A Woman's Worth

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | May 30, 2008 9:32 am

Yes, there are jobs that offer women man sized paychecks, but I’m not encouraged looking at mean salaries in the sciences. While we ladies recently experienced a sightly higher percentage increase than the fellas, it seems to me something still doesn’t add up:



Comments (11)

  1. dana

    very unnappealing for a young woman considering a major. the sciences better step up, or i’m likely to step out.

  2. Jim G

    Single-number averages like these are too misleading to be of much use. Apparently, this survey neglected seniority and geographical region, and of course it lumps dissimilar jobs together as long as they fall under convenient general headings (“environmental”? what is that, anyway?).

    Also, does anyone know if “science” job salaries follow a predictable normal or lognormal distribution? Many fields don’t. For instance, lawyers’ salaries are bimodal. A select few (say 15-20%) graduates get hired as associates by top-echelon firms in NY/Chicago/SF/etc and get paid on exactly the same scale: $160,000 for first year grads. A strong peak on a salary graph. But everyone else gets paid in a wide range from $30k on up, depending on regular marketplace demand, which creates a second, flatter/wider peak on a salary graph that I think falls somewhere around $75-80k.

    The take-home lesson is that the “mean” lawyer salary falls between, yet almost no one makes it – they either earn a lot more or a lot less, and your final salary is decided more by the specific firm you work for and the lifestyle you content yourself with – much more than the type of lawyer you are or the field you work in. I infer that accountants’ and MBA/consultants’ salaries follow similar rules.

    What about scientists? Similar or different to this?

  3. Slightly different take. Interesting story reported on GMA this morning. In countries where women are treated the most equally, the performance of young girls on tests of math and science is equal to that of young boys.

    Maybe someone should send a copy to Laurence Summers.

  4. Something adds up all right: females don’t contribute as much to science — something that everyone agrees on (though there is bitter debate about why). Since there is no ceiling on paychecks, the mean is going to be strongly affected by the freaks at the top, and these are overwhelmingly men — again, no one disagrees that this is true.

  5. Luna_the_cat

    …females don’t contribute as much to science — something that everyone agrees on …

    Wow, wrong on both premises in your first sentence. Some sort of record for you?

  6. Beth B.

    [i]…females don’t contribute as much to science…[/i]

    …how so?

  7. Walker

    You have to be really careful on this type of analysis. The problem is that academic salaries are not uniform across all disciplines. It is well-known fact that non-medical biology faculty (male or female) get paid crap compared to the salaries in other areas (like engineering or computer science). Biology post-docs can make less than my graduate students.

    Within the sciences women are disproportionately represented in the lower paying fields. This is a problem, but it is a different problem than the salary problem. I am not saying there is no salary problem. I am just saying that this does not convince me of anything.

  8. Something adds up all right: females don’t contribute as much to science


    comport yourself as a gentleman! whatever the truth of the matter, let us render unto the fairer sex the civility which they are due as the mothers of the race.

    yours truly,
    c.v. snicker

  9. Luna_the_cat

    Ah, look. The premier “pro-science” misogynist has shown up. How….nice….to see you, Razib.

  10. Superstringy Indian

    Taking into account number of hours worked,etc,etc.,women earn 95% as much as men(all fields considered).So shut up.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.


See More

Collapse bottom bar