John Leo

Citing Internal Revenue statistics, Farrell notes that women who own their own businesses net only 49 percent of what male counterparts make. Since it can't be that male bosses are holding them back here, women seem to be seeking certain lifestyle trade-offs-forgoing the highest possible income for more free time and flexible hours. They also seem to be avoiding some high-paying jobs. Female engineering managers make on average $83,000, but only 10 percent of the managers are female, indicating that many women are bypassing careers that could pay them more.

Farrell argues that many men outearn women by a willingness to take risky and dangerous jobs as well as work that exposes them to stress and bad weather or that requires a transfer to an undesirable location in another city or country. Women are more likely than men to pick glamorous jobs that tend to pay less. A London School of Economics study tracking 10,000 post-1993 United Kingdom graduates from 30 universities found that males were earning 12 percent more than women. The men tended to stress salary and were more likely to take up engineering, math, and computing. The women were more apt to seek socially oriented jobs and as undergraduates had favored majors in education and the arts.

Much of Farrell's book is written in the style of a self-help book. It lists 25 ways women can improve their earnings, 10 of them advising the careful selection of high-paying fields and subfields. In nursing, an anesthesiology nurse can make more than the average doctor. An Army therapist is better paid than many other therapists. In the field of languages, Farrell advises, skip French and learn Arabic or Farsi. You will earn more.

Farrell was a board member of the National Organization for Women in the early 1970s but broke with the movement over its antimale excesses. He believes that the academic world and the news media have been incurious custodians of the myth that male oppression prevents women from achieving equal pay. It's a sturdy myth, and data that contradict it are typically buried or never updated. Given the current campus climate, no broad and honest academic study of women's pay is possible today. Farrell bluntly advises women to put the victimization rhetoric on hold and just do what it takes to get the high-paying jobs. Good idea.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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