Audi’s ridiculous Super Bowl ad gives us only myths about pay. Here’s reality.

Women earn $0.79 for every $1.00 men earn, but Snapchat co-founder Even Spiegel earned $2 for every $1 his co-founder Bobby Murphy made. Where is the pay inequity?

What if I said, nowhere? Now, we’re going to keep this discussion to the United States only, in case you are itching to trot out statistics from Kazakhstan or Sweden. Let’s start with Audi’s ridiculous Super Bowl ad.

If you don’t want to watch, the text begins with a dad (apparently a dad who never once read a parenting book or listened to his own parents) who says, “What do I tell my daughter?” He then goes on to say all these horrible things about how she’ll be treated poorly because of her gender. “Do I tell her that her grandpa is worth more than her grandma?” and “Do I tell her that despite her education, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets?”

Goodness, no, dad. What kind of a parent sets out to tell his child that she’ll be an utter failure? Oh wait, that’s not the point. The point is the pay gap.

To keep reading, click here: What Audi’s Super Bowl Ad and Snapchat’s IPO Have in Common

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37 thoughts on “Audi’s ridiculous Super Bowl ad gives us only myths about pay. Here’s reality.

  1. While I agree that the Audi commercial oversimplified the issue and went too far to one extreme, I believe that you are oversimplifying this issue in the other direction. The truth is rarely found in the extremes, but generally found in the middle.

    There is a very good (if slightly old) article with data on the Compensation Cafe blog about why the $0.23 wage gap isn’t accurate. Stephanie Thomas believes that the final $0.09 could also be explained away if we understood all of the variables. You cited information that if caregiver responsibilities are removed, the wage gap essentially disappears. So it is clear that the wage gap issue is overstated in popular culture.

    But there are still underlying societal issues that make it harder for women to earn the same as men. For example, women generally aren’t taught to negotiate the same way as men are, and can be seen negatively by hiring managers if they do negotiate the way that men do.

    Also, in many cases, women have to be the caregiver because of system structures. In many benefit plans, men aren’t able to take as much paid leave as a woman could. In the cases where they can, it is often frowned upon and men, who frequently are told that there worth comes from their job, don’t feel comfortable taking the time or asking for the flexible schedule.

    We also can’t forget that we are human beings. It is important that we care for our elderly and young. And no, companies shouldn’t have to pay for us to do that, but I don’t think it’s entirely responsible to place the blame for women generally needing to do this on the shoulders of personal choices when there are societal structures that make that feel less like a choice and more like a necessity.

    So yes, Audi was irresponsibly glossing over the truth of the issue, but let’s not make the same mistake as HR practitioners.

  2. Yeah, right, women chose to be paid less. How? By “choosing” to work in a system in which they are, systematically, paid less? Most women — like men — work because they have to, in order to support themselves, since most of us are not financially independent. Tell those women who have had to sue in order to get hired into some of those higher-paying, more risky, jobs that they “chose” to work in less dangerous jobs. Tell the women who have to have time off and/or flexibility in their schedules because our society does such a poor job of providing adequate child care that they “chose” that situation. Women did not create our workplace environment; we are — simply — trying to survive in it, which involves being treated more fairly. You can ignore all the studies that show that resumes are screened differently depending upon the apparent gender of the name at the top, etc., but ignoring all the objective evidence out there totally undermines your credibility.

    1. Resumes are screened differently. There is discrimination, but not by much in pay. Researcher upon researcher has found that the vast majority of differences are made up of choices.

      1. Not true. I don’t have kids, but I am still paid less then the men in my company who hold the same title with LESS experience than me. How do you justify the exact same title, same company, same level, same years of experience, started the same month, and the woman still makes less than the man when she has more work, more clients, more skills – but HE makes more by 20K ?????

        1. It cannot be “justified.” However, it can be explained as being due to institutionalized sexism.

  3. Disparate pay is not something that is consciously decided on. I received minimal offers when superiors went to bat for the male colleagues they were trying to promote. And then timed my push back requesting a pay increase for when I had a socially acceptable reason for it. That partially closed the gap. My female colleague and I got another increase to bring us up to the pay grade minimum. This is the type of thing that happens over and over and over.

    (Incidentally my husband works part time. If one of us stayed home he would be the one. He makes as much for part time as I do for full time. I still do the scheduling crap.)

    I’m fairly certain you stated that when you left your HR position to move, it took 5 people to do that work. Do you think you were really fairly paid there?

    1. *minimal offers should have been “minimal increase for a promotion” (which I have delivered on thankyouverymuch!)

      It’s really hard to separate yourself from societal pressures, such as my mother in law telling me she’s glad she didn’t have girls because mine are strong willed (bratty at times, we’re working on it!), and her niece was strong willed. Hmm, wonder if that has anything to do with their individual personalities rather than the fact that they are girls. Or that the three year old is three, and that the older kid is struggling and is in effing therapy.

    2. When I left one position after I had my first child, I was replaced by 4 people, all of whom earned at least $50,000 more than me. Was I paid fairly for that job? No. But was I underpaid by $500k? No.

      I continued with that company for 6 more years in different roles and worked closely with the team that replaced me and they did many things I could not do. They were all more senior and had at least 10 years more experience than I did when I had the job.

      Now, the job I left when I moved to Switzerland, I was paid very fairly. In fact, I may have been overpaid by a bit.

      And being in HR, almost everyone is female, so it’s definitely not gender discrimination.

      1. HR doesn’t usually make the budget for the salaries for most industries, it is the dept head that decides the job salary while HR just does the paperwork – and who is usually in management? Men.

  4. I love your blog but I disagree on this topic. There is an inequality in pay between women and men and I do believe that inequality is socially based, not necessarily benefits based. Women are offered less when they apply to jobs and are not valued in the same way that men are. I do, however, believe that it is our job as women to fight for more equal pay. Yes, companies should offer the same amount of money to the best candidate regardless of gender but we should do better research on what we should be paid and fight for that money. For example, I know that I failed myself when I took a new job a few years ago and didn’t negotiate a higher salary. I don’t care for negotiating and felt like their offer was fair. However, after a few years of low raises (company wide, not just those given to me), I am now underpaid in my field by $6,000-$8,000. If the low raises continue, I will only fall further and further behind that curve. If I would have taken a more aggressive approach to when presented with the offer, I may not be as far behind.

    1. Women are worse at negotiating (and hiring managers push back against women who try to negotiate). This is why I’ve given lukewarm support to laws in MA and Philly that prohibit companies from asking about prior salary.

      Are some women discriminated against? Absolutely. Overall, is there a pay gap? No.

    1. I saw that. Not an expert in this area, but it kind of creeped me out if that’s what they meant.

  5. I’ve worked at 14 companies – some temps in there – knew salary information at half, and there was no pay gap. Actually we have a few overpaid women in my current company who don’t actually work at the level they were hired at (i.e a director who basically acts as an analyst). Also the 77 cents thing has been d bunked a trillion times and many other studies have shown much less drastic numbers or have broken them down in more meaningful ways, such as by specific job.

    1. Also wanted to remind people that there are paid inequities when you just look at the male employees as well at many of the jobs I have worked at. The reasons? People getting a higher level job than the really capable of because they had an inflated job title at the last company, getting hired at different times or by different managers, going to a better school, and a hell of a lot of overselling in the interview and under delivering in the role but not bad enough to have official performance issues

  6. As a woman who personally worked 2 jobs for almost 20 years I saw that pay difference all the time and when I commented on it I was given the old stand by that as a woman I had a husband (whichI didn’t) who could support me. It was assumed that since I had children there was a man in my life who was supposedly supporting me. If I had that support I would have never worked all those hours to keep a roof over my head and food on the table. The job that I had the kind of job that was gender neutral so anyone could do job. But there was this unwritten rule that paid women less. Women do not need to use their beguiles to get raises. When the job is exactly the same, there should be no pay differences but there still is. This is what needs to be addressed.

    1. I agree. It doesn’t matter if you have a man to support you. (rolls eyes) Your pay should never be affected by having a man.

  7. From what I’ve seen in the various research articles I’ve read online, it seems like a lot of the difference comes down to the different choices men and women make when having children. Often (not always, but often), it’s the mother who takes time off for maternity, takes care of the kids when they’re sick, does more unpaid work around the home, etc., than the father. Quite a lot of the pay gap revolves around this. (i.e. Women work fewer hours, or in jobs with more flexible time requirements — which pay less — because they need to have that flexibility for the kids. Women might be less senior than men of the same age because they took time off when the kids were little. And so on.)

    All that said, about 4-8% of the pay gap can’t be explained by anything but implicit gender bias. Sure, it’s not 77 cents on the dollar, but it *does* add up over time. And if a woman is also part of a visible minority, that gap increases A LOT.

    1. “Often (not always, but often), it’s the mother who takes time off for maternity, takes care of the kids when they’re sick, does more unpaid work around the home, etc., than the father. ”

      And a lot of this has to do with social expectations – most employers in the states do not offer paternity leave, and the expectation is that the wife will take time to take care of the kids when sick or out of school.

    2. So study single, childless women. Their pay gap is strong, too, even though they don’t have kids to take care of.

  8. Actually, there have been many, many, MANY academic studies that say the pay gap is a much bigger issue than many people think. Not only is there the problem with gender gaps (in 2015, is was an average of 20% between men and women doing the same job, working the same hours), there is also an issue of a racial pay gap. When they say women make 80 cents on the dollar, they are specifically referencing statistics on white men and women. According to several different papers, black women make closer to 70 cents on the dollar, and hispanic women 65 cents on the dollar _on the high end_. Let me say that again – ON THE HIGH END.

    A lot of it can be boiled down to “men are better negotiators” but most of that has to do with socialization and expectations. Not to mention, if you look at the dynamics of an office, most women are in support positions, while most upper level managers are still men. Women in management positions are looked down on as bossy and bitchy, while men doing the exact same job? Go-getters and confident. Racism and misogynism are alive and well in the good ole’ USA.

    There are a lot of issues here, not just the differences in pay. Even just looking at the more dangerous jobs – it isn’t just that women prefer not to do those jobs, it’s that being a woman in a male-dominant field is incredibly difficult, to the point that emotional and sexual harassment is so common it might as well be expected. Even if a woman is able to get (and keep) a job in one of those fields, she will generally be considered less than the men around her. Just look at the statistics for STEM fields – young girls who want to be in math and sciences, 70%. Women who go on to study STEM fields, 20%.

    Needless to say, this is something I’m fairly passionate about…

    1. Yes, absolutely this. Plus, the old trap of grooming the clean cut young man for a promotion then telling a woman she can’t have a promotion because they can’t spare her for stretch assignments.

      The same was frequently cited by minoity teachers leaving schools. Several were told they were so good at handling the minority students who were discipline problems that they couldn’t be spared to teach gifted kids. Social conditioning doesn’t stop when we walk into work.

    2. We need people to be passionate about it. I forget sometimes how much being white has helped me. I went into science. The number of times I’ve been told a man could handle it better. Or the number of times I’ve been harrassed. Then when I stand up to the harrasser I’m a B word.

  9. It is sticking your head in the sand to say there is no real pay inequity. There is pay inequity for single women with no children who work as hard as men all the time. When I started, they paid my male colleague who started a momth later than me $5000 a year more. I had a master’s, he had a bachelor’s, both of us had no experience, paperwork job where male strength didn’t matter. Percentage raises after that favor him. And I got the standard performance reviews where being sure of my skills made me rude and agressive so less raise but he wasn’t rude for those skills. It is not at every company but it happens all the time.

    1. Forgot. A man at the same company got a raise and promotion each time his wife got pregnant because he needed it for his family. This was in the 90s, not that long ago.

      1. Thank you for helping me point this out. This is so true. This post is just keeping the wage gap alive by not talking to the examples that are exact matches in title, company, experience, but still women make so much less without ever having a job gap or having kids.

      1. I didn’t know right away. I brought up a few different treatment issues. My boss was the same ethnic group as my male colleague and told me the colleague needed to find a wife and get married and have a family soon.

  10. Your reasons in the article are perpetuating myths.

    #1 Less dangerous work
    We are not asking for equal pay for the same age. We are asking equal pay for equal work. A female scientist with 15 years experience should not be paid less than a man with 5, if all other qualifications and performance are the same.

    #2 Women prefer to work less hours than men do
    Again, more hours =/= more productivity. While women may not be at work while they work, may do it after their kids go to bed. Or wake up at the crack of dawn to have a head start unlike their peers. Efficient work is the way to go, not hours clocked

    #3 Women have caregiver obligations
    So why is it when a guy has to go take his kids to doctor’s office, school concerts and other child related activities, he is lauded as a devoted dad and when a women does it, she is not committed to work? Does it matter if I was working from a hospital room while being there with my child/parent/grandparent? Is the optics of working more important than my productivity?

    # Flexibility
    If you can get all the output you need from a 32 hours week instead of 40. Is it fair to only pay a female employee only for that 32 hours? Isn’t that is why some jobs are exempt?

    I am a little surprised to see this article from you EHRL. You have experienced international life. Have your eyes open to see the world out there. You even know that your child will outdo a standard American kid.

    PS: I work in compensation international and US. I am in the trenches. Having Executive Order about paying people fairly helps facilitate fair pay conversation.

    1. 1. The pay gap numbers that vary around 79 cents on the dollar don’t match job for job. It’s a straight average men’s salary to average women’s salary. That’s why it’s ridiculous.

      2. If you know where this is taking place then you should file a complaint with the OFCCP. Now.

      3. Of course some people are more productive than others, but when we’re talking pay, hours worked plays a tremendous role. Remember, a large percentage of the population is paid by the hour. Even if they aren’t more productive, they are earning more if they work more.

      Additionally, in many of the top earning fields, workers bill clients by the hours. If you bill 100 more hours per year than I do, that’s a noticeable difference in revenue. Of course the company will reward you.

      4. If you can get 40 hours worth of work done in 32 your pay shouldn’t be lowered. But, in all honesty, most people get 32 hour worth of work done in 32 hours.

      I’m all about pay for results and not paying for butt-in-seat time, but you’re going to be hard pressed to convince me that women are super productive compared to their male counterparts.

  11. These stats are misleading when comparing the entire workforce because obviously woman bear children so even that alone creates an apples to oranges scenario. However, when comparing equal experience, there is absolutely a real albeit smaller than 20% difference especially as you look higher up in the ranks. You really don’t need any statistics for this, just open your eyes and look at the disproportionate number of men on Boards of Directors and in leadership positions. It isn’t that long in terms of history that women were not allowed to vote, own property, etc. and anyone that is a student of history will know that stereotypes take many generations to change. We are not there yet, although making progress every day, but sadly no we do not leave in a world absolutely free of gender bias. Now another interesting facet to add is the growing number of companies that are now global. Makes it interesting when you are an American woman dealing with men from a country where discrimation is the norm. I suspect this will have greater impact on our mobility in the future than we realize and a whole other topics of discussion.

  12. Corroborating Suzanne Lucas’s excellent analyses, I will add that most mid-plus size firms who have any idea what they are doing have fixed salary range grills for each grade of position and experience. We could go on forever about how we raise girls, but in a society in which adulthood comes at age 18 it is hard to argue that if a fresh female (or male) college grad did not major in engineering/IT or is unwilling to be a tough negotiator, it is anything but her (or his) own responsibility.

    Also, at some large companies there is a bias in the opposite direction. In North America lawsuits are as common as beach pebbles, and the spectacle and variety of discrimination lawsuits against large firms by current and former female/LGBT/visible minority employees has made companies very sensitive to the dangers of even appearing to step out of line. (Smaller firms can discriminate or be perceived to discriminate as well, but they are less likely to get sued for the simple reason that they are smaller and therefore a substantial payout is unlikely.)

    For example, one of my acquaintances attests that his company, afraid of being seen as not promoting enough female employees, might take a female executive secretary and promote her to V.P. with the title, salary and office… and yet strangely no one works for her. Conversely, according to him, all male V.P.s at said company have at least $37 million in scope.

    1. We have a CEO who is female and came out to our office when we were acquired. Suddenly all the women in the office were asked to drop everything and come to dinner – because they couldn’t go without a woman – cause that would look bad. So they were trying to pass off a woman that wasn’t leadership – so THEY don’t look like gender bias jerks for not promoting any women into leadership. I was so angry that 2 women in the office went along with this. When the president literally says ‘please come, we can’t show up without any women’, fix the problem and promote a woman. I’m not asking for any woman, I am talking about someone that is poised to move up already – that ticks off just as many ‘leadership’ boxes as any man currently in leadership team, but still hasn’t been promoted in 7 years.

  13. Well Suzanne, a lot of people disagree with your post, or it seems don’t actually disagree with it, they just don’t like it.

    I think you are right though.

  14. Given that Audi executives thought it was ok to falsify diesel engine emissions test results, can we expect them to be in touch with reality in any other way?

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