Gender Transitions Demonstrate Continuing Gender Differences in Pay, Workplace Experience

People who change gender demonstrate the impact of gender on workplace experience and compensation, while holding constant the person’s education and experience.

Two Stanford professors’ experience in gender transition highlight findings by University of Chicago’s Kristen Schilt.

Joan Roughgarden

Joan Roughgarden – Jonathan Roughgarden

Stanford’s Joan Roughgarden, was an evolutionary biologist for more than 25 years as Jonathan Roughgarden before she made her male-to-female (MTF) transition.
Known for her work integrating evolutionary theory with Christian beliefs (“theistic evolutionism”), she reported feeling less able to make bold hypotheses and no longer had “the right to be wrong.”

Her experience contrasts with Stanford colleague, neurobiologist Ben Barres, who made scientific contributions as Barbara Barres until he was more than 40.

Barbara Barres - Ben Barres

Barbara Barres – Ben Barres

After his female-to-male (FTM) transition, Ben delivered a lecture at the  Whitehead Institute, where an audience member commented, “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but, then, his work is much better than his sister’s.”

Schilt surveyed FTM and MTF to compare earnings and employment experiences before and after gender transitions.
with questions similar to 2002 Current Population Survey (CPS) survey items:

  • Last job before gender transition,
  • First job after gender transition,
  • Most recent job.
Kristen Schilt

Kristen Schilt

Female-to-male transsexuals (FTMs) reported that as men, they received more authority, reward, and respect in the workplace than they received as women, even when they remained in the same jobs.

Height and skin color affected potential advantages enjoyed by FTM.

Tall, white FTMs experienced greater benefits than short FTMs and FTMs of color.
In contrast, MTF reported reduced authority and pay, and often harassment and termination.

University of Illinois’s Donald McCloskey, for example, was told by his department chair – “in jest” – that he could expect a salary reduction when he became Deirdre McCloskey.

Deirdre McCloskey

Deirdre McCloskey

However, salary reduction was no joke for MTFs in Schilt’s survey sample.
Participants reported significant losses of 12% in hourly earnings after becoming female.

Additionally, MTFs transitioned on average 10 years later than FTMs, delaying the loss of labor market advantages attributable to male gender.

FTMs, however, experienced no change in earnings or small positive increases up to 7.5% in earnings after transitioning to becoming men.

Any gender transition was associated with risks of harassment and discrimination, reported more frequently in “blue-collar” jobs, particularly for those with “non-normative” appearance and not consistently “passing” as the other gender.

These “naturalistic experiments” confirm continuing gender-based pay discrepancies.

-*To what extent have you observed these gender-linked differences in compensation and workplace credibility?


©Kathryn Welds


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