Reading summaries - week eight, Fall 2017

Class themes this week were Identifying the fundamental challenges and/or policy choices facing the organization in SP and How do you motivate people, and how much of it relates to money? in SHRM

Table of contents

Strategic Planning

Strategic Human Resources Management

Strategic Planning (SP)

Bryson, Chapter 6 - Identifying Strategic Issues Facing the Organization

  • Identifying strategic issues is the heart of the strategic planning process.
  • a strategic issue is a fundamental policy question or challenge affecting an organization’s mandates, mission and values, product or service level and mix, clients or users, cost, financing, organization, or management.
  • purpose is therefore to identify the fundamental policy questions-the strategic issue agenda
  • The way these questions are framed can have a profound effect on the creation of ideas for strategic action
  • If strategic planning is in part about the construction of a new social reality, then this step outlines the basic paths along which that drama might unfold
  • An organization’s mission often is explicitly or implicitly identified as an issue during this phase.
  • The organization’s culture will affect which issues get on the agenda and how they are framed,
  • The need to change the organization’s culture may thus become a strategic issue
  • every major strategy change will also involve a cultural change
  • Two, strategic issues are important because issues play a central role in political decision making.
  • With carefully framed issues, subsequent choices, decisions, and actions are more likely to be politically acceptable,
  • Virtually every strategic issue involves conflicts:
  • whether the conflict draws people together or pulls them apart, participants will feel heightened emotion and concern
  • very important, therefore, that people feel enough psychological safety to explore potentially threatening situations,
  • An effective strategic planning coordinating committee and strategic planning team will provide these necessary supports.
  • The agenda is a product of three prior outcomes.
    • a list of the issues faced by the organization.
    • division of the list into two broad categories: strategic and operational.
      • strategic issues are likely to involve more need for knowledge exploration
      • operational issues are more technical in nature
    • an arrangement of the strategic issues in some sort of order: priority, logical, or temporal.
  • A number of additional outcomes ensue from the identification of strategic issues. First, attention is focused on what is truly important.
  • are three different kinds of strategic issues:
    1. issues where no action is required at present, but that must be continuously monitored
    2. issues that can be handled as part of the organization’s regular strategic planning cycle
    3. issues that require an immediate response.
  • second desirable outcome is that attention is focused on issues, not answers.
  • identification of issues usually creates the kind of useful tension necessary to prompt organizational change.
    • Strategic issues that emerge from the juxtaposition of internal and external factors can provide just the kind of tension that will focus the attention of key decision makers on the need for change
  • strategic issue identification should provide useful clues about how to resolve the issue.
  • if the strategic planning process has not been real to participants previously, it will become real for them now.
    • The more people realize that strategic planning can be quite real in its consequences, the more seriously they will take
    • A crisis of trust or a test of courage may thus occur, and lead to a turning point in the organization’s character.
  • A point worth emphasizing when it comes to strategic issue identification is that major issues are always likely to involve information technology, human resources, and financial management aspects.
  • Information technology, in particular, is assuming almost paramount importance for organizations moving into e-commerce and e-government
  • It is imperative that issues involving information technology, human resources, and financial management be addressed in such a way that they support the organization’s overall mission and efforts to meet its mandates and create public value.
  • An adequate strategic issue description
    1. phrases the issue as a question the organization can do something about and that has more than one answer
    2. discusses the confluence of factors (mission, mandates, and internal and external environmental aspects, or SWOC/Ts) that make the issue strategic
    3. articulates the consequences of not addressing the issue.
  • There are several reasons why the issue should be phrased as a question the organization can do something about.
    • First, if there is nothing the organization can do about a situation, then there is no strategic issue. This apparent issue, in other words, is really a condition or constraint.
    • effective strategic planning has an action orientation. If strategic planning does not produce useful decisions and actions, then it probably was a waste of time—although
  • focusing on what the organization can do helps it attend to what it controls, instead of worrying pointlessly about what it does not.
  • organizations should focus their most precious resource—the attention of key decision makers—on issues they can do something about.
  • Articulating strategic issues as challenges the organization can do something about should help the organization strongly influence the way issues get framed and what might be done about them.
  • Strategic issues thus typically—or at least ideally—are not current problems or crises
  • strategic issues are typically complex and potentially destructive if not satisfactorily resolved.
  • several reasons why the issue should be phrased as a challenge that has more than one solution.
    • id a question has only one answer, it is probably not really an issue, but a choice about whether to pursue a specific solution
    • chances are increased that strategic issues will not be confused with strategies,
    • Innovative or radical answers may not be chosen, but they almost always should be considered,
  • Attention to the factors that make an issue strategic is important both to clarify the issue and to establish the outlines of potential strategies to resolve the issue
  • Strategic issues arise in three kinds of situations.
    • First, they can arise when events beyond the control of the organization make or will make it difficult or impossible to accomplish basic objectives
    • Second, they can arise when technology, cost, financing, staffing, management, or political choices for achieving basic objectives change or soon will.
    • Finally, they arise when changes in mission, mandates, or internal or external factors suggest present or future opportunities to:
      1. make significant improvements in the quantity or quality of products or services delivered
      2. achieve significant reductions in the cost of providing products or services
      3. introduce new products or services
      4. combine, reduce, or eliminate certain products or services
      5. in general create more public value
    • Finally, there should be a statement of the consequences of failure to address the issue.
  • Once a list of strategic issues has been prepared, it is possible to figure out just how strategic each issue is.
  • Two methods for doing so: use of a “litmus test” and construction of an “issue-precedence diagram”
  • At least eight approaches to the identification of strategic issues are possible:
    • direct approach
      • probably the most useful
      • Planners go straight from a review of mandates, mission, and SWOC/T to the identification of strategic issues
      • The direct approach is best if (1) there is no agreement on goals, or the goals on which there is agreement are too abstract to be useful; (2) there is no preexisting vision of success, and developing a consensually based vision will be difficult; (3) there is no hierarchical authority that can impose goals on the other stakeholders; or (4) the environment is so turbulent that development of goals or visions seems unwise
    • goals approach
      • more in keeping with traditional planning theory
      • organization first establishes goals and objectives, then goes on to identify issues
      • For the approach to work, fairly broad and deep agreement on the organization’s goals and objectives must be possible,
      • This approach also is more likely to work in organizations with hierarchical authority structures
      • externally imposed mandates may embody goals that can drive the identification of strategic issues or development of strategies.
      • the approach is likely to work for communities that are relatively homogeneous and have a basic consensus on values
    • vision of success
      • the organization is asked to develop a “best” picture of the organization in the future
      • The vision of success approach is most useful when it is particularly important to take a holistic approach to the organization and its strategies
      • This approach is more likely to apply to nonprofit organizations than to public organizations, as public organizations are usually more tightly constrained by mandates and conflicting expectations of numerous stakeholders.
    • indirect approach
      • particularly useful when major strategic redirection is necessary but many members of the planning team and organization have not yet grasped the need,
      • method starts with the participants’ existing system of ideas, helps them elaborate
      • participants socially construct a new reality, which allows them to convince themselves of the need for change
      • Innovation thus is more a consequence of recombination than mutation
    • action-oriented strategy mapping
      • involves creation of word-and-arrow diagrams in which statements about potential actions the organization might take, how they might be taken, and why, are linked by arrows indicating the cause-effect or influence relationships
      • particularly useful when participants are having trouble making sense of complex issue areas, time is short, the emphasis must be on action, and commitment on the part of those involved is particularly important.
      • Participants simply brainstorm possible actions, cluster them according to similar themes, and then figure out what causes what. The result is an issue map
      • may also be called causal mapping
    • alignment
      • helps clarify where there are gaps, inconsistencies, or conflicts among the various elements of an organization’s governance, management, and operating policies, systems, and procedures.
      • based on the assumption that superior (or even just good) organizational performance requires reasonable (or better) coherence
      • approach thus works well in tandem with all of the other approaches.
    • issue tensions
      • four basic tensions around any strategic issue:
        1. human resources, and especially equity concerns
        2. innovation and change
        3. maintenance of tradition
        4. productivity improvements
      • critiquing the way issues are framed using these tensions separately and in combination in order to find the best way to frame the issue. tensions approach can be used by itself or in conjunction with any of the other
      • Taking the extra time to critique an issue statement using the tensions approach is advisable when the costs of getting the issue framing wrong are quite high, or when there is a lot of uncertainty around what the issue actually is
    • systems analysis
      • can be used to help discern the best way to frame issues when the issue area may be conceptualized as a system, and the system contains complex feedback effects that must be modeled in order to understand the system
      • The more complicated the system, the more difficult it is to model
      • Considerable wisdom is required to know when it is worth attempting sophisticated analyses, which analysts to use, and how to interpret and make use of the results.
  • The following process guidelines should prove helpful as a strategic planning team identifies the strategic issues its organization faces:
    • Review the mandates, mission, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges
    • Select an approach to strategic issue identification that fits the organization’s situation
      • serious misalignments may emerge as strategic issues, and planning team members should be alert to the possibility
    • Once a list of issues has been prepared, try to separate them into strategic and operational issues
    • It may be helpful to use a “litmus test” to develop some measure of just how “strategic” an issue is.
    • Once strategic issues have been identified they should be sequenced in either a priority, logical, or temporal order as a prelude to strategy development in the next step.
    • There is a real art to framing strategic issues
      • likely to seem rather messy at times as people struggle
      • If the organization’s mission is itself a strategic issue, the organization should expect to develop a second set of issues after the mission is reexamined.
      • It is important to critique strategic issues to be sure that they really do usefully frame the fundamental policy questions the organization faces.
      • especially important to remember that strategic issues framed in single-function terms will be dealt with by single-function departments or agencies. Strategic issues that are framed in multifunctional terms will have to be addressed by more than one department.
      • Strategic planners can gain enormous influence over the strategic planning process and its outcomes if the issues are framed in such a way that decision makers must share power in order to resolve the issues.
    • Remember that there are likely to be at least three kinds of strategic issues in terms of the attention they require; each will need to be treated differently.
      1. those that require no action at present, but must be monitored;
      2. those that can be handled as part of the organization’s regular strategic planning cycle;
      3. those that require urgent attention and must be handled out of sequence with the organization’s regular strategic planning cycle.
    • Reach an agreement among key decision makers that a major fraction of their time together will be devoted to the identification and resolution of strategic issues.
    • Keep it light
      • important for members of the strategic planning team to keep a sense of humor, acknowledge emotions, and release tensions
    • Notwithstanding efforts to keep things light, remember that participants may fall into the pit or hit the wall
    • Agreement on strategic issues to be addressed in the next step is likely to mark an important organizational decision point.
      • Identifying the fundamental challenges the organization faces will have a profound effect on the actual choices made and ultimately on the viability and success of the organization.
    • Managing the transition to the next step in the process—strategy development—is crucial.
      • conflicts or choices embodied in the issues may seem too difficult or disruptive to address. Strong leadership and commitment to the strategic planning process must be exercised
  • At the end of this step key decision makers should agree on a strategic issue agenda—the set of strategic issues to be addressed, arranged in priority, logical, or temporal order.
  • The transition to the next step in the process will require careful management. It is one thing to talk about what is fundamental, quite another to take action based on those discussions.

Public Value Governance, Bryson, Crosby, Bloomberg (2014)

  • In the new approach, values beyond efficiency and effectiveness—and especially democratic values—are prominent.
  • Just as New Public Management supplanted traditional public administration in the 1980s and 1990s as the dominant view, a new movement is now under way that is likely to eclipse it
  • While efficiency was the main concern of traditional public administration, and efficiency and effectiveness are the main concerns of New Public Management, values beyond efficiency and effectiveness are pursued, debated, challenged, and evaluated in the emerging approach.
  • emerging approach reemphasizes and brings to the fore value-related concerns of previous eras that were always present but not dominant
  • The new approach highlights four important stances that together represent a response to current challenges and old shortcoming
  • emphasis on public value and public values, a recognition that government has a special role as a guarantor of public values, a belief in the importance of public management broadly conceived and of service to and for the public, and a heightened emphasis on citizenship and democratic and collaborative governance.
  • Traditional Public Administration
    • arose in the United States in the late 1900s and matured by the mid-twentieth century
    • In its idealized form, politics and administration were quite separate
    • Efficiency in government operations was the preeminent value
  • New Public Management
    • became the dominant approach to public administration in the 1980s and 1990s
    • arose out of a concern with government failures, a belief in the efficacy and efficiency of markets, a belief in economic rationality, and a push away from large, centralized government agencies toward devolution and privatization
    • public managers are urged to “steer, not row.”
    • recipients seen as “customers,” not citizens
  • The Emerging Approach
    • Citizens, citizenship, and democracy are central to the new approach
    • advocates more contingent, pragmatic kinds of rationality
    • Citizens are seen as quite capable of engaging in deliberative problem solving
    • public value emerging from broadly inclusive dialogue and deliberation
    • Citizens move beyond their roles as voters, clients, constituents, customers, or poll responders to becoming problem solvers, co-creators, and governors actively engaged in producing what is valued by and good for the public
    • build cross-sector collaborations and engage citizens to achieve mutually agreed objectives
    • In the emerging approach, discretion is needed, but it is constrained by law, democratic and constitutional values, and a broad approach to accountability
    • Accountability becomes multifaceted as public servants must attend to law, community values, political norms, professional standards, and citizen interests
    • In this emerging approach, public administration’s contribution to the democratic process is also different
    • government delivers dialogue and catalyzes and responds to active citizenship
    • The emerging approach is partly descriptive of current and emerging practices, partly normative in its prescriptions regarding the role of government and public managers, and partly hopeful as a response to the challenges posed by a “changing material and ideological background.”
    • fundamental importance in the emerging approach of understanding what is meant by public value, public values, and the public sphere
    • Public value creation is the extent to which public values criteria are met, where these are some combination of input, process, output, and outcome measures
    • Probably commonwealth comes closest to capturing the meaning of public value, as the term originally meant “common well-being.
    • “public value management” as a new paradigm that is better suited to networked governance
    • critics of public value argue that it has been used as a rhetorical strategy to protect and advance the interests of bureaucrats and their organizations
    • as performance, public value can serve as a performance measurement and management framework
    • there is no single bottom line, managers look at costs and benefits as well as at less tangible aspects when they assess public value creation
    • A focus on public value also stimulates attention to the longterm viability and reliability of public investment
    • growing interest is partly attributable to the importance, urgency, scope, and scale of public problems facing the world; the pragmatic recognition that governments alone cannot effectively address many of these problems; and a concern that public values have been and will be lost as a result of a powerful antigovernment rhetoric and a host of market-based and performance-based reforms.
    • In the emerging approach, government clearly has a special role to play as a creator of public value and a guarantor of public values and the public sphere, but in a market-based democracy, government is not the owner of all the processes and institutions having public value potential or obligation
  • While public administration scholars and practitioners may ultimately agree on these public value-related matters, they are unlikely to reach full consensus
  • Research should attend to both subjectively held public values and more objective states of the world
  • too many performance measurement and management regimes and models focus principally on efficiency and effectiveness directly related to the mission, and disregard “non-mission-based values,” such as equity, due process, freedom of information, and citizenship development.
  • too many performance measurement and management schemes may actually weaken public value creation. Practitioners should work to ensure that performance measurement and management approaches include non-mission-based values

Vision + Action, Light (2016)

  • Federal breakdowns have become so common that they are less of a shock to the public than an expectation.
  • This essay asks four questions about these and other federal government breakdowns: (1) Where did government break?; (2) Why did government break?; (3) What caused each breakdown?; and (4) What can be done to redress the underlying causes?
  • simple answer to these questions is drawn from the ancient Japanese saying that “vision without action is a daydream.”
  • breakdowns confirm the daydreaming that too often has led to tragic mistakes.
  • Breakdowns provide one way to track the benign and deliberate neglect of government capacity
  • Federal agencies and employees make miracles happen every day, but miracles are in short supply as Congress and the president compensate for declining legislative productivity through “backdoor” legislative smothering at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue and easily erasable regulations on new issues (e.g., climate change) at the other.
  • Answers to the following six questions suggest that the cascade will continue and almost certainly accelerate without comprehensive reform to improve both vision and administration:
    1. Has the number of government breakdowns increased over time? The answer is “yes” and significantly so.
    2. Did the number of breakdowns vary across the five administrations? As expected from the pre- and post-2001 comparisons, the answer again is “yes.”
    3. Did the number of breakdowns vary across first and second terms? The answer is again “yes” and significantly so.
    4. Did the number of breakdowns vary across a government agency’s primary mission? The answer is “only slightly.”
    5. Did more breakdowns occur during surges in demand? The answer is “no.”
    6. Did more complex breakdowns produce greater public news interest? The answer is “yes.”
  • Plausible Causes of Breakdown
    • Policy
      • Design - Was the policy likely to address the issue at hand?
      • Degree of Difficulty - Was the policy particularly difficult to deliver?
      • Assignment - Was the policy assigned to a “high-risk” agency?
    • Resources
      • Budget - Was the implementing agency given sufficient funding to deliver the policy?
      • Human Capital - Was the implementing agency given sufficient staffing to deliver the policy?
      • Support - Systems Did the implementing agency have the appropriate administrative systems to deliver the policy?
    • Structure
      • Hierarchy - Was there a clear chain of command for ensuring the clear direction and accountability to deliver the policy?
      • Contracting - Were contracts adequately structured and outsourcing appropriately designed and monitored to deliver the policy?
      • Overlap - Did duplication and overlap with other departments and agencies reduce effective delivery?
    • Leadership
      • Expertise - Did the senior leadership have the skills necessary to deliver the policy?
      • Decision - Making Did the senior leadership make eff ective decisions before, during, and after the failure?
      • Vacancies - Was the senior leadership in offi ce in time to deliver the policy?
    • Culture
      • Alignment - Was the agency aligned in full support of the policy?
      • Misconduct - Was the policy undermined by corruption or ethical misconduct?
      • Monitoring - Was the policy appropriately monitored during implementation and ongoing delivery?
  • the five categories of plausible cause often come together to generate tragic breakdowns
  • There simply are too many causes and too little evidence of a domino effect to identify a single target for halting or even slowing the cascade.
  • the only way to address the breakdowns is through comprehensive, collaborative, and coordinated reform
  • The only way to reduce the potential for breakdowns is to reform government as a whole.
  • the only way to prevent future breakdowns is to integrate policy design (vision) and implementation (action) at the onset of the policy-making process
  • we must respect Thomas Edison’s warning: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Organizing and the Process of Sensemaking, Weick, Sutcliffe, Obstfeld (2005)

  • Sensemaking involves turning circumstances into a situation that is comprehended explicitly in words and that serves as a springboard into action.
  • fills important gaps in organizational theory
  • central role in the determination of human behavior because it is the primary site where meanings materialize that inform and constrain identity and action.
  • Sensemaking involves the ongoing retrospective development of plausible images that rationalize what people are doing
  • process that is ongoing, instrumental, subtle, swift, social, and easily taken for granted
  • meanings materialize. sensemaking is an issue of language, talk, and communication.
  • Explicit efforts at sensemaking tend to occur when the current state of the world is perceived to be different from the expected state of the world
  • To make sense of the disruption, people look first for reasons that will enable them to resume the interrupted activity and stay in action
  • Sensemaking is about the interplay of action and interpretation
  • smallness does not equate with insignificance
  • Organizational sensemaking is first and foremost about the question: How does something come to be?
  • People confront the question by asking “what’s the story there?”
  • When people then ask “now what should I do?” this added question has the force of bringing meaning into existence that they hope is stable enough for them to act into the future
  • Sensemaking is about labeling and categorizing to stabilize the streaming of experience
  • The key phrase here is “functional deployment.”
  • In organizing in general, functional deployment means imposing labels on interdependent events in ways that suggest plausible acts of managing, coordinating, To generate common ground, labeling ignores differences among actors and deploys cognitive representations that are able to generate recurring behaviors and distributing.
  • A crucial feature of these types and categories is that they have considerable plasticity
  • To make sense is to connect the abstract with the concrete.
  • starts with immediate actions, local context, and concrete cues
  • Talk occurs both early and late, as does action, and either one can be designated as the “starting point to the destination.”
  • Communication is a central component of sensemaking and organizing
  • patterns of organizing are located in the actions and conversations that occur
  • Answers to the question “now what?” emerge from presumptions about the future, articulation concurrent with action, and projects that become increasingly clear as they unfold.
  • sensemaking can be treated as reciprocal exchanges between actors (Enactment) and their environments (Ecological Change) that are made meaningful (Selection) and preserved (Retention)
  • For shorthand we will call this model “enactment theory,”
  • The idea that sensemaking is focused on equivocality gives primacy to the search for meaning as a way to deal with uncertainty
  • Questions of “same or different” tend to occur under one of three conditions: situations involving the dramatic loss of sense, situations where the loss of sense is more mundane but no less troublesome, and unfamiliar contexts where sense is elusive
  • Sensemaking is not about truth and getting it right. It is about continued redrafting of an emerging story so that it becomes more comprehensive, incorporates more of the observed data, and is more resilient in the face of criticism.
  • As the search for meanings continues, people may describe their activities as the pursuit of accuracy to get it right. However, that description is important mostly because it sustains motivation.
  • perceptual accuracy should be treated as pragmatic utility
  • The important message is that if plausible stories keep things moving, they are salutary. Action-taking generates new data and creates opportunities for dialogue, bargaining, negotiation, and persuasion
  • Actions enable people to assess causal beliefs that subsequently lead to new actions undertaken to test the newly asserted relationships
  • From the perspective of sensemaking, who we think we are (identity) as organizational actors shapes what we enact and how we interpret, which affects what outsiders think we are (image)
  • the stakes in sensemaking are high when issues of identity are involved.
  • people who talk about sensemaking may exaggerate agency and may be reluctant to assume that people internalize and adopt whatever is handed to them
  • Sensemaking can provide micromechanisms that link macrostates across time through explication of cognitive structures associated with mimetic processes, agency, the mobilization of resistance, alternatives to conformity such as independence, anticonformity, and uniformity
  • Sensemaking strikes some people as naive with regard to the red meat of power, politics, and critical theory.
  • Enhancements of sensemaking that pay more attention to power will tend to tackle questions such as how does power get expressed, increase, decrease, and influence others?
  • power is expressed in acts that shape what people accept, take for granted, and reject
  • To shape hearts and minds is to influence at least seven dimensions of sensemaking:
    1. the social relations that are encouraged and discouraged
    2. the identities that are valued or derogated
    3. the retrospective meanings that are accepted or discredited
    4. the cues that are highlighted or suppressed
    5. the updating that is encouraged or discouraged
    6. the standard of accuracy or plausibility to which conjectures are held
    7. and the approval of proactive or reactive action as the preferred mode of coping
  • Expectations hold people hostage to their relationships in the sense that each expectancy can be violated
  • To deal with ambiguity, interdependent people search for meaning, settle for plausibility, and move on
  • increased skill at sensemaking should occur when people are socialized to make do, be resilient, treat constraints as self-imposed, strive for plausibility, keep showing up, use retrospect to get a sense of direction, and articulate descriptions that energize.

Strategic Human Resources Management (SHRM)

Giving Employees What They Want, Wiley (2012)

  • When employees are motivated to put in extra effort to accomplish tasks that are central to the goals of the organization, the results include higher productivity
  • All employees want is a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T
    • Recognition
    • Exciting work
    • Security of employment
    • Pay
    • Education and career growth
    • Conditions
    • Truth
  • yields tangible benefits to organizations. It also enables employees to lead more fulfilling and rewarding lives
  • balanced scorecard
    • Employee Engagement
      • Simply put, organizations with a more engaged workforce consistently outperform their competitors.
      • employees who have pride in and are satisfied with their organization also tend to advocate for and remain with their organization
    • Operational Performance
      • the organization holds a tremendous advantage when its employees truly believe they are on a winning team
      • If you want to know what your suppliers and customers think of your business, just ask your employees
    • Customer Satisfaction
      • Although customer satisfaction alone does not ensure customer loyalty, we know that customer loyalty will not result without customer satisfaction
    • Financial Performance
  • The simple conclusion from our research is that if you give employees what they want, they will—in return—work harder, stay longer, and help your organization to outperform its competitors.

Motivating people, Dewhurst, Guthridge, Mohr (2009)

  • Numerous studies have concluded that for people with satisfactory salaries, some nonfinancial motivators are more effective than extra cash in building long-term employee engagement
  • three noncash motivators:
    1. praise from immediate managers
    2. leadership attention
    3. chance to lead projects or task forces
  • top three nonfinancial motivators play critical roles in making employees feel that their companies value them, take their well-being seriously, and strive to create opportunities for career growth
  • “One-on-one meetings between staff and leaders are hugely motivational,”
  • A chance to lead projects is a motivator that only half of the companies in our survey use frequently, although this is a particularly powerful way of inspiring employees

The Gender Pay Gap, Lips (2012)

  • A gender gap in earnings has proven both persistent and universal.
  • continuing debate as to the extent to which the gap reflect employment discrimination against women
  • Discrimination appears to be entwined with gendered work patterns and behaviors
  • Debate continues to swirl whether the gap reflects discrimination visited on women or simply differences in human capital “investments”
  • This paper reviews and analyzes the major conceptual and technical issues implicit in the human capital model
  • a new approach to the use of the human capital model is required—one that both acknowledges the complexity (and perhaps impossibility) of a completely gender-neutral analysis of inputs and outcome
  • human capital model posits that workers’ earnings are directly related to their investments in employment
  • rests on the idea that worker contributions and merit can be quantified and that rewards are then distributed in a rational, bias-free way
  • human capital model is invoked as the driving force behind a wide range of pay discrepancies
  • inconsistencies and hypocrisy can often be found in the way the model is applied
  • When analyzing the gender wage gap, proponents of the human capital approach aim to explain as much of the gap as possible by controlling for female-male differences in tangible inputs such as education, hours worked, years of experience
  • assumption that gender-neutral units of input can be found is itself questionable
  • feminist economists and political scientists have long argued that conventional economic approaches tend to be limited
  • fundamental flaw in the application of the traditional human capital model: the assumption that, when women’s and men’s contributions and compensation are compared, they are set against a neutral background
  • men appear to estimate that their work has higher value than women.
  • Women, regardless of their family situation, do more unpaid domestic work than men do
  • Whereas no single measure of work will provide a completely unbiased picture of relevant inputs, the use of a combination of measures would acknowledge the complexity of the issue and is likely to provide a more realistic and nuanced picture
  • Women appear to be constrained, at much higher rates than men, to “choose” part-time work and thus to suffer very low levels of income
  • or men, parttime work has been more likely to be a stop-gap, something in which they participate when they are younger, whereas for women it may involve many more years of participation and commitment.
  • One contributing factor to the gender wage gap is the clustering of women in occupations and sectors that are relatively low-paid
  • women are a distinct minority in more highly-paid occupational categories such as architecture and engineering occupations
  • Within all these categories, more women are found in the lower-paid occupations. For instance, within the education, training, and library category, women are far more likely to be teacher assistants or preschool and kindergarten teachers
  • even within occupations dominated by women, women are more poorly paid than men.
  • Within organizations, women and men doing the same work were often assigned different job titles and worked in different parts of the company.
  • It is reasonable to ask the extent to which women are choosing occupations that are poorly paid, or occupations are poorly paid because they are filled by women.
  • Within each level of education, from less than ninth grade to graduate and professional degrees, women earn less than men
  • discrepancies occurred even though women and men had graduated from similar kinds of colleges and women had higher grades than men in every major.
  • female graduates working full-time earned less than men with the same major
  • education and qualifications are not effective in narrowing the gender pay gap
  • Students apparently do not make decisions about degree subjects or career plans under conditions of completely free choice. continued existence of both explicit and implicit occupational gender stereotypes
  • gendered expectations and can reinforce the notion of gender as a diffuse status characteristic, and of males as generally more competent than females except at very particular tasks.
  • gender differences in self-assessment played a mediating role in the emergence of aspirations for career paths and educational activities
  • women are more likely than men to expect their employment to be intermittent and thus to gravitate toward occupations in which they will incur fewer penalties for discontinuity
  • Men were recommended for higher pay in the no gap or single gap conditions, but not in the multiple-gap condition; men with employment gaps were viewed more negatively than women
  • Men may be judged more harshly for employment gaps because there is no obvious explanation. However, men are also penalized when gaps are explicitly attributed to parental leave
  • men’s career advancement is faster than women’s, even when controlling for women’s greater likelihood of taking career breaks
  • Although these variables tend to be discussed as though women and men make different “choices,” a deeper examination reveals that there is often more necessity than choice involved
  • gender discriminatory conditions and individual choices are so reciprocally intertwined that they are separable only on some hypothetical analytic level
  • Work-life choices are not simply personal, but part of a societal and organizational pattern of power relationships
  • lines between choice and discrimination become blurry when considered in the light of the systematic biases and poor alternatives
  • because of family responsibilities, women with children are more likely than men to sacrifice work hours
  • women, particularly mothers, are often pushed out of full-time work or relegated to lower-status positions
  • flexibility tends to be available mainly to educated women
    • 66.3 % of those with a bachelor’s degree or more were able to take at least some form of paid maternity leave
    • only 18.5% of women workers with less than a high school education had paid maternity leave
  • Availability of flexible work hours and other family-friendly initiatives predicts retention and reduced turnover among employed mothers
  • work cultures in which there is strong pressure to prioritize work over family are associated with increased anxiety, fatigue, and depression for women
  • reality and expectation that women handle more domestic and family responsibilities than men contributes to more constraint
  • The key issue is that the number of hours worked is not always a choice.
  • traditional gender role orientation is associated with higher earnings for men and with lower earnings for women
  • Gender, through stereotypes, norms and expectations, affects relationships and thus cannot but affect social capital.
  • women who wish to move into managerial roles must frequently confront a “think manager–think male” mentality of masculine managerial stereotypes
  • women are evaluated more harshly than men when engaging in directive, authoritative leadership
  • women are held to higher standards of both competence and warmth than men
  • women who engage in self-promotion are disliked more than men
  • even if women possess human capital attributes equivalent to those of men, those attributes may be evaluated and rewarded differently
  • even when women and men appear to have equal investments in their work, they do not necessarily reap equal outcomes
  • each predictor variable is embedded in several layers of context
  • What we need to understand is not what predicts pay inequities, but why and how the processes operate
  • focus on the intersection of gender-normative societal expectations, organizational contextual factors and work-related decisions
  • trying to understand the gender pay gap as if we can use a set of unbiased, objective variables to explain the gap is potentially misleading
  • the situation is much more complex than acknowledged by the traditional human capital model approach: causal influences go in both directions, and seemingly neutral variables turn out, on deeper inspection, to incorporate elements of a discriminatory system
Written on October 24, 2017