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95 Responses

  1. Avatar FredW says:

    Reminds me of one of my favorite Clintons joke. Bill and Hillary stop at a McDonalds. Hillary says afterwords “That guy behind the counter? I think I dated him in High School.” Bill responds “Think of where you’d be today if you married him instead of me.” Hillary replies, “No, think of whereyou’d be.”Report

    • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

      There are a million variants of this joke. Robert Reich and HWC did go on a date when they were in college though.Report

  2. Avatar Mo says:

    But isn’t Sarah Palin an example of a woman who rose through power without the benefit of who she married? She was a reasonably successful governor before hitting the national stage and losing it. Sure her looks helped, but looks matter for men too. Obama, Clinton, Reagan and W were all attractive men of above average height.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      Possibly; though the scandals that plagued her administration raise some flags for me concerning competency vs. her attractiveness. But I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt here. My point isn’t that women don’t rise to power without a man, it’s that it’s not a clear or easy path, and she’ll find obstacles along the way that no man will ever face. For Palin, for instance, the focus on her appearance, as I just demonstrated.

      (I am suggesting that other women are as much a part of the problem as men.)Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        But it’s Alaska, petty corruption is part of the territory. There are loads of competent politicians with petty, and not so petty, corruption scandals, like Chris Christie.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Palin is an outlier. While she earned her governorship there was quite a bit of luck involved. She was mayor of a small town and had influence in a popular tax overhaul. When she was in the R primary for Gov the leader of the party was the massively unpopular sitting Repub gov who had previously been a long serving senator. The sitting gov was so unpopular he came in 3rd or 4th in the primary for his own party. Palin had the right timing to be running when the incumbent was less popular then rotting fish. Ak being a red state essentially meant whoever won the R primary was a pretty much a shoe in to win the Gov seat at that time. That doesn’t diminish her winning, she won fair and square but she caught lightening. But her tenure as Gov was short racked with some real scandals and the best you can say about it was, she didn’t screw up anything.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        I think we diminish how much luck has to do with a lot of politicians rising to power. Obama needed a bizarre Ryan sex scandal to win his Senate seat and two incumbents not running. Bill Clinton was fortunate that Mario Cuomo perceived HW as unbeatable due to an 89% approval rating and Al Gore’s son was hit by a car, keeping him out. Instead, he got to run against Jerry Brown and Tsongas in a really weak primary field. Gore or Cuomo could have rolled Clinton.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I completely agree Mo. Behind every successful person is a hellava lot of luck.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:


        People always seems to discount luck. I think most success can be attributed to chaos and luck.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        @saul-degraw I wouldn’t diminish achievements because of luck and chaos either. Lots of people are in lucky situations, not everyone has the ability or drive to fully capitalize on it. Nixon is a good example of someone who got screwed by bad luck, but sheer determination put him in a favorable position to capitalize on a later opportunity.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      And on the flip side of the coin, Pelosi did get her start in politics on the basis of family connections. On the flip side of that, though, that particular would have been the same were she born Tony D’Alesandro, as her brothers demonstrate – but as they did not rise as far, I don’t want diminish her as an individual or a trailblazing woman politician in the 70s & 80s.Report

  3. Avatar Mo says:

    I also don’t think Mary Barra’s situation is wholly unfair. As VP of Engineering in 08-09 and EVP of Product Development from 11-13, she was definitely aware of the problem and had the ability to make a stink about it before rising to power? She is not some outsider that got saddled with the problem.Report

  4. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    “Abramson, it’s rumored, was too pushy, too confrontational, too bitchy – she had the audacity to want equal pay and to want to select her own managing editors.”

    I actually think the Abramson situation is more tricky.

    My understanding is that she didn’t ever personally request/demand additional money from the Times after her initial negotiation of salary at point of hire, and that their first contact from her regarding the situation was through an attorney insinuating she might sue them.

    That doesn’t explain the supposed pay discrepancy, of course, nor does it address any of the many moving parts that create the larger systemic social issues that lead to women not earning as much in positions where hiring salary is negotiated pre-hire. And all of those do need to be looked at, I think.

    But if I’m being honest, if an employee of mine had a concern about their pay (or really, just about anything else) and the first I heard about it was a nastygram from their attorney, I’d remove them as soon as I could legally do so, man or woman.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      That’s what was initially reported; but she was, it seems, given a raise immediately after she became Washington Bureau Chief (on top of the raise for the appointment); the whole is murky, but:

      Clearly, Abramson believed that her pay was not the same as that of her male counterparts, and that she had good reason to be difficult. That’s why she hired a lawyer to discuss this with the Times. On Thursday, though, Sulzberger said, in a memo to the staff, that this was “misinformation”:

      It is simply not true that Jill’s compensation was significantly less than her predecessors. Her pay is comparable to that of earlier executive editors. In fact, in 2013, her last full year in the role, her total compensation package was more than 10% higher than that of her predecessor, Bill Keller, in his last full year as Executive Editor, which was 2010. It was also higher than his total compensation in any previous year.

      Let’s look at some numbers I’ve been given: As executive editor, Abramson’s starting salary in 2011 was $475,000, compared to Keller’s salary that year, $559,000. Her salary was raised to $503,000, and—only after she protested—was raised again to $525,000. She learned that her salary as managing editor, $398,000, was less than that of the male managing editor for news operations, John Geddes. She also learned that her salary as Washington bureau chief, from 2000 to 2003, was a hundred thousand dollars less than that of her successor in that position, Phil Taubman.* (Murphy would say only that Abramson’s compensation was “broadly comparable” to that of Taubman and Geddes.)

      Murphy cautioned that one shouldn’t look at salary but, rather, at total compensation, which includes, she said, any bonuses, stock grants, and other long-term incentives. This distinction appears to be the basis of Sulzberger’s comment that Abramson was not earning “significantly less.” But it is hard to know how to parse this without more numbers from the Times. For instance, did Abramson’s compensation pass Keller’s because the Times’ stock price rose? Because her bonuses came in up years and his in down years? Because she received a lump-sum long-term payment and he didn’t?

      And, if she was wrong, why would Mark Thompson agree, after her protest, to sweeten her compensation from $503,000 to $525,000? (Murphy said, on behalf of Thompson, that Abramson “also raised other issues about her compensation and the adequacy of her pension arrangements, which had nothing to do with the issue of comparability. It was to address these other issues that we suggested an increase in her compensation.”)

      What is a fact is that Abramson believed she was being treated unequally. After learning, recently, that her salary was not equal to her male counterparts’, she visited with Sulzberger to complain. And she hired a lawyer because she believed she was not treated fairly.

      source: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2014/05/jill-abramson-and-the-times-what-went-wrong.html?utm_source=tny&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailyemail&mbid=nl_Daily%20(179)Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      It does bespeak a fundamental lack of trust, to use the lawyer first.
      However, I think the corporation has already broken the trust.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      On Abramson, one of the things that caught my attention is the public seeking of reason that fits in the frame of current feminist conversation about pay disparity and reputation, particularly for high-level executives. It’s mostly, so far as I know, conjecture and rumor, etc.

      I’m rather taken aback by it all, to be honest.Report

  5. Avatar Kim says:

    Senators from Massechusetts and North Dakota don’t appear to have had much politics in their blood. Certainly no marrying a guy to rise to power.Report

  6. Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

    Abramson has childrenReport

    • Avatar zic says:

      Thanks, @saul-degraw

      None of the reporting on her that I skimmed writing this included that (at least that I saw).Report

  7. Avatar North says:

    One takeaway from this is that perhaps pay should be something that is easily publicly visible. I can understand why management and capital wants to keep pay under wraps; discourages strife, blocks comparisons and tilts the scales towards the hiring entity but is there an objective reason not to require pay to be public?Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Because if I know what job you have, I also know exactly how much money you have?

      You don’t want to keep your net worth private from anybody out there do you?Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        Fair point. But there is the notion that company’s should not be allowed to restrict the voluntary publication of salary. That seems like a good think for workers.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:


        Agreed. Restricting the voluntary sharing of salary info is a problem (well, it’s a problem for workers–it’s great for the investors!). There are times when I think everything would work better if knowing other peoples’ salary was just a social norm. Any “strife” it caused isn’t really caused by the information. It’s caused either by unjustified pay differentials or by employers not being clear enough about why the pay differential is justified. Cracking down on salary information leaks doesn’t solve either of those problems.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        You know, I go back and forth on this. In an ideal world, more transparency everywhere is maybe the way to go.

        In this world, my wife, who is a small business owner, has no end of trouble when employees start discussing salaries. Salary-as-representation-of-employee-value not only covers work quality (which is more or less objective) it covers subjective intangibles like morale and attitude. If I have two employees that produce roughly equal work, but one is a Debbie Downer all day and brings office morale down, while Sally Sunshine is relentlessly enthusiastic, I may be willing to pay Sally Sunshine a little more to keep her with me when she asks, because the workplace is just better with her there.

        But if Sally Sunshine discloses that raise to Debbie Downer, and Debbie Downer wants a matching raise, maybe I can’t afford the raise for BOTH employees, so now I either need to take away Sally’s raise, or let someone (probably Debbie) go, etc. I may not feel Debbie is worth that much *to me*, because she brings the office morale down. And Debbie Downer WILL complain about this pay disparity, and further bring the office down.

        Now – in an ideal world, maybe information should be free and if it were the society-wide cultural norm eventually the market would level back out and everyone would end up at the job that best suits them. Maybe. But short of mandating it for everyone, I don’t see how you get there, because the first employers to make the move get the shaft.

        Also, pretty sure a contract between two parties can specify that the terms of that contract (of which salary is a term) be kept confidential and that disclosure is a breach, right? Employer/employee contracts aren’t the only ones with confidential terms, are they?Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @glyph — Well, you make the point precisely. This empowers workers over employers, so naturally employers dislike it.

        Every company I have worked for has disallowed disclosure. Every raise and bonus I have received came with the proviso that I keep it secret.

        Which is not really a surprise.

        That’s why a law would be a critical first step on changing this.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        If by “empowers workers” you mean “deprives Sally of a raise and/or results in Debbie getting let go” then yeah. You are looking at only one dynamic when I think more than one is in play – that is, mandatory disclosure may disempower employers in ways that you won’t like, as well as ways in which you will.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        in a super ideal world, your wife would be able to take Debbie Downer aside and teach her how to be more enthusiastic (or get her a course in it). That way they’d both be worth the extra pay (assuming you need more enthusiasm, which, let’s face it, is always awesome).Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I also think when these discussions come up, everyone is thinking about deep-pocketed big companies in large markets, who have wider latitudes in their talent pool, pay ranges, etc. For small business owners in small markets, things like this can be the difference between staying open and closing down.

        Which businesses would such a law hit worse?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Glyph, depends on how we do it.
        I mean, I can hash everyone at a particular salary/job combination…
        we can keep Names private, and share salaries.
        And by the time we’re doing that, we can share across employers.

        So you might get “Nurse, you are being underpaid at your current position” or “Female nurses make more than male nurses, and you’re one of those being underpaid”

        In theory, this makes a more efficient marketplace. Of course, it also tends to reduce “merit pay” and other forms of discrimination which are not easily PCAed out.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        And to go back to the privacy angle, let’s say I am a one-man business, and I pay you X dollars to build my web storefront (or whatever).

        Maybe I don’t want you disclosing what I paid you, because while that theoretically might help workers, that information also helps my competitors by telling them how deep-pocketed I am, which is information they can use against me. Again, this seems likely to hurt small business owners more than big ones.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @glyph — Well, these sorts of laws often only attach when a company reaches a certain size. Which is perhaps less than ideal, but can ease the fears of very small businesses.

        Also keep in mind that nothing requires Sally to tell Debbie anything. All this means is she cannot (legally) be prevented from talking.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        I’m having a hard time with the argument “Employers need to keep wages secret for the employees own good”.

        Information disparities are one of those things that distorts markets, right? I’m not aware of any economic school that says “Except Labor Markets, where Information Disparities Result In More Efficient Markets”.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @morat20 – I assume that was directed at me?

        I’m having a hard time with the argument “Employers need to keep wages secret for the employees own good”.

        Information disparities are one of those things that distorts markets, right? I’m not aware of any economic school that says “Except Labor Markets, where Information Disparities Result In More Efficient Markets”.

        Which is why I go back and forth. Again, if it was a society-wide norm/mandate, maybe it would all work out for the best, and each employer and employee would be more closely matched (though to be honest, it sounds a lot like the thing heartless libertarians are often accused of saying, “apply X principle across the board and let the chips fall where they may, the little guy losers will be winnowed out”).

        In practice, when it happens today, it seemingly causes low morale, unnecessary strife (EDITED TO ADD: not just between employer/employee, but between employee/employee), and increased employee turnover. So viewed in the micro, requiring non-disclosure seems to “work” better, in the sense that the small business can make decisions that help it more easily stay afloat, which allows it to keep paying its employees (if it fails, they can’t get paid).

        But I am fully aware of the dissonance between principle and practice here, and that this may be self-serving.

        I’d just ask when people are debating this, they consider Nikki’s Yarn Yard, as well as Microsoft.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        Nikki’s Yarn Yard, frankly, is gonna have everyone knowing what their peers make anyways. It’s kind of hard to keep quiet.

        And to be honest, given the routine shenanigans that are known to hide under the ‘confidentiality’ of payscales (Lilly Ledbetter being a great case — as she, per corporate policy, should never have known she was getting shafted), I’m thinking the only reason to worry about morale is because the truth is demoralizing to workers, which is hardly a reason to hide it.

        As for poor Nikki, well — my personal experience that pay disparities in small businesses are either the product of easily explained things (“She’s been here longer”) or outright nepotism and favoritism (which, being a small company, everyone knew) — mostly because small business HR decisions are generally quite simplistic, because complexity is too much of a PIT,A whereas in larger companies it’s generally designed to hold pay down as much as possible and since it’s a large company, people are generally in the dark as to how much of the shaft they’re getting.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Because if I know what job you have, I also know exactly how much money you have?

        You don’t want to keep your net worth private from anybody out there do you?

        Pay for military members is a matter of public record (if you know their rank and years of service); same with most government employees. Yet there are wide variation in net worth for people of the same rank and years of service due to family circumstances and personal choices.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        This is one of those things that doesn’t make sense to me.

        If I have a Debbie Downer, and she’s incorrigibly so, I’m getting rid of her as fast as I can. I seriously don’t care if she’s the bees’ knees, especially in this employment market.

        I really, really don’t care if she knows that I pay her less than Sally. In fact, I can see an argument that posting your metrics for how pay increases go should inform both Sally and Debbie how much the other is likely to make without telling either one of the directly, and will encourage and reward the behavior I want in the workplace.

        In my experience, when people don’t do that (make payscales transparent, if not paychecks), it’s because they have organizationally perverse reasons for keeping the morale-killer around, or they think that nebulosity about who is getting paid what to do what they do is some sort of productivity increasing thing, which is just bananas. That’s usually because they’re terrible at management.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        If by “empowers workers” you mean “deprives Sally of a raise and/or results in Debbie getting let go” then yeah.

        I’m not sure that Debbie has to be let go here unless she’s making a constant stink or threatening to leave. If Debbie doesn’t understand what she brings to the table and what it’s worth in the grand scheme of things, all of that time companies spend on performance appraisals and reviews with managers seem to be wasted. My company used to spend zillions on that ritual and not really get anywhere with it, and I think that this type of thing contributes to it.

        It seems like the alternative here is to keep Debbie blissfully unaware of a problem with her work patterns. Or at least to minimize the extent to which those problems affect her value as an employee. That’s not really good for anybody. I can sympathize–one of many things that make me a mediocre manager at best is that I’m reluctant to call people out to correct behavior that’s problematic but not objectively measurable. But that’s a problem, not something that should be business as usual.

        I think that pay transparency could actually help with some of those types of issues. Employees who see a pattern in the pay and behavior of more successful employees may well figure out that it’s actually worth it to change. “Hey, the people who come to work on time seem to get paid more than the people who don’t. All this time I thought that was a minor variable that the boss bitched about, but it turns out that it actually affects my standing as an employee.”

        Maybe I don’t want you disclosing what I paid you, because while that theoretically might help workers, that information also helps my competitors by telling them how deep-pocketed I am, which is information they can use against me. Again, this seems likely to hurt small business owners more than big ones.

        It’s not a problem when everybody knows what you’re paying for wheat or cotton for the factories. Plenty of inputs that companies pay for have pretty well-known prices and everybody keeps on going. Salaries shouldn’t be particularly special in that regard.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        “nepotism and favoritism” are certainly part of it, but while “favoritism” is generally a bad thing, go back to my example – not all subjectivity is unwarranted or non-useful.

        You own Morat’s Moped Repair. Sally Sunshine and Debbie Downer both work for you, and they produce a roughly equal amount of work.

        Sally comes to you and asks for a raise of $1/hr, and you know if you don’t give it to her, you’ll lose her to Glyph’s Gear Grotto across town. There’s not a lot of trained moped mechanics available in your small town.

        But you can only afford a $1/hr raise for Sally, not an identical one for Debbie also – and even if you could, Debbie is on thin ice with you anyway, what with the moping and sighing all day. THAT attitude ain’t worth one dollar more than you are already paying for it.

        What do you do, in this world? Give Sally the raise, and just hope she keeps quiet about it? Give it to her, and ask her to keep quiet? Make the raise contingent on keeping quiet about it? Let her go, and listen solely to moping and sighing all day and hope you can get by with one mechanic until a suitable replacement can be found?

        Privacy and mandatory non-disclosure can definitely facilitate unethical shenanigans, but they can also permit a little wiggle room.

        Do you think (regular, not the CIA) employers should be able to make any part of the employment contract confidential? Or should it all be open to everybody?

        Like I said, I definitely see where others are coming from on this, but in practice, in this world, it never seems to work out that well for the shop (which is, again, the viewpoint I am taking on this – it may well be that the employees who bail as a result of these periodic blowups end up at much better jobs).

        I myself work for a large company, and of course am prohibited from salary discussions. 🙂Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @patrick – w/r/t the distinction between payscales and paychecks, I am on board with that (and in fact, my company DOES make payscales known, though as I said specific salary discussion is verboten).

        But in smaller/flatter organizations, I don’t think this distinction works as well, since there aren’t many scales.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        I’d give her the raise and if Debbie said “Why is she making more than me” I’d point out that Sally was better at her job.

        And if Debbie left, by golly, I could replace her.

        You’re basically asking me to accept that information disparities are good for labor markets, which is basically asking for a giant exception for labor to general economic theories. Stories about Mom and Pop shops aren’t gonna cut it.

        I suppose the next stop on “Labor is different than everything else in economics” is the argument about how you [you general, not you specific] can’t get anyone qualified for the job at the price you’re willing to pay” then acting like it’s crazy talk to suggest “Have you tried offering more for the position” as if qualified people should almost be paying you for the privilege of working for you for whatever salary you deem worth it for their labor.

        That’s what this boils down to: You’re suggesting labor shouldn’t have the information management does, because this leads to better outcomes. And it does, according to classical economic theory — specifically, it leads to better outcomes for the people who HAVE the information.

        So again, we’re back to the “we shouldn’t tell employees about salaries because it’s bad for them” is BS on the face of it. It’s bad for employers because they’re the ones who can exploit the information asymmetry.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Morat’s right. And you’re ignoring the fact that your CEO could simply open the books, and say “Here, this is what I’m making. I can’t give you more.” — perhaps with an implicit “if you can get me more profit…”
        (maybe debbie’s a smart cookie and can rework your billing.)Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        What? How do you figure you can infer net worth from salary? You can maybe make a decent probabilistic guess at it that will likely be closer than your guess would would have been without knowing the salary, but I doubt you could correctly guess to within a factor of two with any reliability.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Hey, other people get to specially-plead for THEIR oxes, when is it MY turn? 😉

        I dunno. Maybe a mandate would all work out for the best and the resulting market would be overall more efficient (after a period of significant disruption).

        This is one of those cases where I feel like things flip and I better understand the critique against pure libertarian economic theory (“you want to apply pure economic theory, with no regard of how it affects the little guy in practice!” – except my “little guy” = my wife’s small business, while others’ “little guy” = her employees. And if her business fails, they are out of that job).

        And I ask again: can any part of the employment contract be required confidential? Is privacy and contract confidentiality ONLY ever used for shenanigans, never for legitimate purposes?Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:


        What you just described is a situation where secrecy allowed Morat’s Moped Repair to have extra employees by paying them less than what the market rate would have been in a transparent market. I don’t think any of us disagree that it’s good for that particular employer for that to be the way things work. We just disagree about whether that’s a good net outcome globally.

        In a properly transparent market, that employer takes a hit, but the employees don’t. The idea that bad for either Suzie or Debbie is just not true. Suzie gets her raise. Debbie has enough information to decide whether quitting is the right decision or not. She may leave, but that’s not a loss for her–she’s leaving because she knows what she’s worth. It’s just a bad outcome for Morat’s Moped Repair. But it’s better to lose Debbie than Suzie, and it’s better for Debbie to go to a place where her value is higher.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @brandon-berg @kolohe – ‘net worth’ was a bad choice of words, I agree salary doesn’t tell you all you’d need to know for that.

        My general point was that individuals might have valid reasons to want their salary kept private.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Fair to say you see “keeping employees happy” as a legitimate purpose?
        I don’t. I see training employees, and explaining to them why they’re not being paid as much, to be net good things.

        (that, and not being afraid to open the books. Small businesses can do an awful lot to help out someone without raising pay.)

        A non-disclosure agreement can often be used to deny that the work was ever done (with possible legal consequences for the contractor, depending on the line of work).

        I’m having trouble coming up with any reason the privacy should be required by the employer. Or any good the workers could derive from that.

        Perhaps there’s a benefit to some degree of obfuscation, but I’m having trouble finding it.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        or Moped repair prices in the cost of having to hire someone else, and gives Debbie a raise, while continuing to leave a “help wanted” sign up, then “let’s go” Debbie when the new person arrives.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Hate to pile on here Glyph but isn’t this kind of secrecy a huge anti libertarian distortion of the market? Even in your scenario labor loses. Sally could go to your competitor and get her raise if you feel you can’t afford to give them both raises or else Debbie can bail if she see’s Sally being paid more. The only person helped by the secrecy is management/capital.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        And I ask again: can any part of the employment contract be required confidential? Is privacy and contract confidentiality ONLY ever used for shenanigans, never for legitimate purposes?

        I think that with regards to compensation, the only serious reason for enforced secrecy is to advantage the employer in negotiations. Your competitors already know roughly what you pay an employee. Knowing specifically what they make relative to other employees (and how do they get the employee to divulge that information?) only gives them an advantage in poaching your employees. I believe that poaching is a very good thing overall. And of course, enforcing secrecy doesn’t protect you from poaching–your employee is going to tell the poacher what it will take to get them to leave, regardless of whether they can share their salary specifically.

        Other aspects of the contract could certainly be confidential if they were somehow related to trade secrets. Likewise if they exposed, say, aspects of the org chart that might otherwise usefully be kept secret. But I’m having a hard time coming up with a specific example of an employment contract term that might reasonably need to be kept secret for reasons other than keeping employees at a disadvantage. Do you have something in mind?Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @north , Et tu, brother? 😉

        I have admitted my biases, self-serving desires (to give my wife’s business the maximum chance of success) and cognitive dissonances repeatedly.

        I hope to bathe myself in the pure waters of libertarian economic theory (as strangely presented to me by liberals…) soon enough.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Also, and this just struck me as funny w/r/t the OP and I mean no serious point by it, it occurs to me that my wife, as a small business owner, is a woman in a (small) position of power here.

        But let’s make sure she doesn’t have too much. Just the right amount is what we are after. 😉Report

      • NobAkimoto NobAkimoto says:

        Because if I know what job you have, I also know exactly how much money you have?

        Realistically speaking, any company that checks your FICO score to see if you’re a credit risk or whatever is actually doing a similar thing.

        It’s kind of perverse and strange that employees would be the only part of the labor market without access to information that would help them negotiate compensation.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        All I know is this, if I ever start a small business, I’m gonna hire @glyph to help me come up with a name.

        Dude, do you have like a standard consult fee?Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        Do you think there should be, in general, different rules and standards for small businesses?

        I realize this depends on each individual rule/regulation, etc., but in general, I saw a lot of evidence that the rule making process was often captured in such a way as to present outsize obstacles for small and start-up businesses so that they could not present serious competition to larger businesses. Given that women are often doing what your wife’s doing — women-owned forms have grown at a significant pace (according to this DOL report twice the rate of all other business), this may have a significant impact on women.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Dude, do you have like a standard consult fee?

        I’ll e-mail you my NDA.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:


        Do you think there should be, in general, different rules and standards for small businesses?

        Devil’s in the details, but we don’t put Little Leaguers and MLBers on a “level playing field” together. And scale matters (see “too big to fail” and monopolies). So I’m not inherently opposed to the idea that we apply different rules to different sizes.

        As I said early on, when these discussions occur, I think a lot of people are picturing big companies, while I am usually thinking of a small one (and admittedly, scaling up practices that I think may be appropriate there, to larger companies, when maybe they *shouldn’t* be scaled up).Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @zic – you used to run a small cafe/shop, right? If so, then you know how much these things are held together by spit and baling wire, precarious from week to week.

        Two employees sniping at each other because of a pay differential that is perhaps deserved/justifiable (but one employee does not accept the justification), can assume outsize importance in the shop’s day to day business/survival.Report

      • As one who has spent his entire post-collegiate career in small business environments, I’d like to take a different view here. I think there’s way too much of an assumption that employees in small business environments are as or more likely to want to discuss their salaries than employees who work for bigger employers.

        My experience is quite the opposite – discussing salary in small business environs is extremely awkward for employees, and specifically employees who find themselves treated favorably with a raise or unexpected bonus. I don’t think I’ve ever been in an environment where discussion of salary was actively discouraged or vocally prohibited (it’s possible the relevant employee manuals officially prohibited it, but I can’t recall a single instance where that part of the manual was highlighted or enforced).

        Even so, it’s never been something people bring up except for when employees are exceptionally tight with each other or when they feel they’ve been especially slighted. You’ve got to work with these people, and letting it be known what your wages are in an environment where your boss has a near unlimited amount of discretion as to those wages can do little good.

        It’s not merely bad for overall office morale when someone else knows who got a little something extra, when, and how much. More pertinently, it’s a guaranteed way to get your co-workers to distrust you. I’ve seen people complain in detail about slights, but if so, the only appropriate responses are generally “yeah, that happened to me too” (which tends to make them feel less offended by the slight and thus is probably good for morale) or “that sucks,” or at most “that sucks, maybe you need to do x,” where “x” is something that will generally make everyone (including the boss) happy. You definitely don’t respond with “that sucks, but here’s how I got a heaping bonus that dwarfs yours.”

        Maybe you talk a bit more freely with people who you’re especially tight with and trust, but if that’s happening, it’s because you’re on good enough terms to (a) know they won’t get offended; and (b) know they won’t tell everyone else much, if anything, about your good fortune.

        In a big company, the sense I’ve always gotten is that pay levels and titles are sufficiently well-defined that you usually have a pretty good idea what everyone else is making at a given moment anyhow. On top of that, a lot of times you may have acquaintances who work in different groups who don’t have any reason to get annoyed by your good fortunes and, even if they did, wouldn’t have very much ability to do anything about that annoyance.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @mark-thompson – I’d suggest as a lawyer, you have been working with people who are just more circumspect and “professional”. I can assure you from personal experience that gossipy discussions of relative salary occur quite frequently in the retail and service industries. The social/cultural norms are just different.

        EDITED TO ADD: IOW, even if law offices are “small” businesses, they are white collar; whereas retail and service is closer to blue-collar.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @glyph Yes, I owned a cafe. I also spent several years writing about small businesses for several publications, so I’ve spoken with thousands of business owners about the problems they face.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        Big businesses have shifted to ‘salary bands’ (similar to the GSE scales, but much less defined).

        My band, btw, encompasses a salary range running from roughly half my current salary to something like 8 times my current salary.

        Knowing that we’re both, oh, Engineer 3s or whatever doesn’t help. Having an anonymous listing of what engineer 3s are paid company wide, denoted by years of experience?

        If the disparity is, say, 15% wide between lowest and highest of the engineers with similar experience — people are going to shrug. If, as I suspect, it’s more like 25% to 50% (depending on things like what year you were hired in, what business units you moved through, if you were recruited or applied, etc are enough right there) — people are going to complain and ask for raises.

        And that right there is why management doesn’t want employees to know. Because having half your employee base wanting to know why they’re paid a full 20% less than the median despite good reviews, year in and year out, is almost as bad as having unions there.

        As long as they remain ignorant, they won’t ask for raises.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @patrick it’s because they have organizationally perverse reasons for keeping the morale-killer around

        This is *definitely* often the case. And if that organizationally perverse reason isn’t under your sole control and you can’t fix the *real* problem, you have to deal with the problem you have, with the tools at your disposal. Even in small businesses the owner may not be in sole control of the ship.Report

      • My problem with special rules for smaller businesses is my suspicion that in practice, the rules

        1. Favor already established businesses over newer businesses.

        2. Consumers end up paying more because of the special rules. I.e., larger businesses have to (in some way) pay certain premiums that result in them charging higher prices that more closely match the higher prices smaller businesses have to charge.

        Maybe special rules for smaller businesses do not necessarily do these two things. And I’d be much more in favor of rules that create a clear standard for what counts as a small business as opposed to a medium or large business because if the standard is clear, at least people know where they stand (I’m thinking in particular of setting a specific number of employees beyond which, for example, the ACA employer mandate applies…..the mandate may or may not be good policy, but if there is a more or less clear line about when and where it applies, that’s probably better than a more arbitrary policy).Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @gabriel-conroy in general, what I saw was the opposite — rules that made it cost prohibitive for small businesses that bigger chains could easily absorb; and it drives prices up for customers. From the rules about insurance (for a very small business, it’s often cheaper to pay over time for one employee than it is to have two employees, even with the same hours worked) to safety costs (fire suppression systems appropriate for a fry shop for anyone with any kind of stove), the rules — often in reasonable ‘public good’ language — burden small employers unnecessarily. These rules are often promoted by large companies, ‘look how we’re willing to burden ourselves,’ knowing they create barriers to entry for small competitors.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        So a question for the full-on libertarian folks (because I’ve heard plenty from the liberal side) – it seems to me that the liberal folks are rightly pointing out that in theory, employers forbidding employee salary discussion are distorting markets via information suppression, and that distortion is bad, because it results in overall market inefficiency.

        Assuming you agree with that; how do you square the circle with (I assume) the OTHER libertarian ideal that says sans force or fraud, a contract is a contract (and there is almost ALWAYS some information asymmetry, in any transaction) and if I enter an employment contract forbidding me to say the word “rutabaga” on Tuesdays (or, discuss my salary…) that is simply a matter between me and the employer I entered into the contract with?

        Would the standard libertarian position be something like “Market distortion is bad, but so is the govt. mandating the terms of contracts between private parties, so the best solution would be for workers to refuse to contract with employers that forbid salary discussions (and are also rutabagaphobes)”?

        Even knowing that in practice, the aggregate effect of each employer likely mandating confidentiality (‘cos it’s easier for them) results in market inefficiency?

        Basically it seems to me like two principles (or ideals) are in conflict, and I am wondering how that needle gets threaded. Would you consider the employer-mandating of confidentiality a type of fraud (I wouldn’t) or force (again I wouldn’t, unless they hold a gun on me while I sign my contract)?

        Is there any economic equivalent of a “white lie”, an information omission that paradoxically greases the wheels of the market, similar to the the way white lies or omissions grease our daily social transactions, and let us all get along enough to get stuff done?Report

      • Avatar aaron david says:

        @glyph having worked for small (3 man) outfits, and currently ginormous (20th in the world I think, blue collar and white, most people learn early on (either being told or learning the hard way) not to discuss their salary. If a company wants an official policy not to discuss it, that’s cool, that is their business. If its just frowned upon, also cool. If they want to have a wage schedule, and do wage surveys of surrounding competitors, that reduces some of the issues, but not the one of “so and so makes the same as I, yet I actually work.” There are too many reasons not to have everyone on the same wage trajectory, from skill set to disposition to initial interview. Unless everyone, and I mean everyone, is dead even by time it is just going to be different for each person. And as I am in a union now, I can tell you that really doesn’t work for the reason I stated above.
        That is this libertarians view.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      I’d think her job would have the salary published as part of SEC proxy statements, that it is probably already public information; maybe not, however; there are several higher positions in the company. But a competent reporter would know to look those up as part of public record.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Since i work for a State all our salaries are public and only advance based on years worked and COLA’s. I can figure out how much everybody makes if i know how long they have worked here. We seem to survive. There is an advantage that there can’t be pay differences based on gender, M and F start at the same level for each position.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        Even in industries where the salaries are wildly different, there are examples of perfectly functional systems with well known salaries. Professional sports comes to mind. Top players can make tons more than the median, and the actual numbers are news headlines. Some players probably resent it, but the whole system doesn’t seem to collapse.Report

  8. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Seems to me that the young Hilary Rodham was quite capable and quite ambitious. High school classmates knew that she was being quite serious when she said that her goal in life was to be the first female President of the United States. (An ambition not yet beyond her grasp to realize.) I think that she would have found a way to be in roughly this position one way or another.

    More interesting to me is the OP’s link between fertility and access to power. I think it’s not fertility, but childrearing. Traditionally, childrearing has been a task for women more or less exclusively. This is changing; we’ve got more than one father assuming primary childrearing duties while wives pursue careers and family roles as breadwinners here on this blog. I’d predict that women supported by husbands assuming the role of homemaker/caretaker at home will achieve career success and, in appropriate careers, positions of prominence and power.

    And as we see more same-sex couples and their families on the public stage, we’ll probably notice that a couple in which roles of breadwinner and homemaker/caretaker are split, the breadwinner can achieve career success, prominence, prestige, and power to a greater degree than the homemaker — because the breadwinner will hae devoted more time and effort to career advancement thanks to the homemaker attending to supporting the family by attending to the home.

    It’s not diffcult to understand how time devoted to career, for anyone whether male or female, would result in accelerated success. The OP mentions Nancy Pelosi as an example, an exception to the rule, of both career success and childrearing, but this took Representative Pelosi a lifetime to achieve; much of her advancement through the ranks of Congress came after her children were adults, IIRC. And in truth, how different has her career arc been than that of many of her predecessors as Speaker? Haven’t other Speakers historically had to put in many terms of service before having enough of a coalition to achieve that station?

    This may sound like male privilege talking, but as examples of women achieving career success and power start to accumulate, I think we’re going to see that not having had to take time out of a career progression for family obligations. So as to the relative access to power as between men and women, it’s probably going to be the case that as long as there is a social presumption that men are to assume the role of breadwinners and women are to assume the role of homemakers, we’re going to see the pattern of more men in positions of higher power than women. I predict this will diminish but not vanish during our lifetimes.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      @burt-likko I pretty much agree with all of this, and I do not think it was mansplaining at all.

      I didn’t have so much to say with this post as to observe that we are living through the transition you describe, and to me, it’s both a wonderful and confusing transition. I’m sort of trying to push on my own bias that diminishes women’s success when it comes via the benefit of marriage (and thinking there are lots of men who’ve had such benefit, a worthy discussion, too).

      But mostly, I’m trying to mark this transition and the discomforts it creates, like my own dismissiveness of some paths to accomplishment. It’s every bit as obnoxious as dismissing women (or men) who opt to stay home and rear children so that the other partner can thrive and succeed in the world outside the home.Report

  9. Avatar Kim says:

    Disclosure clauses are fun.
    A friend of mine works for walmart (as a contractor).
    he can disclose that he’s currently making X times what their tech employees are making.
    But only because the tech employees can’t disclose what they make.Report

  10. Avatar Damon says:

    Just commenting on your comments on Marry Barra. Here’s something you may find interesting, at least from a guy who watches the industry. I make no claims to it’s validity, but if this is how Mary got the job, she’s doomed, and wasn’t, in this guy’s opinion, qualified to do the job. Stay with it..it’s a long rant and, while not all about Mary, she’s in there.


    • Avatar zic says:

      That’s pretty much the feeling (though more bluntly expressed) I’ve gotten from this.

      But it presumes Barra can’t ride out the storm; too. I’m not ready to make that bet just yet.Report

  11. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Zic, what are your thoughts on the criticisms Sheryl Sandberg got for her Lean-In book?

    It’s an example of a woman who grew up upper middle class, but not connected, and who is now one of the most powerful (and rich) people, male or female, in her industry. But also has two (at this time, still youngish) kids (though she had them *after* her career was on the fast track)Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      I haven’t read the book, so I don’t really dare say.

      I know if her husband isn’t picking up the slack at home, then she can afford the help to lean in, and for most women, this is not the case. I’m of the mind that we need more flex in the roles, that it doesn’t matter of he does it or she does it; if it’s got to be done. So while I’d like women to have more right to lean in, I’m also wanting them (or their male partners) to have more room to opt out, and a family decision made on the appropriate work/home balance of their lives.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        She was an insider at Google before they went public and before she got married – you allude to one of the main criticisms. She can raise kids the old-fashioned way – with a nanny or governess (or both)

        Otoh, if wikipedia is to be believed, her and her husband are big fans of this, which is very buzzwordy, but also does seem very modern and small p progressive.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Shared parenting would, I hope, become more the norm.

        In the whole game of analyzing the gender pay gap, the one thing that struck me is that men are, on the whole, not getting docked for family duty as they should if they’re carrying their part of the load; and that would include caring for children, housework, and caring for aging parents.

        That’s not to say that men should be docked, but that if those loads were more equitably distributed, the gap might close and women would be less likely to be docked, if that makes any sense.Report

    • Avatar veronica dire says:

      I think Lean In hit the market just as certain segments of queer and intersectional feminism were really finding their voices. And these groups viewed the book as another in a long line of books by a white, fairly elite feminist writing for members of her own class.

      This is a long standing tension in feminism/womanism/queer-activism/etc. So it became, I think, a symbol of something bigger.

      That said, if you are a privileged, professional woman floating near the glass ceiling, I bet the book has much to offer. Haven’t read it myself.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        One plus here is that Lean In points out another path to power for women — being in on the ground floor of a highly entrepreneurial business.

        When I reported on angel investors, I noticed several women who had earned their angel nest eggs from early work at high-tech startups that went public; they typically took their advisory role quite seriously, they were not passive investors.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        I should write my own book for women in business:

        How to Trick the Patriarchy into Thinking You’re a Dude

        by veronica direReport

  12. Avatar Shazbot2 says:

    We liberals are conducting the war on women by being in favor of affirmative action. We also think that women don’t deserve the results of the sexist system we live in.

    But we are joining the war on women, so I guess we are just as bad as the conservatives.Report

  13. Avatar Kim says:

    Oh, I DO have something that a company could require to be confidential that wouldn’t hurt the workers! The workers’ names!Report

  14. @zic

    [Down here]

    Are you referring specifically to rules that are supposedly done in the name of helping small businesses, or rules that currently exist and that new rules to protect small businesses are trying to change?

    If it’s the second, you have no argument from me. There are a lot of rules out there devised and implemented in the name of some public good that actually make it easier for larger businesses to compete with the smaller ones. And sometimes those rules, even if their purpose is good, are an opportunity for rent seeking.

    If it’s the first (and to be fair, I suspect that’s not what you’re saying), then I’d partially agree. Part of my argument is that some of the mechanisms I can imagine to protect small businesses might level the playing field as between smaller businesses and larger enterprises, but they make it difficult for newer small businesses to start and one result is a higher price to consumers.

    Now, I’ve been playing fast and loose with the abstractions, not defining “small business,” not looking at a specific trade or sector, and not talking about any specific measure to help small businesses. So the devil’s in the details.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      I’ll give you an example of what I encountered, and will say this with the caveat that this is typically state regulation we’re discussing, sometimes city/town, so it will be all over the map:

      Before I opened my restaurant, I got all applicable codes, and used that as a guide to how the kitchen, etc., were set up. I also hired a cook with years experience and food safety certification, and was paying him to help with the setup and prep for getting our initial inspections for opening.

      But when those inspections happened, there were several things that were not in the regulations that reared — expensive things. One was a fire-suppressant hood over the stove (used for making/heating soups), another was a grease trap. Now our lease forbid any sort of frying equipment; and the way the regs were written, we should have been exempt from both things. But there had been changes in the code to the thresholds. I dug into those changes, the testimony at the rule-making hearings, and it was all from large lawyers/lobbyists representing large corporations, promoting public safety. To open, I had to invest an additional $15,000 on a hood and grease trap; something all the other similar businesses that opened previously did not have to do (they were grandfathered).

      I have similar issues about employee insurances; particularly workman’s comp and unemployment. These are charged by the employee, so someone who worked only 10 hours a week cost as much as someone who worked 40 hours there. I’d like to see those kinds of rules changed to reflect average hours worked per week; which would lessen the burden on small employers with a handful of part-time employees; I should note that this allows more flexibility in matching hours worked to the employees needs; particularly mothers working part time and kids with school obligations. I often needed two or three flexible employees, and there were plenty of people who wanted that kind of work, but I could not afford it.

      These kinds of issues are probably more prevalent in food service, where public safety is a huge concern. But requirements for expensive equipment suitable for business that you’re never going to do drives up prices, and my coffee shop could never offer a sandwich that could compete on price with the hamburger at a major franchise because of it.

      Large corporations invest millions in lobbyists; pay them to go to the state rule-making hearings, and small businesses rarely have a representative at those same hearings unless they have a well-run business association.* Those lobbyists are both good and bad; they are an excellent source of information for legislators on industry needs and processes, etc.; and I would never have them banned for that reason. But they also contribute to an ongoing level of regulatory capture which makes it more and more difficult for the small mom and pop business to ever open the door, let alone be successful. If they do open the door, their prices will be forced to be higher. In places where there’s a lot of foot traffic, this may not matter much. But in smaller, rural towns, it’s as much a part of the loss of businesses on Main St. as any big box at the edge of town. In fact, I’d suggest that this kind of regulatory capture is part and parcel of the big box phenomena.

      *If you ever have opportunity, I recommend attending rule-making hearings at your state capital. It’s the part of democracy in action most people don’t understand, and the place where most regulatory capture goes down. If it’s not a hot-button issue, you’ll typically see the committee members from the legislature and two or three lobbyists, often people well known to those legislators, and that’s it. No press, no public representatives. It is the ‘smoke-filled room’ and ‘back-room deal’ in progress, but it’s all out there, for the public to participate. They just don’t participate unless there’s some crisis.Report

      • Zic,

        Thanks for sharing, and although I didn’t know the specifics of your example, what you say doesn’t surprise me. The one question that comes to mind, however, is whether rules designed to aid smaller businesses are necessarily any better, or if they would operate as just a different kind of capture.

        I suppose it depends. If it involves changing some of the rules you describe so that, for example, a business that doesn’t do any frying wouldn’t be required to have a grease trap, or that workers’ comp premiums be correlated with hours worked, then such a change would be a good thing. (However, coordinating workers comp with hours worked would also bring us to the zero-hour-contract issue complained about on another thread. Not that we shouldn’t peg the premiums to hours worked, but just noting that doing so adds an incentive to schedule workers irregularly, which some here (not you, to my knowledge) find objectionable.)

        But if if involves, say, giving special privileges to an association of small businesses so that members of that association have certain state-supported advantages, then I’d say it’s capture in another way. I have in mind an arrangement in some city (I think it might be St. Louis, but I forget) where local laws permit local moving business to veto another moving business from entering the market.

        Here’s a cite (although I really don’t like citing this particular organization): http://www.pacificlegal.org/page.aspx?pid=4230

        Now, these businesses might be bigger than small, but they’re probably smaller than the really large corporations that might be able to out compete them.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        I think the example you give here will not necessarily favor small businesses so much as entrenched businesses.

        I’ve been looking for good studies on the costs for small biz at the state level (which is really what I’m talking about,) and haven’t found anything comprehensive enough to be worth linking. But the SBA issues a report of federally-imposed costs in 2010.

        As of 2008, small businesses face an annual
        regulatory cost of $10,585 per employee, which is 36 percent higher than the regulatory
        cost facing large firms (defined as firms with 500 or more employees)

        It’s important to not how difficult this is to suss out. As I said earlier, there are 50 sets of state regulations plus local reg. The definition of small business is also not standard; for the SBA report above, it’s 500 employees. Some studies use 20 employees. Some use net business. This makes defining what we’re even discussing difficult.

        And if anyone knows of a good study done at the state level or aggregating state-level studies, I’d be delighted if you would share.Report

      • I think we pretty much agree. The only point where I think we might disagree here is my suspicion, stated far above in the original subthread, that some rules supposedly made in the name of protecting small businesses might actually be of the type to protect entrenched businesses.

        I suspect we might also disagree on some of the proposed solutions to the problem.

        However, I have nothing to add to your point that regulations are costly, especially to smaller businesses, and that sometimes the regulations are unnecessary or adopted at the behest of, or function to give advantages to, larger businesses.Report

  15. Avatar Saul DeGraw says:


    What are terms, ways, words, do you think we can use to criticize women with unacceptable management practices? The same practices that would be considered unacceptable in a man.

    Part of women getting promoted to high positions is that they are also going to get fired and laid off and not always be the best managers.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      When men in top positions are fired, they’re fired for reasons like a specific failure or things like failure to execute — it’s tied to a specific metric that flows from their responsibility — failing to meet expectations, mismanaging change, ignoring customers, tolerating low performers within the company, denying bad news (to the board of directors), or all talk without the walk to go with it.

      Any of those reasons work.

      On Abramson, it’s quite possible her problem was failure to manage the change of the Times on-line presence — but I’ve some concerns there since the metric seems to be people entering the site through the home page; links that drive readers to deep within the paper should not be discounted as a significant value. But that was not the reason given; we’re left with this vague feeling of disagreement between the editor and publisher that sort of equals the traditional bias against ‘pushy’ and ‘bossy’ women. I quite like Megan McArdle’s post:

      And yet, we’ll never really know, will we? This is what troubles every ambitious woman: You’ll never really know how big a role sexism plays in your setbacks. There is clearly an element of sexism in how women are treated in the workplace. But just as clearly, women are not superhuman martyrs who only fail when the patriarchy sabotages them. Some women, like some men, really are excessively pushy, abrasive, difficult and domineering. Some are stupid or wrongheaded. Some just aren’t very good at inspiring others, setting priorities or determining the correct strategic focus. Some are good managers who make bad mistakes, not special-woman kind of mistakes, but just boring-old-human kinds of mistakes.

      I have seen women inappropriately censured for doing things that men got away with, even got admired for. I have also seen women who failed at their jobs attribute their failures to sexism, rather than their own technical or organizational weaknesses. Unless you were there, you can’t really know … and even if you were, there will almost always be doubt. Would a man have been given more time, and better mentoring, to grow into the role? Are the men in your office really getting away with more because they are men or for subtle reasons of personality?


  16. Avatar notme says:


    Your support for Abramson and Barra seems to be based soley on their gender, why is that?Report