October 30th, 2009
11:59 PM ET

Erica Hill: The "Boys' Club"

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Erica Hill | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

If you’re not a working woman, you don’t need to look far to find one. Women now account for half of the U.S. workforce, and they are increasingly a major economic force within their families, as more women take on the role of “breadwinner.” Despite their solid place in the workforce alongside men – and most families’ need for women to work - it is impossible to ignore the wage gap. Women make 77 cents for every dollar a man brings home. Seventy-seven cents. It is a sobering figure, and a telling one.

Fortune illustrates the chasm in simple numbers from some of the nation’s top earners. The magazine put together lists of the 25 highest-paid women and the 25 best-paid men. Below are the salaries of the top three on each list – I’ll let you guess which salaries belong to the female execs, and which belong to the males.

1. $42.4 million

2. $23.9 million

3. $20.3 million

1. $112.5 million

2. $104.5 million

3. $84.5 million

Interesting the difference in those numbers, no? There are other factors that need to be taken into account if one is to compare salaries, among them experience, health of the company and the industry, but still, you can’t ignore the paychecks.

Certain areas of the economy are much more female-friendly. The National Association of Female Executives has its own list of top companies for women. Interestingly, many of the places where women are seeing the greatest advancement and opportunity are in the technology, IT and manufacturing sectors. Financial companies and Wall Street, seen by many as the ultimate “boys' club,” do not score nearly as well.

Women have, of course, made great strides in just the past few decades. The fact that we have these lists is a major improvement. There was a time when few women even dreamed of running a major company, let alone working in the upper echelon of management. I vividly remember my mother – who was the first in her family to earn a college degree – telling me when she went to college, there were basically three career options for women: nurse, secretary, or teacher. She said very matter-of-factly how wonderful it was that my sister and I had so many choices available to us, both in school and after graduation. She loved the fact that we never thought to limit ourselves to three professions.

Indeed women can now be found in nearly every industry and trade. We build homes and roads, cure the sick, deliver babies (funny how that was mainly a man’s job for so long – telling a woman how her body works and would react during childbirth), teach our children, invent mind-boggling technology, run companies, states, cities and even a few government offices. When Fortune magazine premiered its Most Powerful Women in Business list eleven years ago, only two of the women on that lists ran Fortune 500 companies. Today, 13 are at the helm. Yet, interestingly, in 2008 the top three professions for women, were nurse, secretary/administrative assistant and teacher, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So how do women break into the “Boys' Club” while avoiding the other label that begins with a “B”? That’s just one of the questions we will answer Monday night on AC360°, in addition to asking our panel how – and when! – women will see that extra 23 cents on the dollar in their paychecks. Among the voices weighing in Monday, acclaimed personal finance expert Suze Orman, former White House Press Secretary and author of Why Women Should Rule the World, Dee Dee Myers, and Dr. Katrina Firlik, author of Another Day in the Frontal Lobe. While we wait to hear from them, let us know what you think about women in the workplace and in the “Boys' Club."

Filed under: 360° Radar • Erica Hill • Women's Issues
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Marina in Seattle

    While I do acknowledge that the "boy's club" mentality is alive and well, I do also see the progress being made in terms of equality for women in the workplace. Looking back in time, there are countless lawsuits that made it to the supreme courts, where women couldn't even work certain jobs because they were too "fragile," with the fear certain jobs would harm their key role in raising a family. We have all moved beyond those times, but it will still take even more time and pressure being put on congress and the courts to realize the discrimination and inequality before women can earn the same pay as men.

    November 2, 2009 at 12:54 am |
  2. Monica

    I worked for state and federal government for over 20 years, the majority of my time spent working in California. If there were any 'boys clubs' I never noticed. Within 11 years of service, I was promoted to a grade which is higher than that from which the typical civil servant (men included) retires after 25 years. I have a very strong personality which I know intimidated even some men. But where I really noticed the 'good ol' boys club' was when I moved to Texas and went to work in the private sector. I believe it (the boys club mentality) to be largely a cultural and/or geographical issue. I had never felt so much resistance or lack of cooperation from men in trying to accomplish my job until I moved here. I find the men here to be VERY old-fashioned, if that's what you want to call it. They don't like women who are as smart, or smarter, than they are and who are not intimidated by men or men in authority. After 4 years in the workforce here, I decided to retire. And I have never been more happy and more at peace in my life.

    November 1, 2009 at 9:41 pm |
  3. Donna

    When I first started working in 1980, I was under the impression that women would "on average" make 70 cents on the dollar. And, here it is all these years later and it's moved 7 cents. Sadly amazing.

    I work for a very large company that pays all employees the same wages for the same work for the same positions and same tasks and goals.

    Pays the same, but, you can be certain, there's the boys club.I just started my own girls club instead and they are welcome to work with us any time.

    The more women support one and other the better off everyone will be in the long run. It's just good business and even better life skills.

    November 1, 2009 at 8:40 pm |
  4. Larry

    Do companies still have it in the back of their mind that the women might decide to start a family and would that interfere with her contribution to the company?
    How does affirmative-action affect women and the workplace, if at all?

    November 1, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
  5. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    There are women in the work force who have power making decision and I've seen them promote men before women and also support the higher pay for men citing they are the bread winner of their family. Women also must form their own "Girls Club" and support one another.

    November 1, 2009 at 2:01 pm |
  6. Marti Hokans

    Many years ago in my first job out of college I looked around and noticed that the men who were out "in the field" doing the PR and public contact work were paid literally twice as much as the women in the office. So I applied for one of their jobs. My boss said without hesitation that I wasn't eligible because women couldn't do those jobs.

    I spent about six months proving as much as I could around the office that I was able do the necessary work for one of the better positions. I was finally told that, OK, when the next opening came up I would be considered for it. But I had to understand that I would not be paid the same salary. Why? Again without embarrassment or discomfort my boss said that 'the guys' (men he had hired and who worked under his supervision) would be mad at him if they found out I was getting the same paycheck they were.

    We're rarely told anymore that we can't do the jobs. But we still can't have the pay. After so many years, what's it going to take?

    Marti in California

    November 1, 2009 at 4:38 am |
  7. LR

    Alas, the "boy's club" wouldn't still exist without the help and support of women in the workplace who go out of their way to backstab and sabotague their female coworkers, especially the ones trying to stop "the club".

    October 31, 2009 at 11:19 pm |
  8. Kim

    Do we burn our bras and have a pantie raid now ? See terms of agreement ! Type it up and get what you're worth ! The glass ceiling exploded with Clinton ! The sky is the limit ! "The roof,the roof,the roof is in fire...don't get funny with the money !

    October 31, 2009 at 8:52 pm |
  9. Katja in Florida

    The "good ol boys club" is still alive and well here in the South. But many of us who will not tolerate that attitude are here to shove it right back in their faces. Women own and operate businesses here that are considered "men's". The old mentality needs to go, but I don't think that will happen soon. The older generation has trouble moving forward, and unfortunatly, the younger generation is full of timid little girls. So I guess it is up to the middle generation to keep up the fight.

    October 31, 2009 at 8:04 pm |
  10. Larry

    Most powerful people in Obama's admin are men; David Axelrod & Rahm Emanuel. Infact, they are more powerful than the prisednt.

    October 31, 2009 at 7:27 pm |
  11. J.V.Hodgson

    First, it is wrong that a woman should not get the same pay as man for the same job. In fact in many countries that's the law.
    Then comes the problem thier is only one CEO, president etc and nothing comparable. So I think it is a process, capable women are breaking in and one way in is to cost 77cents versus the previous male incumbents 100 cents. Over time that will fix itself assuming Women ceo's deliver comparable company results or better.
    Having said that my own personal experience is that this is not a Boys club syndrome, but that on balance there seem to be more boys " interested or desiring" to get the top jobs than women. It may hurt Erica but on at least 5/6 occasions I was going to put Female senior managers forward for even more senior positions over thier male competitors and was literally asked, please no, I am happy with what I have, and great ,thanks but no thanks. I never had a male refusal, but many who failed ultimately, on the other hand the females I managed to promote never failed as such, but often left because they were frustrated not by lack of promtion job satisfaction per se but the, you'll like this " pettiness, and small mindedness of thier male peers!"
    We are all equal but equally so all different and so let it remain, I personally would hate it if women were excatly the same as men in attitude thinking, desires job wise or otherwise... just dont deny those women that want it the opportunity, or those that dont that also.

    October 31, 2009 at 1:29 am |
  12. mary in toronto

    Not only do the financial companies and wall street score low on advancement for women but they also score low on ethics. However they compensate with excessively high scores for bail outs.

    October 30, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  13. Teresa, OH

    Perhaps the pay discrepancy can be explained away by women haven't had that significant role in the workplace for the last couple centuries like men have?

    It will be neat to see the show and see how the female authorities explain the pay difference. : )

    Women shouldnt aspire to break into the Boys Club. Women are so much more competent than that.

    October 30, 2009 at 3:59 pm |
  14. Mike in NYC

    There will always be a premium subtracted from the mean female salary to compensate for the risk of productivity loss due to pregnancy. There are probably other factors involved, also due to inherent gender differences.

    Combining career and family in such a way as to do justice to both is virtually impossible. Such is reality. Of course, why not just go ahead and try to legislate reality away? It's been done before. It's never worked, but don't let that stop you.

    October 30, 2009 at 3:24 pm |
  15. Mike, formerly from Syracuse, NY

    Both my daughters are or will be in traditional 'men's' jobs, a police officer and a soon to be lawyer(a BU grad like you). Despite being more conservative than Attilla the Hun, I never thought that there were jobs that they couldn't do. In fact being a Navy vet, I tried (and failed) to get both interested in the military. Regarding the pay differential, I think you need to 'normalize' the statistics by measuring salaries for men in women in the same job, not just overall. For example, I KNOW my duaghter the cop gets the exact same pay as her male counterparts of the same senority. My employer (an aerospace firm) seeks out women grads and they get the same salaries as men. However, if you look at the admins, 99% are women and they do make much less than both the male and female engineers. So just looking at average salaries, women would be paid less; but for vastly different jobs. So what are the numbers on an apples to apples basis?

    October 30, 2009 at 3:13 pm |