in turning the company around. “In technology we live at a rare, fast-moving pace. There are probably industries where gender is more of an issue, but our industry is not one where I think that’s relevant.”

Mayer’s comments go against the consensus from Silicon Valley players and tech employees that name lack of diversity, gender-based discrimination and harassment as persistent problems in the industry.

While gender is certainly an issue when it comes to workplace diversity, it’s even more pronounced when climbing through the ranks. Women only make up 11 percent of all executive positions in Silicon Valley companies, and often deal with hostile work environments, where sexual harassment and innuendo are rampant.

Mayer has been lauded for her hands on approach in leading Yahoo’s transformation from a struggling ad-based model to a tech giant once again. She’s also garnered respect and praise for breaking into the fairly exclusive, male-dominated club of company executives, and even more so, tech CEOs.

She is one of 24 women CEOs at S&P 500 companies, and just one of four female CEOs in the tech industry’s S&P 500 companies — Xerox’s Ursula Burns, Hewlett Packard’s Meg Whitman, Oracle’s Safra Catz, and Virginia Rometty at IBM, according to a report from Catalyst, a business research and strategy firm.

Like other tech companies, including Google and Twitter, looking to diversify and shed the “brogrammer” stereotype, Yahoo employees are overwhelmingly male and white. Women make up 37 percent of of all Yahoo employees, according to the company’s diversity report released last year. Only 15 percent work in tech worldwide, while another 23 percent hold leadership positions.

Those figures are echoed throughout the industry and have led companies to make deliberate efforts to boost racial and gender diversity, weed out harassment and discrimination. For example, Google launched an initiative “Made With Code” to get young girls interested in coding, alongside independent efforts that ramp up outreach efforts through programs like Black Girls Code and Code2040 to make the industry less homogenous.

This article originally appeared on thinkprogress.org on March 2, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Lauren C. Williams is the tech reporter for ThinkProgress with an affinity for consumer privacy, cybersecurity, tech culture and the intersection of civil liberties and tech policy. Before joining the ThinkProgress team, she wrote about health care policy and regulation for B2B publications, and had a brief stint at The Seattle Times. Lauren is a native Washingtonian and holds a master’s in journalism from the University of Maryland and a bachelor’s of science in dietetics from the University of Delaware.


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What’s Behind The Gender Inequality In American Boardrooms

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Bryce CovertWhen Ellen Costello started out in the financial industry, she was often the only woman in the room. “Especially the times I was in the capital markets business, there were very few women,” she told ThinkProgress. When she served on BMO’s board for seven years, she was one of three women out of 15 seats.

That could be uncomfortable when she was in the early stages of her career. “Sure there were times… I have to think back to the early days, especially when I was really young in my career, when it was uncomfortable,” she said. “But you adapt to it, and people are good at…looking beyond your gender, at what you can contribute.”

She eventually became president and CEO of BMO Financial Corp. and was recently appointed to the board of DH Corporation. And she says times have changes. “I’m happy to say that over the years, that group of women [in finance] has grown.”

The latest numbers released today by the research group Catalyst show that women make up 19.2 percent of board positions on U.S. companies in the S&P 500. Perhaps more impressive is that 131 companies, or 26.2 percent of the S&P 500, have boards that are a quarter or more female. Just 18 companies, or 3.6 percent, have failed to appoint any women to their boards at all.

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While Catalyst can’t judge progress because it has shifted this year from tracking numbers in the Fortune 500 to the S&P 500, so the previous eight years of stalled progress in raising women’s share of board seats aren’t comparable to current figures, Brande Stellings, vice president of Catalyst Corporate Board Services, thinks there’s reason to be optimistic. The number of companies without any women on their boards “is very low and indicative at least of a shift toward companies realizing it is no longer acceptable to have no women board directors in this day and age,” she said. And some companies are actually at or close to parity. Avon’s board is nearly two-thirds female, while Xerox is at exactly 50/50 and 10 companies are in the 40-plus percent range.

The challenge is getting all companies to gender equality. “The critical question is how we get past 19 percent for the S&P 500…to something more approaching critical mass,” Stellings said. “The thing we have to next pay attention to is to make sure companies don’t stop at one and see having one on their board as a safe harbor.”

That’s where the U.S. falls behind international peers. Catalyst found that Norway’s boards are 35.5 percent female, on average; Finland and France are just under 30 percent while Sweden clocks in at 28.8 percent; and the United Kingdom’s boards are 22.8 percent female. Even our northern neighbors beat us: Canada’s boards are 20.8 percent female.

What’s the difference? “When you look at the Europe numbers, you do see many of those tracking higher than the U.S. do have regulatory frameworks in place,” Stellings said. Norway instituted the world’s first gender quota in 2008, requiring boards to be at least 40 percent female, and a number of other European countries have since done the same. The United Kingdom hasn’t put a quota in place, but in 2011 it released the Davies Report that set a target of FTSE 100 boards being 25 percent female by the end of this year, and women’s representation has been at record-breaking levels ever since.

The chances of a quota in the U.S. are slim. But there are ways to prod progress along. Currently, the only requirement in regards to corporate diversity in this country is a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule that companies disclose whether they consider diversity when picking board members in their proxy statements and, if they do, how the policy is implemented. But the SEC doesn’t define diversity, so just half take it to mean gender or race. Most often, they define it as experience or viewpoint. And complying with the disclosure rule can simply mean a company saying it has no diversity policy on its books. Changing that rule to define diversity and to make it a “comply or explain” rule in which companies either report they have a policy or have to explain why they don’t could have more of an impact.

In the meantime, Costello has some ideas about how companies can increase board diversity on their own. They can “make sure the slates that come forward are representative of a diverse slate, women and people of color, so they can consider others rather than maybe the traditional, those who they know in their network,” she said. Part of that comes down to mentoring and sponsorship. Mentorship “has certainly helped me,” she noted. “The board I recently joined in October came about as a result of a network contact of mine who knew me pretty well and made an intro.” The appointment may not have happened without that connection.

It’s in companies’ best interest to move the numbers along. A huge number of studies have found that those with more women on their boards outperform companies without any women.

This article originally appeared in thinkprogress.org on January 13, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media

 

 


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Gender Pay Gap Is Largest On Wall Street

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While it’s well-known by now that women consistently earn less than men even though they often attain better education — 77.4 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts in 2010 — Bloomberg News’ Frank Bass reports a new development: this gap is widest on Wall Street.

Parsing census data, Bass found that the six jobs with the largest gender gap in 2010 were insurance agents, managers, financial clerks, securities sales agents, personal financial advisers, other financial specialists — all in “the Wall Street-heavy financial sector”:

The financial sector pays women in the six major jobs with the biggest salary gap from 55 to 62 cents for every $1 made by men, according to the census. Female bank tellers, with a median salary of $23,695, came closest to narrowing the gap in the industry, pulling down 96 cents for every $1 earned.

One reason female professionals make less money in the financial sector is that they tend to wind up in lower-paying positions such as in public finance rather than on trading desks, said Louise Marie Roth, a University of Arizona sociologist and author of “Selling Women Short: Gender and Money on Wall Street.”

Women often simply don’t know how much they’re being underpaid because a large percentage of Wall Street salaries are based on bonuses that are kept secret, she said.

The gap is hardly confined to the financial sector — wide disparities exist in many other high-education sectors, such as among doctors and lawyers — but it’s notable that all six of the job categories with the highest discrepancy are in a single sector.

Bass notes that “women who want to earn more on Wall Street than their male colleagues have one reliable option. They can set up a shoe-shine,” where women make $1.02 for every dollar men make.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on March 19, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Alex Seitz-Wald is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Alex grew up in California and holds a B.A. in international relations from Brown University. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Alex interned at the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS and at the National Journal’s Hotline, where he covered key senate and gubernatorial races. Alex also co-founded and edited the Olive & Arrow, a blog on foreign affairs for and by young progressives. At Brown, he contributed to several publications and served on student government.


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