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Does pay-for-performance harm women?

Let’s put the question out there point-blank: Do performance-based pay systems run the risk of exacerbating personal biases in the federal workplace?

The issue was raised by a recent survey that found that women in the federal workforce oppose current efforts to replace the General Schedule with pay-for-performance systems. The primary concern was that the performance-based systems give managers too much discretion in evaluating employees.

The report does not indicate that the respondents were specifically concerned about gender bias, but several FCW readers raised the issue in their comments on the story.

Here is the spark that ignited the debate, contributed by “M”:

The secret's out. Truth is that some women really "bust their hump" and far exceed their male counterparts. The flip side is the vast majority of women work fewer hours than their male counterparts on average. They run errands and are far more likely than male counterparts to extend themselves within normal work hours for the kids or grandkids. So, how does it all average out? Women -- on average -- [work] about 70 percent of [the hours] of men in the workplace. And guess how much they are paid? It's called the gender gap. And it's real!

Such an assertion would not go unchallenged.

“What does women having to do errands have anything to do with anything!!!???” wrote Shelley from Newport Naval  SenStation. “A supervisor either signs the leave [slip] and so authorizes the absence or he/she doesn't. Are you saying that even thou the leave was permitted that it is held against women anyway, cause the man in her life doesn't do errands????”

The responses did not fall along gender lines. “I am a man, I have female co-workers and associates, and regarding the comments from ‘M’ about women not working as hard as men: WHAT RUBBISH!!” wrote one anonymous commenter. “The women I work with and around do their part to the same expectations as the men.”

Several readers raised a related issue of bias: married vs. single workers. The perception is that employees who are married are more likely to get raises because they need the money more than the footloose and fancy-free. And it doesn’t stop there.

“There is a difference in attitude among workers that states the single person can work more or later because they don't have a family to go to,” wrote an anonymous reader. “If a married person does the same its thought they must be having marriage problems.”

What do you say?

Posted by John Stein Monroe on Jan 14, 2010 at 12:18 PM


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