This Scientist Crunched The Numbers And Discovered The Monetary Cost Of Not Being A Straight Man

By: 03.07.16
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It would be foolish to assume that life isn’t a little easier for straight men, specifically in the workplace, with women and gay men having to work even harder to get the raises, promotions, and opportunities that straight men do. Vivienne Ming, theoretical neuroscientist and Big Data specialist, wanted to figure out what the dollar difference ended up being, and set about calculating the “tax on being different.” The 78 cents per dollar wage gap between men and women is well known, but the pay difference between gay and straight men for the same positions is becoming increasingly apparent, as well.

According to Quartz, by using the data from a previous study about what makes a good programmer, Ming was able to “build models to measure how good people were at jobs that they never had.” Using these models, Ming extrapolated the “tax” by calculating cost of lost work, higher education, and the experience that women and gay men needed in order to be considered for the same positions as the average straight man. To say that the resulting numbers were astronomical would be an understatement.

It costs about £38,000 ($54,000) to be a gay man in England; women in the US tech industry pay a tax of between $100,000 and $300,000; and women in tech in Hong Kong or Singapore face an even steeper $800,000 to $1.5 million. (Via)

Ming, a trans woman who transitioned in her 30s, has been on both sides of this issue, noticing a marked difference between how she was treated as a man, and then how she was treated after she transitioned.

“We are bad at valuing other people and we are worse the more different they are than us.”

Ming is taking practical steps toward correcting this disproportionate gap by creating tools for companies to use that will unmask bias, because Ming believes that most of it is unconscious.

“Discrimination is not done by villains,” she said. “It’s done by us.”

While Ming’s study seems to focus mostly on gender and sexual orientation, hopefully race will become a factor, as well. If you take into account the percentage on the dollar that people of color take home after doing the same work, these gaps would become even more apparent. We can only hope that more people will be like Ming, and not only point out the injustice, but take steps towards remedying it.

(Via Quartz)

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