Genetics are causing the wage gap, a Florida State University System board member said on Tuesday, ignoring the underlying social and economic causes that favor men over women in the workplace.
During the State University System’s Board of Governors meeting, members were tackling pay discrepancy outside of college, figuring out solutions to close the wage gap between men and women graduating from Florida’s universities. Member Ed Morton, who believes negotiation skills are primarily to blame for the gap, suggested that young women may be biologically programmed away from talking to their bosses about promotions and salaries.
“Something that we’re doing in Naples [with] some of our high school students, we’re actually talking about incorporating negotiating and negotiating skill into curriculum so that the women are given—maybe some of it is genetic, I don’t know, I’m not smart enough to know the difference—but I do know that negotiating skills can be something that can be honed, and they can improve,” Morton said, Politico Florida reports. “Perhaps we can address that in all of our various curriculums through the introduction of negotiating skill, and maybe that would have a bearing on these things.”
While negotiation skills can certainly help bridge the wage gap in some fields, Morton misses the larger problem that women face outside of college. Social conditioning away from male-dominated fields (i.e., technology, engineering) mixed with bosses favoring men over women leads to female employees receiving less pay increases and promotions. Women are conditioned away from directly asking for salary increases, but that isn’t a biological problem: It’s a social one.
Presented with Morton’s comments, Gov. Rick Scott (R) quickly distanced himself, suggesting that the wage gap isn’t genetic in any way.
“As a father of two daughters, the Governor absolutely does not agree with this statement,” Scott’s spokeswoman, Lauren Schenone, told Politico Florida.
Board members started discussing the wage gap after reviewing a class of 2015 report that revealed women and black college graduates had lower salaries than white and male graduates. Women graduated with a median $37,000 salary, whereas men earned $42,500. By comparison, black students across genders graduated with $35,600 on average, raising larger questions about the wage gap between white and black women.
The board’s vice chair, Norman Tripp, wants the board to look closer at the racial gap between black and white students, stressing that black women may face particularly low median salaries. He wants the board to work towards equal salaries across demographics.
“It bothers me, number one, that all our graduates are not reaching the median. That really is a bother,” Tripp said, Politico Florida reports. “And second, that we’ve got this diversity between the male and the female, especially when we know we’re graduating more female than male students.”