Guest Host: Susan Page

American women have made significant strides in the workplace. But they still lag behind men in pay and advancement. Those issues are at the heart of a job discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart. Next week the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments on aspects of the case, which could affect more than a million women. In the next hour, we’ll talk with three women – a lawyer, an economist and a journalist – each with a different generation’s perspective on gender equality in employment. And we’ll explore why workplace flexibility has become increasingly important for both men and women.


  • Heather Boushey Senior economist at the Center for American Progress.
  • Marcia Greenberger Founder and co-president of the National Women's Law Center.
  • Hannah Seligson Journalist and author of "New Girl on the Job."


  • 11:06:55

    MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's on a station visit with WJCT in Jacksonville, Fla. Next week, the Supreme Court will consider whether a job discrimination suit against Walmart can proceed as a class action case. Depending on how the court rules, it could become the largest sex bias lawsuit in the nation's history. Gender and equality has long been an issue in the American workplace. Despite advances, it still is. Joining me in the studio for an update on women in the workforce, Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress, Marcia Greenberger of the National Women's Law Center and journalist Hannah Seligson. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 11:07:42


  • 11:07:42


  • 11:07:43


  • 11:07:43

    PAGEWe're going to invite our listeners to join our conversation later in this hour. You can call our toll free number 1-800-433-8850. Send us an e-mail at or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, Marcia, tell us, this lawsuit involving Walmart, what's it about?

  • 11:08:04

    GREENBERGERWell, it was brought about ten years ago by a number of women on behalf of all of the women who were in the retail sector at Walmart who were alleging that they were denied pay and promotions on the basis of sex. And the point of the lawsuit is to get back pay that's owed to these women, to make sure that Walmart changes its practices and policies, to eliminate the kind of discrimination that they described and to make sure that going forward there is fair treatment so there will be more women who have an opportunity for the promotions and also equal pay for the jobs that they have.

  • 11:08:53

    PAGEBut the issue that the Supreme Court's going to consider is not whether Walmart discriminated, but whether this can be a class action suit. Why is that important?

  • 11:09:03

    GREENBERGERWell, actually it's a terribly important issue even though it seems so technical. As I said, it's brought by several women on behalf of all of the women who are similarly situated all throughout the country who work for Walmart. If they are allowed to bring this case on behalf of all of these women, and as Walmart is the largest retailer in this country, that is a very large number of women, then they can change the practices companywide. All of the women who could be subjected to that kind of discrimination would have their employment prospects brightened and fairness ensured.

  • 11:09:48

    GREENBERGERWell, if they can bring this on behalf of all the women as what's called a class action then even for those women who may not realize that they are suffering from discrimination, they will be able to get those remedies, not only what's owed them but also for the future. If the class action mechanism is not allowed to be used, that means individual women or small clumps of women would have to come together to take on Walmart, a giant. That means that they would have to have the wherewithal to challenge their case that -- by themselves. That means they would have to know what the companywide practices are and how they fit into them in a way that's unlikely for them to ever know.

  • 11:10:39

    GREENBERGERSo the practicality -- and it means they'd have to each go find lawyers all over the country on their own to bring their own cases. So the practicality, if this class action can't be brought against Walmart as an enormous company -- but depending on how the court rules it could affect companies of many, many sizes -- then we will not have a critically important mechanism for making sure that employment discrimination across the board in a company setting is actually remedied and fairness is actually restored. And it would undermine the whole effectiveness of the civil rights laws in this country that prohibit discrimination.

  • 11:11:22

    PAGEHeather, you know, this is the first big sex discrimination suit, I believe, brought before court that has three women justices. Will that make any difference do you think?

  • 11:11:33

    BOUSHEYWell, one would think that it might have some impact but I'd actually like to touch on one thing that Marcia said that I'd like to flag as being really important. Marcia, you said, that a class action suit is important because many women may not realize that they're experiencing discrimination. And here's something that I want us to underscore. That in many workplaces it is not -- an employer can penalize you for asking your colleagues how much they make. Now, if I'm sitting in a cubicle next to a guy who's doing the exact same job but I can't ask him what he's earning, how will I know if I'm being discriminated against?

  • 11:12:12

    BOUSHEYAnd I want to underscore just from an economics perspective how important this is. There are probably many women at Walmart who may not even know about the case, may not know how much their male colleagues are making for the same work. And, you know, there was legislation that passed the House and came very close to getting voted on in the Senate called the Paycheck Fairness Act, that would've made it -- given the people the right to know how much their colleagues are earning.

  • 11:12:36

    GREENBERGEROr at least the right to talk about it. And, in fact, in Walmart they have that very policy that Heather just referred to. Employees are not allowed to discuss what it is that they earn with other employees, even if they're willing to. So women are often completely in the dark. Walmart has another unfortunate policy in practice which is they rarely post job openings. So women don't know that there's even a possibility of a promotion that they could apply for. And then all of a sudden they find out that Joe working next to them has been promoted. They didn't even know there was a possible thing to apply to be promoted for.

  • 11:13:18

    GREENBERGERSo this being in the dark makes it all the more important to have this kind of class remedy. So it can show what the broad patterns are, it can ensure that women are treated fairly. You know, there was a Supreme Court case just a few years ago at a time when there was only one female justice on the Supreme Court, the Lilly Ledbetter case where on another technicality a woman, Lilly Ledbetter, didn't find out for almost two decades that her pay had been systematically less than her male coworkers at Goodyear Tire. And the Supreme Court held five to four -- this was after Sandra Day O'Connor stepped down and she was replaced by Justice Alito -- that she filed her complaint too late. Well, she would've been fired if she had been discussing what she earned, and she filed as soon as she learned what the pay disparity was.

  • 11:14:20

    GREENBERGERSo these -- it is a common problem, and I wanna say something very quickly about your question of the three justices on the Supreme Court, the women now. Needless to say, every person sees issues as an individual justice in their own view of the law and so they're not there as a female justice or a male justice. But there have been studies that have shown, especially in discrimination cases, that when there are women judges or on a panel of judges looking at a case, that actually that affects not only how the woman judge sees the case, but how her male colleagues see it, that her real life experience can inform to the benefit of the whole court what the intent of the law was and how a legal interpretation would really work as a practical matter, whether in furtherance of the intent of the law or not.

  • 11:15:22

    PAGEYou know, it's interesting. There was a study released just this week that showed when a CEO -- when a daughter is born to a CEO the pay disparity between men and women in the CEO's company narrows and does not...

  • 11:15:36

    SELIGSONSo the (unintelligible) really is political.

  • 11:15:36

    PAGE...and it does not narrow in the same way when a son is born to the family of a CEO. Well, Hannah, you've written a book "New Girl on the Job," And you're pretty new on the job, just a recent college graduate...

  • 11:15:48

    SELIGSONNot that so recent, six years I'm --

  • 11:15:51

    PAGEWell, relatively recent.

  • 11:15:52


  • 11:15:52

    PAGEYou know, some of these fights were fights that were being waged decades ago with the advent of the women's movement. And I wonder if your sense is that they are still battles that need to be fought, or whether there's simply an expectation now by women like yourself that there will not be significant discrimination in the workplace.

  • 11:16:11

    SELIGSONWell, I think what's happened now is that the consciousness (sounds like) reason used to happen in college. There was all this bra burning, women were very aware of the inequality. And now college is a cocoon of equality. Women sort of run laps around men academically and we know that women graduate in higher numbers from college than men. Even law school, medical school have equal number, if not more women.

  • 11:16:32

    SELIGSONAnd then something interesting happens in the workforce, and I think this is one of the big mysteries. They get to the workplace and they realize that the world is not equal, that they make less than their colleague Joe who's sitting next to them. They may not be getting advocated for promotions as much. And so the sort of success that they had in an academic environment isn't translating into the workplace. And I remember interviewing a professor at the Harvard Business School a few years ago and she said, you know, women think that the workplace is a meritocracy, and it isn't and so women do very well in an academic environment where it is a meritocracy.

  • 11:17:05

    SELIGSONAnd then -- so my argument, and I wrote about this a few years ago for the New York Times in a piece called "Girl Power at School But Not at the Office," that women have to make this adjustment and sort of think about the skill sets they need in the workplace that aren't necessarily cultivated in an academic environment. So I guess one of my questions about the lawsuit -- the Walmart lawsuit is whether, even if there is the sort of -- they do get the class action suit, it's still -- we're still going to have pay disparity and pay inequality. And so how do we solve that? What is the sort of ground zero? And so my question is what role does salary negotiation pay in that? Because we all know, and there's been a lot of research -- and this is in no way blaming the women -- but we all know that one of the reasons that women don't make as much money as men is that they don't ask.

  • 11:17:49

    PAGESo Heather, what role does salary negotiation play in trying to equalize things in the workplace?

  • 11:17:55

    BOUSHEYWell, it plays a -- Hannah's right, it plays a very important role. There has been some academic research that's looked at this question and found that not only are women not necessarily as good many times at asking for raises or making those negotiations, but that people perceive them to be not as good at it or they perceive those things to not be feminine traits. So marching into your boss' office and demanding a raise is not really a feminine trait and there may be points off just for that.

  • 11:18:23

    BOUSHEYBut there's also something very interesting that happens when women get out of school and get into the workplace, which is that that's also when many start to have families. And there are big issues around that that have to do with the equality we're talking about in the workplace today.

  • 11:18:37

    PAGEWe're going to take a short break. And when we come back we'll talk about some of those work family balance issues that affect women also affect a lot of men. Please stay with us.

  • 11:20:03

    PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of U.S.A. Today sitting in for Diane Rehm and with me in the studio, Marcia Greenberger, founder and co-president of the National Women's Law Center. And Heather Boushey, she's a senior economist at the Center for American Progress and Hannah Seligson, a journalist and author of "New Girl on the Job." Her new book she's working on is called "Redefining Adulthood." Well, Hannah, we do see some generational differences when it comes to the struggle that all of us face in trying to balance family life with a work career. Is it different, do you think, for the millennial generation?

  • 11:20:38

    SELIGSONYeah, I mean, there's this funny acronym called DINA (sic) Double Income No Kids. And people have said that it should be changed to DINK (sic) Double Income Need Another. So we know that now the two-income couple is sort of ubiquitous. And so I think that's really changing how young men view sort of their role in the family. And I'll just give an anecdote there because I think all of the data sort of bears it out. I was at brunch with two other couples, both of the husbands work in high-powered law jobs and they said, well, you know, we'd quit our jobs and stay home and take care of the kids. And I think if you look at sort of all the research, you see, too, that men are taking jobs based on the flexibility. And that's just become also a generational attribute that people say when they ask them what's important in a workplace environment is to have flexibility. And that's...

  • 11:21:25

    PAGEDo you take them -- did you take them at their word? Do you think that their wives said, I want to keep working, you quit your high-powered law job, that they would, in fact, do it?

  • 11:21:31

    SELIGSONI think that if they could survive on that income, they would. But...

  • 11:21:35

    PAGENow, this issue, of course, has been around for everybody. What's happening with it now, Heather, in terms of -- maybe the legal and other struggles in trying to make work and family both get together?

  • 11:21:50

    BOUSHEYWell, you know, just one thing on what Hannah said. The -- you know, it's interesting a lot of those men wouldn't quit because, of course, they still continue to earn more, sort of going back to the basic theme of today that that gender gap really does make it harder for men to take off time. It makes it harder for them to take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act because it's unpaid. And so if he's earning more, it's harder for the family to afford it. And it makes it harder, you know, for couples to negotiate, you know, who's gonna take off time when they have a sick kid.

  • 11:22:18

    BOUSHEYBut these issues are of paramount importance when we're thinking about the gender pay gap and what's happening both inside families and how well women are doing in the workplace. It's one of the things that young people realize as soon as they start school where things might've been equal back in college. But once you start not only having families, but maybe having to care for a family member, maybe having an ailing parent or a family -- a husband or a spouse that you need to care for, that we find out that the workplace is not equal. And, in fact, most workers don't have the right to take paid time off when they have a new child.

  • 11:22:54

    BOUSHEYAnd, in fact, it's increasingly the case that men are experiencing this kind of conflict over work/family balance just like women are. So maybe there is this generational shift but it still remains a case that the penalties fall much harder on women than they do on men. And we can see this playing out in terms of the wage issues.

  • 11:23:14

    SELIGSONAnd just one more thing on that. We even see though that companies that offer paternity leave, what's fascinating is that men don't take it. So I think that it's -- you know, both -- even if the policies are in place how do we sort of ignite the social and the cultural change though men actually take advantage of these policies?

  • 11:23:28

    PAGE'Cause I think a lot of men look at it and say, I'm gonna fall behind in my career if I dare to take some paternity leave, which is just exactly the dilemma lots of women have faced for some time.

  • 11:23:38

    GREENBERGERI think that's so true, Susan, and I think Heather pointed something important out and Hannah asked a question about that I'd like to go back to. What difference does it make if the women in Walmart are able to prevail, bring this class action? It makes an enormous difference because it's one of the ways of changing the structural system that reinforces the inequality. Right now it is true. If women can't negotiate these salaries on their own, they're often left to have to confront equal pay problems.

  • 11:24:16

    GREENBERGERAnd as Heather pointed out, there have been studies that have shown that if women come in hard charging, demanding better wages, they're penalized. And in Walmart, there were about 120 sworn statements of women who described situations where their bosses, their managers said, well, you don't need as much money as a man because you don't have a family to support. Or if you do you're not the primary wage earner, or you're just not as good at asking for things that men are.

  • 11:24:49

    GREENBERGERSo if the management at Walmart is a don't-ask-don't-tell, you do what you want managers all over the country -- and if it turns out that we, as is in the case of Walmart, have bigger pay gaps and fewer female managers going up the ranks than even their top competitors have, that it falls on the individual woman to work her way through this quite unfair situation on her own. We have to make sure that there's an incentive on the part of the employers of this country not just to put the burden on the women or the men who want to take that paid leave.

  • 11:25:34

    GREENBERGERYou know, in Walmart, the women have higher performance ratings than the men, to go back to (sounds like) his workplace of meritocracy, yet they're getting fewer pay -- less pay and fewer promotions. Well, if these class actions are shut down by the Supreme Court, then there's no -- there's every incentive for an employer to look the other way and to keep a lid on the information rather than to figure out, is there a problem in my workplace. And what the studies have shown is if the women try to do it on their own, they're penalized as being too aggressive or they're penalized as being too passive if they sit back.

  • 11:26:17

    GREENBERGERSo there have -- they -- we need the structural system to reinforce men's ability to be able to work and not to have to choose, okay, it's the wife that will go work and not me or I will give up my career if it's a wife. And there are these paid leave policies, there are flextime policies, there are our civil rights laws to be sure that plain old discrimination isn't at work. But they need to be reinforced and kept in place instead of being dismantled.

  • 11:26:52

    PAGEWe'll certainly welcome a call from a representative of Walmart. If they want to give us a call, we'll do our very best to put them on the air. We do have a couple callers who say they work for Walmart or used to work for Walmart. Let's try to take some of them and see what their experiences have been. First, we'll go to Mohammad who's calling us from Washington D.C. Hi, Mohammad.

  • 11:27:10

    MOHAMMADYeah, hi, how are you? I actually did not work for Walmart, but I work for a national company and I'd rather not mention the company. But I had -- I was a district manager and I had 475 employees to which probably 400 were women. And if it wasn't for the women, we would've never done the job and we would've never been a better company. I just noticed that the women work very hard and they don't complain. They don't say anything so people take advantage of that. Even if it was a man that worked really hard without complaining and without asking for more, he will be abused also.

  • 11:27:57

    MOHAMMADI've noticed that the company I work for -- I know I don't have much time --but they did abuse women. And when some of the women put their foot down, they realized that without that woman we couldn't have done the job so they gave them more money.

  • 11:28:12

    PAGEAll right, Mohammad. Thanks so much for your call. You know, Hannah, you mentioned the need for women who have just gotten out of school to develop some job skills that they didn't necessarily need to have when they were in school. Does that include what Mohammad's talking about, being more willing to complain?

  • 11:28:27

    SELIGSONOh, definitely. And I just want to be clear. I'm not a biological essentialist. I'm not saying that men have these skills and women don't. I think it's just a question of being socialized and it's really just a knowledge gap. And that you have to -- look, I read a book about salary negotiation. There's a script to it. There's a way to ask for it where you just say what you want and, you know, you can role play with people. And I also think that it's about kind of having a tougher skin and learning that you can complain. And I think young women, though, need to realize that there's a learning curve in all of this.

  • 11:28:57

    BOUSHEYWell, there's another element to this as well. You know, another way for workers to bargain over wages, of course, is through the collective bargaining process and through unions. And we know that women are actually an increasing share of union members and are likely to say that they really value that. And I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that that process of coming together and not having to stand on your own and being that one woman who's sort of sticking out like a sore thumb, going into your boss' office, being able to, as a group, come together and say, hey, this is what's fair and we're gonna bargain. I think that's one of the reasons that women really appreciate the importance and value of unions in the workplace.

  • 11:29:34

    SELIGSONRight. And, I mean, unions are incredibly important. But if you look at sort of how the employment trends are shifting in this generation, more and more young people are being self employed and working for themselves. So I think that there is kind of maybe more of an emphasis now on how the individual can advocate for herself.

  • 11:29:48

    GREENBERGERYou know, one of the interesting commonalities also, I think, between the women at Walmart and Lilly Ledbetter in being so surprised about what her situation was and the recent study that was just released with -- about women at MIT, tenured women professors, that study at MIT reflected -- and I remembered talking to the woman who was responsible for getting it started, that she was a tenured professor at MIT, you would think at the pinnacle of her career -- and she was and obviously mighty tough to have gotten where she had gotten. Well, she assumed, as do many women, that life is fair, that the workplace is fair, as Hannah said. And that if they're not doing well and somebody else is being promoted ahead of them, there must be some reason for it.

  • 11:30:42

    GREENBERGERSo it takes a lot of knowledge, as well as the strength in numbers, to be able to see what the real picture is. Well, the women at MIT assumed that if they had smaller offices, if they didn't get the same research support, if they weren't being promoted in quite the same way, that it was probably that they weren't doing as well or as good a job as their male colleagues. When they began to talk to each other and realized that each of them was internalizing her own feeling that she probably was falling short in some way, but rather when they looked at the whole picture they began to think, maybe there's something in the system that is not being fair. And they uncovered a lot more unfairness than they realized on their own that they were actually having to confront.

  • 11:31:32

    PAGEWell, Heather, that MIT study did show that MIT succeeded in raising the percentage of women on their science and engineering faculties. Did you take it as kind of a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty study?

  • 11:31:45

    BOUSHEYI did actually. And in going through it and thinking about that and then thinking about how that is the rest of the labor market and what we see in terms of women's progress, it certainly seemed like MIT has made enormous steps forward towards recruiting more women, retaining more women, promoting them. That was great but it did so at the cost of making many of them, it appears from this report, feel as though their progress wasn't all their own, but it was because they were being unfairly promoted or given opportunities that they didn't deserve, sort of riffing on some of the things that Marcia said.

  • 11:32:21

    BOUSHEYIt also really underscored for me how when we look at the gender pay gap across educational groups, we find that it's about the same. It's not like if a woman gets a college degree or gets an advanced degree, all of a sudden she's equal with men who are similarly skilled. She's doing way better than she would've been typically if she didn't have as much education. And she's doing better than the men with less education. And now, of course, women are more likely to have college degrees. But it doesn't mean she's achieved parity with her peers. And that was really underscored for me in this report.

  • 11:32:51

    PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls, 1-800-433-8850. Let's go to Greg. He's been very patient holding on from Indiana. Greg, hi, you're on the air.

  • 11:33:03

    GREGOh, I'm fine. I worked for Walmart for 12 years and in that time I was never once offered management training. And I was also made to work in my areas by myself. When I asked for help they said they couldn't afford it but on the days I was off I found out that three people were doing my job, and not the heavier parts of it.

  • 11:33:27

    GREENBERGERI think Greg raises such an important point because one of the things that we've seen with some of the discrimination cases is that when you get a fair more transparent workplace, when employers will post a job for a promotion, when employers will have standards for evaluating people it benefits men as well as women. It benefits minority workers and white workers. It makes the system more transparent for everybody and much fairer. And if there were job postings, if there were fair systems I think Greg would've benefited as well as the women at Walmart.

  • 11:34:08

    PAGEYou know, one of the things that the MIT study found was that women there often faced questions from their male counterparts about whether they were there only because of some sort of affirmative action, (sounds like) where they really deserve to be there? And we have an e-mail from a male listener who says, "There's resentment on the part of some white males in the federal workforce because they are systematically discriminated against in order to give preferential treatment to women as a protected category of employee." Is that the case, Marcia?

  • 11:34:40

    GREENBERGERI think, you know, it's so -- it is something that was pointed out in the study and it's something that we hear about and we have to confront for sure as a fact. The MIT study actually said that the women objectively were as qualified, were doing as good a job, were not given jobs that -- where they weren't performing in an excellent way. But there is this sense of, well, if you're going to make sure that you are doing things fairly, is that somehow going to go overboard and end up excluding people who otherwise would have been given jobs and promotions?

  • 11:35:23

    GREENBERGERAnd the MIT study said, we need to -- we can't do this all on our own. We need to change (unintelligible) attitudes. These women were just as good, deserved the jobs they got and of course the country needs more women and minorities and math and engineering in other kinds of jobs. So it's to all of our benefit for fairness to be put into place, men as well as women. But we have to do it in a way that is transparent enough that the employers aren't grumbling about it, that there is a sense of respect and that there's a sense of fairness at the end of the day so that people can understand and accept why it was ultimately a meritocracy that was allowed to flourish, just as Hannah said.

  • 11:36:10

    SELIGSONBut I do think that there -- and the MIT study is fascinating because it does show that you can have parity in numbers and then create this culture where people think it's unfair. And this is the big issue that people have had with affirmative action for many decades. And I think there's also a (sounds like) generationalship that I think I hear from a lot of young women that I interview that they don't want to be perceived as having a job because they're a woman. And I think that that is a huge issue. And so my -- I guess my question is -- you know, I don't have the solution so I’m going to pose the question that, how do you create policies that create fairness, but then, at the same time, don't create a culture where people are resentful of the women for thinking they only got the position because of their gender?

  • 11:36:45

    PAGEWell, Heather, what do you think?

  • 11:36:46

    BOUSHEYWell, one is to have, you know, as Marcia said, processes that are transparent. I want to point us to a couple of research findings that really undermine the argument that many women make progress just because of this kind of affirmative action. And there's these famous studies that looked at symphonies here in the United States and found that, wow, most of the symphony members are men. But yet symphony, you know, it's what you hear. It's not what you see. So they started conducting the applications for being in a symphony behind a curtain so you couldn't tell whether or not the violin player or the cellist was a male or a female. And lo and behold, what did you find? More women actually qualified.

  • 11:37:26

    PAGEHeather Boushey. She's an economist at the Center for American Progress. We're going to take a short break and when we come back we're going to talk about the (sounds like) dispirit impact of the great recession on men and women workers, and how the recovery is affecting men and women workers in different ways. Stay with us.

  • 11:40:04

    PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of "USA Today" sitting in for Diane Rehm. And with me in the studio Hanna Seligson, a journalist and author of "New Girl On The Job," Marcia Greenberger of the National Women's Law Center and Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress. Well, we've just come through this terrible long recession, Heather. Did it affect men and women in the workplace equally?

  • 11:40:26

    BOUSHEYNo. The recession had a very different effects on men and women. You know, when the recession initially began men lost nearly all the jobs in the first year. And then as we sort of went through, over the course of the recession, on average men lost about seven out of every ten jobs that was lost.

  • 11:40:44

    PAGEAnd why was that?

  • 11:40:45

    BOUSHEYWell, a lot of it had to do with the kinds of jobs that we saw lost in the economy. Half the jobs that were lost were lost in construction and manufacturing, which are male dominated. But there was something else going on; which is even when you look across industries you saw that men lost more jobs than women in most cases, even in industries where they weren't male dominated. So it was a recession that just – it played out differently. I don't know that we – we haven't done – it's going to take us a while to do all that research, to dig in and know exactly why, because you need sort of very fine grained kind of data.

  • 11:41:15

    BOUSHEYBut, you know, some of it was that male dominated industries lost and some of it had to do with there is something about men that led them to these higher job losses. But as we've started this recovery it has been striking. You know, since the recession officially ended back in June of '09, men have gained about half a million jobs while women have lost over 100,000. And the big story there has to do with layoffs, especially at the local government level, which have disproportionately affected women who have lost over a quarter of a million jobs in the past year in that sector.

  • 11:41:48

    PAGESo, like, jobs like teachers and healthcare workers.

  • 11:41:51

    BOUSHEYExactly. Childcare workers, pre-K workers, all the kinds of things that you see at the local level. And a lot of the battles that we've seen going on around the country around state and local government public sector workers those really are – we're talking about women's jobs in large part in many of those places.

  • 11:42:08

    PAGESo is it – in both the loss of jobs and the recovery is it just that men and women tend to dominate different fields or are there equality issues in that employers now having the choice of a qualified man or qualified woman are simply choosing to hire the qualified man?

  • 11:42:25

    BOUSHEYWell, I think the biggest component here is that men and women tend to work in different kinds of jobs. You know, over the course of this conversation this morning we've been talking about gender equity. One of the reasons it's hard to get at the nugget of pay equity is that, for the most part, men and women aren't working in the same jobs and how do you know what sort of equality is when there're sort of two different things. And that's, you know, and as the recession has played out there have been different kinds of jobs that have seen different job losses or job gains over the past couple of years.

  • 11:42:53

    GREENBERGERActually, some of the researchers at the National Women's Law Center have been tracking this trend that we are seeing, which is, of course, very disturbing and some of our recent statistics from March – or people could get at, our website. But in – as of early March we've seen that women have lost about 300,000 jobs now during this recovery period and during a time when there's actually been some job growth, even though it is certainly true, as Heather pointed out, that men initially lost more jobs than women. I wanted to raise a related point. Not only do we have women working in different kinds of sectors that are particularly vulnerable right now to cuts, the teachers, childcare workers, etc., but they're also providing services that women, in particular, are especially in need of.

  • 11:44:03

    GREENBERGERAnd particularly in need of in order to remain in the workplace. And to be able to keep these jobs without being able to get childcare, we see a cycle, not only of the women not being able to keep their jobs more likely than the man, but in the education work that we do it's often the young girls who end up having to come home from school to take care of their sick younger siblings. Or miss school because their siblings are home and their mom has no childcare and she's off at work. And so we see dropout problems now, especially for young girls of color, often related to the loss of these social services. And so it's a cycle of the women losing jobs in sectors that are especially important for women for their job prospects and for their life prospects to be able to get the services from.

  • 11:45:01

    SELIGSONWe've seen, though, that youth unemployment actually is gender blind, though. That young people – recent college graduates – the women and the men are having an equally hard time finding jobs. And one other thing I wanted to point out, Heather. And I think you've written about this is that women in certain urban areas actually have been shown to make more money than their male counterparts. And that is an interesting finding that comes out of the recession. I wanted to ask you do you think that's because women are actually making more money or is it because the men aren't making as much money? So is it – does it say more about the success of women or the demise of men?

  • 11:45:32

    BOUSHEYWell, I think that particular fact about women out-earning men in urban areas, the studies that I've seen it's looked at unmarried people, men and women, in their 20's. And, actually, what's interesting about it is that the studies that I've looked at that have been done don't actually control for education. And that's the nugget there.

  • 11:45:50


  • 11:45:51

    BOUSHEYThat because women are outpacing men in getting college attendance, you know, there's just more of them. There're more women college graduates. And so, of course, they should be earning more. But, again, when you compare apples to apples they're not earning more than the college educated guy who has the same skills but they are earning more than the man who just has a high school or a community college degree.

  • 11:46:10

    PAGELet's talk to David. He's calling us from Dallas, Texas. David thank you for giving us a call.

  • 11:46:16

    DAVIDThanks for the show. It's really interesting. I happen to be an orchestra musician or a conductor and I saw there was a very interesting comment by one of your guests about the whole new procedure behind the screen that is more women are emerging as the winners. I think one of the reasons for that is that behind the screen you're only listening for a product. There's no way that you can tell a person's personality. Somebody might be a great player but they're – they might be obnoxious and hard to get along with. But you only find out later on after you've heard them.

  • 11:46:51

    DAVIDSo while I think it really has helped a whole lot in orchestras to really show who plays the best and who has the greatest artistic skills the fact that it doesn't – behind the screen doesn't – doesn't reveal personality and then other jobs, or most of other jobs, you know, temperament and personality and how much they care as a person really are paramount.

  • 11:47:15

    PAGEWell, so, David, do you think that, therefore, these auditions should not be conducted behind screens?

  • 11:47:22

    DAVIDOh, absolutely not. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. It's the absolutely right thing. But, I think, also being an educator, as well, I just think we have to find men who for – let's face it, the reality is men still tend to control the management positions. And, I think, we just have to keep looking for men who have a sensitivity towards equality and who are not, you know, the type A hierarchical male because that's a long road ahead. And only unions or legislation that they're talking about is going to, you know, really counteract the male dominance. But I absolutely agree...

  • 11:48:03

    SELIGSONI actually have something else that I think will counteract male dominance.

  • 11:48:04

    DAVID...It's been wonderful for orchestra.

  • 11:48:06

    PAGEAll right, David, thanks very much for your call. Go ahead, Hannah.

  • 11:48:09

    SELIGSONWell, I think, you know, systems, you know, changes is a very slow thing, as I'm sure both of you can attest to. And so, I think, what you're going to see more and more of, and we're starting to see the inklings of this, is that women are going to go off and start their own businesses and work for themselves because the structures within these large corporations, within even the U.S. government, aren't changing fast enough. So women are going to vote with their feet.

  • 11:48:33

    BOUSHEYWell, that's a great point. I want to touch on two things. I mean, one, I mean, David, I think your point, David, from Dallas, was really interesting. I mean, I want to note two things. Number one, we think that people are paid based on their productivity and so if the output is the sound of the music then that – that should be related to the pay and the promotion. But, of course, temperament does play a role. If you're difficult to get along with or, you know, don't show up for rehearsal on time, whatnot. But we also know, from a lot of other research, that women have those skills. And, in fact, you know, when you look at things like violence in the workplace or disruptive behavior, these are things that men are actually more likely to do than women.

  • 11:49:09

    BOUSHEYSo that seems to me like a false kind of – I mean it's a good question to ask but, I think, that we need to sort of dig deeper to see whether or not there are reasons why men might be more likely to have that than women. But on the issue of own businesses, I think, that's really important. And we are seeing a lot of discussion around that. But one of the challenges there is that many of these women-owned businesses are actually quite small. In fact, the vast majority of them are small and they are things like a woman's opening up a childcare center where she's not making a lot of money, doesn't have a lot of support. So that is a – there's a place for that but that's not going to solve the problems that we're talking about here today.

  • 11:49:46

    SELIGSONIt's just that...

  • 11:49:46

    PAGEAnd, of course, David – I'm sorry, go ahead, Hannah.

  • 11:49:47

    SELIGSONWell, just – I mean to sort of politely disagree with you there. I think that women, if you look at specifically 20- and 30-something women, a lot of them are riding the wave of the internet revolution and starting e-commerce businesses. And so, I think, that you're going to see those shifts happen sort of dramatically over the next couple of years.

  • 11:50:05

    GREENBERGERI think...

  • 11:50:05

    PAGELet's go to Chris. He's calling us from Oklahoma City, Okla. Chris, thank you for joining us.

  • 11:50:11


  • 11:50:12

    PAGEHi, go ahead.

  • 11:50:14

    CHRISHi, I know you guys have kind of moved to a different set of topics within, you know, the same discriminatory practices things but I wanted to go back to Wal-Mart. I was a Wal-Mart hourly supervisor until about seven months ago. I worked for them since 1999. And I've seen those kind of discriminatory practices you were talking about with the wage, you know, differences between people. But about five years ago they kind of put a stop to that. And by kind of I mean they put a stop to that. They went away from allowing things called merit raises, where your manager could just kind of randomly give you a raise at their discretion to only allowing raises on your annual evaluation based strictly off your evaluation. And it was a set dollar amount.

  • 11:51:19

    CHRISIt didn't matter who you were or whatever. You could only get these certain amounts. And those were the only raises available to you during the year.

  • 11:51:27

    PAGEWell, Chris, I want to ask you. You say these policies changed about five years ago. What prompted Wal-Mart to change its policies?

  • 11:51:34

    CHRISThere were obviously complaints, you know. I had hourly people that were making more than the manager that was directly over them, you know, so there – there, obviously, were some issues there. And they ended up changing that. Also, as far as the availability to apply for jobs, you know, knowing that jobs are available. At the same time that they did the changes for, you know, how you're paid, they created something called the Career Preference Dashboard, which is a computer program on their systems that everybody is required to have training on. And they're required to set up a profile that has every single job announcement in it and, as a matter of fact, you pre-select preferences for jobs that you would be interested in in the future.

  • 11:52:28

    CHRISAnd if that job becomes open it automatically applies you for it. So even if you don't know that the job became open if you had selected that you were interested in it you're already applied for it and so there's really not an issue there anymore.

  • 11:52:43

    PAGEAll right, Chris, that's so interesting. I'm glad that you called in. Marcia, what do you think about – do you believe that Wal-Mart has moved to address some of the issues that have been raised in this lawsuit?

  • 11:52:52

    GREENBERGERWell, I have to say, honestly, that I don't know all of Wal-Mart's current practices. And to go back to a point, Susan, that you raised early on, this case is just whether women as a whole big group can go forward. They still have to prove their case about whether there's discrimination. And at the end of the day, if they do prove it, and they have the burden of proving it. If the court lets them go forward to carry that burden, then the question is, OK, what is necessary to get a more transparent, fair workplace, just as Chris said, so that pay raises for everybody will be fairer, that the training opportunities will be fair.

  • 11:53:33

    GREENBERGERBut I do want to say something, if there's a chance at some point, about the small business problems that women face, as important as the opportunity for small business owners is.

  • 11:53:43

    PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Well, Heather, I wonder this is – Wal-Mart is the nation's, I think – believe, largest employer, obviously, a huge company. Are there economic repercussions from this lawsuit that we would see if it's allowed to go forward?

  • 11:53:58

    BOUSHEYWell, you know, one of the ways that workers get rights in this country are through these kinds of cases. You know, the vast majority of workers here in the United States are at will employees. They don't have – they don't belong to a union. They don't have a lot of other recourse except for through the court system. So I have to think that if this court case does go through and these workers are allowed to come together to sue on behalf of their own discrimination that that could have a real impact in workplaces all around the country as employers realize, hey, this matters and that they need to have transparent and open pay policies.

  • 11:54:32

    PAGEHere's an e-mail from Rona who writes us from Gaithersburg, Md. She says, "About 30 years ago I held a responsible position, which I loved, in a large hospital and learned that my male counterpart was making more money that I was. When I brought this to the attention of management I was told he bargained harder than I did. And when I discussed the issue with an attorney I was told not to complain if I wanted to keep the job. So I stayed for years and, of course, the gap widened."

  • 11:54:54

    PAGEBut then we got another e-mail from David from Port Charlotte, Fla. And he writes, "You want to talk about inequality but yet you want people who take time away from work and careers to have the same income and advancement benefits as those who've sacrificed their home time to spend more time at work." Is that, in fact, what's at issue here and what do you think about that argument, which, I'm sure, others share.

  • 11:55:16

    GREENBERGERI just want to say, very quickly, just to clarify that last important question. When we're talking about pay gaps the statistics take into account whether people have worked for the same number of years, have the same qualifications, have the same work history. So it is very true that if you have not worked and had the same experience that there are many reasons why you wouldn't be entitled to the same salary as somebody who has. So that is a fair point. But that is all taken into account when we're talking about still less pay for women.

  • 11:55:49

    PAGESo even when you control for that (unintelligible) .

  • 11:55:50


  • 11:55:51

    PAGEHere's one last e-mail from Jean. She writes, "Currently, 15 Fortune 500 companies are run by women, the same number as last year. Would your guests care to comment on when we might expect to see 250 of the Fortune 500 companies run by women. And why is this taking so long? Heather, let me get – pose that question to you.

  • 11:56:10

    BOUSHEYWell, a lot of it is the kinds of things we're talking about here today. Women need to be able to move up the ladder and get those promotions in order to get into the C suite and we aren't seeing that kind of progress. And we're not seeing it here in Washington, in terms of the composition of the Senate and House, and we'd like to see a woman in the White House some day.

  • 11:56:24

    PAGEHannah, what do you think?

  • 11:56:25

    SELIGSONI think – but I'll also say, too, that when you look at a lot of studies about why women leave the workforce. They leave because they're not satisfied with their jobs. And, I think, that's sort of a touchy, feely, squishy thing to kind of put your finger on; but it's something to think about. Why do women leave the job? They can't become CEO's of Fortune 500 companies if they're opting out of the workforce. And we need to think about how to retain these women.

  • 11:56:44

    PAGEHannah Seligson, she's a journalist and author of, "New Girl On The Job." Marcia Greenberger, founder and co-president of the National Women's Law Center and Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress. Thank you all for joining us this hour.

  • 11:56:57

    BOUSHEYThank you so much, Susan.

  • 11:56:58

    GREENBERGERThank you.

  • 11:56:59

    PAGEI'm Susan Page of "USA Today" sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.

  • 11:57:05

    ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth and Sarah Ashworth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our e-mail address is and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.

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