Tag Archives: Summer Book Reviews

Summer Book Review Denouement

“We are now in a position to move forward with you,” boasted a long-awaited email to a friend.  Imagine the excitement.  She’s been networking in pursuit of a new opportunity.   A new direction.  Maybe you’ve seen this movie?  Countless meet and greets.  Electronic job postings.  Online applications.  Long overdue or impersonal responses from hiring companies.   Not this email.   A sparkle?  A validation? Continue reading

Summer Book Review #29: Getting Even – Why women don’t get paid like men – and what to do about it

‘Just because we can measure it doesn’t make it meaningful,’ shared a female physician at a dinner recently.  Today my son’s pediatrician can run a report to see which of her patients missed their last immunization cycle.  In theory the doctor could outreach to me to remind me to come in if my son’s name made the list.    My dinner companion was pointing out, “does this phone call make the physician a high quality one?’


This same objectivity about ‘measurement’ and the conclusions we draw from it served as a backdrop to Summer Book Review #29, “Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men – And What To Do About It,” by Evelyn Murphy, former Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of MA, with E.J. Graff.  (Simon & Schuster, 2005)

Murphy shares that one of her motivations for writing the book is rooted in the incomplete messages about women’s wages that are fueled by statistics from the U.S.  Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics.   In Getting Even Murphy adds a social scientist’s posture by leveraging research and analysis on workplace behavior to more fully shape her argument for gender-based wage discrimination.  (Getting Even, pg 9)   The combination is powerful and engaging. 

Getting Even explores a pervasive gender-based wage gap.    This gap isn’t simply the  difference between the average wage of a woman versus that of a man.  Rather it is the cumulative effect of this difference for every hour worked over a woman’s life. Depending up her educational and professional profile, Murphy estimates that a woman loses between $700,000 and $2,000,000 over the course of her working life.  (Getting even, pg 26)  Sobering…or truly sad?

While the numbers are meaningful Murphy argues that numbers alone don’t tell the whole story.  What about the opportunity cost of these lost wages?  An extra set of lessons for a child.  A much-needed new car or refrigerator.  A long-awaited vacation.

Prior to reading the book I had an awkward relationship with the concept of discrimination.   It hadn’t touched me, or so I thought.  Long time readers may recall a similar reaction I had to the word ‘ambition’ and its baggage as discussed in Anna Fels’ outstanding Necessary Dreams, Summer Book Review #8.

The real story in Getting Even isn’t numbers at all but the realization that women today face a large widespread spectrum of discrimination.   Getting Even introduces 5 categories of discrimination.  These include the most egregious, like blatant sexual discrimination and sexual harassment, and those more subtle but no less damaging to a woman’s wage profile, like  workplace sex segregation,  everyday segregation, or discrimination against mothers.

Murphy dubbed the 4th category, everyday segregation, ‘working while female.’  Don’t you love that one?   “It’s what happens when a woman’s ideas are dismissed – only to be discussed seriously by a man.  Or when employers turn to old boy networks rather than public postings to recruit new talent.  Or when interviews or applications evaluate male characteristics more highly, even when women’s strengths  and communications styles could accomplish the job just as well, and perhaps better.” (Getting Even, pg 175)  Have you ever encountered any of these?

You may be asking, “is there really a wage gap?”  Maybe this book is dated.  Haven’t we made strides recently to negate this?

Last spring I attended the 50 year celebration of women entering the Harvard Business School.  One of the earliest female tenured professors, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, shared her observations.    Many, while not focused entirely on wages, mirrored Murphy’s.

I remember a young female grad challenging Prof. Moss Kanter saying that gender based gaps in advancement were a thing of the past.  I jumped to Moss Kanter’s aide with an observation of my own 100 person cohort, 20 years post graduation.  “For the 1st ten years out, the jobs were largely similar (assuming both genders were engaged in full-time work),” I said.  “Once we cleared ten years, our male colleagues started getting opportunities like, ‘go run Asia.’  While the women were offered incremental opportunities.  At 20 years out the gap  in opportunity is enormous.  So large that we can never catch up.”  Moss Kanter was pleased with my support.  I’m not so sure I’m pleased with what this non-statistical analysis says about women’s opportunities, let alone our wages.

Getting Even concludes with a practical set of actions to close the gap, both individually and as leaders in organizations.   Not only is it  worth a read but you may want to add it to the list of possible graduation presents for college grads. Invaluable.

I really enjoyed Getting Even as much for its wage perspective as for its education in discrimination.   I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that it caused me to pause.   Was ‘working while female’ and all the missed acknowledgements a silent trigger to my transition?   From this vantage point it’s easier to measure the wage gap it caused.   I wonder if that’s Ms. Murphy’s real message?

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Summer Book Review #28: Getting to 50/50

“My husband never ran out of a personal care product,” bragged a distant aunt about a household she’d run for close to 50 years.  She’d crafted her life as a homemaker and mother who took obvious pride in the subtleties of her world.  How do you respond to such a pronouncement?   I didn’t share that I wouldn’t know if my husband lacked deodorant because I have yet to adopt that purchase responsibility despite 17 years of marriage.   Instead of responding I sat there respectfully mute while others in attendance offered praise.  Praise? Continue reading

A real jam…

“I’m not used to asking for help,” shared Kate, a dynamic business owner and  mother of six whose husband travels frequently for work.  We were carpooling to a school event.  She had taken a morning off, a rare moment to accompany her daughter’s class on a field trip to The Franklin Park Zoo Help from Kate’s perspective seemed like an unaffordable luxury, one with its own time requirements and bandwidth issues.   Kate repelled help. Continue reading

Live the life you’ve imagined…

For years I’ve ferried about a tattered 1998 Wall Street Journal page with a quotation attributed to Henry David Thoreau.  “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you’ve imagined.”  It’s a yellowed beacon interspersed with my chaotic fridge decor.  This week a conversation with a friend caused me to examine its meaning more completely…. Continue reading

2012 Summer Book Review Finale: What if?

“I never want to go back to the law,” shared a friend who is a law school graduate and a very accomplished public defender.  Our conversation was interrupted by a swirl of kids ages 2 through 8.   Mid-sentence we conducted an emergency rescue from a climbing structure that resembled a gangly over-sized found-art project.  Public defense?  Idealistic me was instantly mesmerized by the work and its likely impact.  Never? Continue reading

Summer Book Review #23: Odd Girl Out

“I couldn’t get a job,” said my sister-in-law as she was relating her story to a sympathetic audience at a recent family event.   She sent out resumes.  She interviewed.  It didn’t go as she’d planned.  Road block.  Full stop. Continue reading

Summer Book Review #15: How Will You Measure Your Life?

I’m not a big sports fan.   My 7-year-old son has taught me more about sports and team devotion in the past year than I’ve learned in my entire life.   Last week, before our beloved Boston Celtics lost to the Miami Heat in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, we were listening to an interview with one of the Celtic’s big three, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.   The player responded to a journalist’s question about their approach to upcoming practices and games by saying, ‘we’ll probably watch the tapes.’ Continue reading