There are some things you think you know, but never dare to say. Until a very clever scientist says it for you.
First, there was the idea that the Large Hadron Collider experiment might not go off with an instant bang. And now news has emerged this week from the laboratories of the University of Florida that men who have sexist attitudes get paid more.
Every time you think the world has moved forward, it is information such as this that makes you lie down in the fetal position, clutch your favorite Kelly Clarkson CD and sob a little.
The scientists running this experiment, Timothy Judge and Beth Livingston, believe they accounted for every possible skewing variable before they reached this manically depressing conclusion.
Their study lasted 26 years and embroiled 12,686 guinea pigs--some of whom appeared to be sexist (guinea) pigs. Well-off, sexist (guinea) pigs.
On average, men who favor traditional gender roles make $8,500 a year than those with more gender-balanced views.
Female readers should clutch their mallets very gingerly when they hear that the situation is reversed for them, but with very different proportions. As Bernie Ecclestone, the head of Formula One racing, once said: "I've got one of these wonderful ideas that women should all be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances." With that in mind...the researchers found that women who don't believe in traditional roles earn only an average $1,500 a year more than their white-dressing counterparts.
When women and men are working in an egalitarian environment, the researchers found, there appears to be little difference between their salaries. But in organizations with more traditional attitudes, the pay discrepancy between men and women might remind some of The Shining.
"These results cannot be explained by the fact that, in traditional couples, women are less likely to work outside the home," Judge said in a statement. "Though this plays some role in our findings, our results suggest that even if you control for time worked and labor force participation, traditional women are paid less than traditional men for comparable work."
The researchers are keen to see if this is merely a Mammonist American phenomenon. They cite European research that suggests the most traditional female workforce can be found in the same place as some of the world's finest beer, the Czech Republic. While a country with beer of a lesser reputation, Norway, appears to have found a way to create something of a financial balance between the sexes.
However, the researchers' final conclusion is an interesting and, for some, no doubt, a wishful and wistful one.
"Our results have a certain normative assumption," they write, "that earning money is a social 'good'. (....) it is important to recognize that in industrialized nations such as the United States, the correlation between income and happiness is relatively modest."
This skirts with dangerous proximity to a suggestion that women (and gender-enlightened men) shouldn't worry, as money isn't everything. Indeed it isn't. But does it have to be said, or even thought, that if a woman is doing the same job as a man she should be paid the same number of dollars?
There are indications that, when it comes to the tech world, women with a traditional view of gender relations might have a greater chance of "success."
The Harvard Business Reviewconcluded that women get sick of tech companies not necessarily because of some clear imbalance in pay, but because of the delightfully-termed "antigens." These antigens seem to contribute greatly to the fact that 52 percent of women drop completely out of the science, engineering, and technology business in their 30s.
"We found that 63 percent of women in science, engineering and technology have experienced sexual harassment. That's a really high figure. They talk about demeaning and condescending attitudes, lots of off-color jokes, sexual innuendo, arrogance; colleagues, particularly in the tech culture, who genuinely think women don't have what it takes--who see them as genetically inferior," said the researchers.
One wonders what the very largely male bunch of tech CEOs is doing about this parlous situation. Because if one looks at the whole picture painted by the Harvard and Florida research, some troubling questions arise.
Should one conclude that if you're a woman you're more likely to survive (and, perhaps, even "thrive") in a tech company if you can deal with being treated in a sexist manner? And do we also conclude that those women who tolerate sexist behavior do so because it actually corresponds with their world view in some way, even though they might be paid significantly less than male counterparts?
Or do we need some more research? Which tech CEO will sponsor it?