Musings tagged as gender

In an unexpected rush of common sense, the German Bundesgerichtshof (highest civil court in Germany) has dismissed (link in German) the case of an 80 year old woman who wanted to sue her bank for only using the word “Kunde” (customer) in their banking forms. She wanted the bank to print extra forms where “Kunde” would be replaced by “Kundin”, which is the female variant of the word, meaning - of course - “a female customer”.

Now, if you are not into the German language, you might have still noticed that we love our gender articles. Der (male), die (female), das (neutral), and there isn’t even a clear rule how to use them. It is der Baum aka the tree and it is male. Die Sonne is the sun and female. Der Mond is the moon and it is male again. So yeah, pretty confusing already and sometimes not just to non-Germans ;-)

Over the last 2000 years the male form has evolved into a neutral term that is used to describe people in general, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or whatever if adressing a whole group. For example Dear customers would become Liebe Kunden, and even though Kunden is the male plural of customer, if you use it in this way it just means all customers, in the english sense of the word. Genderless, so to speak. If you don’t do it that way in German, you can go for Liebe Kunden und Kundinnen which basically means Dear male and female customers. This is a lot longer and especially inside of contract speak or legalese it does not always help the already wicked sentence structure. People often have a hard time understanding that crap anyway.

In addition, nowadays the people that think that they are neither male nor female but non-binary, transgender, unicorn, or whatever else tickles their fancy, want in on the action. So if you want to please everyone (and when did that ever go wrong) you can write about half a page for adressing your audience. Of course this also helps a lot if in a contract, written in legalese, the customer is refered to three times per paragraph.

So, for almost two milennia, people have agreed that it is good to pick one of the genders, use it as a general term and stick with it. No disrespect included, just a general term to make our already complicated language a little bit easier. This logic is of course wasted on you if you are a German senior with too much time on your hands and no real problems to care about.

Amazingly, the highest court was hit with the logic bat and agreed that this is a waste of time. The banks can just keep writing Liebe Kunden, no new forms have to be printed, 99.9999% of the populace are happy and don’t give a fuck anyway, case closed. Of course that 80 year old woman already said that she wants to take the case to the european court so we will have to see how this bounces, but for now, a German court has actually made a sensible decision regarding one of those notorious gender questions. I had never thought that I would see this day…. Praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

I’d never thought I would say this but Uber, the ride hailing company, did something remarkably awesome. A group of five economists, two of which employed by Uber, two Stanford professors, and the chairman of the University of Chicago economics department have released a paper in which they report on their analysis of more than 740 million Uber trips in the States between Jan 2015 and Mar 2017, involving more than 1.8 million drivers.

The price a customer has to pay for an Uber ride is calculated by an algorithm that does not care about gender. The deciding parameters in making up the price of the fare are trip distance, wait time, speed, and surrounding circumstances like scarcity of available drivers. Even though there is no gender involved and the algorithm computing the fare is not just completely neutral in that regard but also does not care about things like whether someone works part- or full-time, funny enough there is still a gender pay gap. According to the paper, men earn an average of $21.28 per hour while women only earn an average of $20.04 per hour. The difference of $1.24 amounts to a gender pay gap of about 6%.

How can this be? There is no evil patriarchic society at play, the math is simple (the equation is actually part of the paper) and it does not discriminate against anyone. In their analysis, the writers name three main causes for the paygap that can be proven scientifically by the ride data they analyzed.

1. Men have more experience

The authors state that men and women learn at the same rate in terms of number of rides. They also state that for example wait times go down by 5% to 10% over 1500 rides of experience for both genders. This is because both men and women learn about which rides to reject and which to accept. But, according to the statistics, men learn more intensively per week of experience as they work longer hours. After a certain time interval, men will have accumulated more rides than women and thus more experience. With passing time, the percentage of men with a lot of experience will rise faster than the percentage of women. Also after six months, 77% of women will have quit working for Uber. With men, only 65% will have quit in the same period, leading to a further increase in high experience male drivers.

2. Men drive faster

For both genders, the speed goes down with experience as the drivers learn that congested areas are more lucrative than being out and about in the countryside. But, men still drive faster on average than women. They also drive longer trips and the combination of longer trips completed in less amount of time means more money. The authors mention studies that show that men are more risk tolerant than women, both in general and when driving in particular. This might explain the general tendency to drive faster. While mostly irrelevant in the daily life, in a drivers line of work speed of course pays off.

3. Men pick better spots and ride times

Possibly also a matter of experience, men tend to favour areas that have a lack of available drivers even though there is high demand. This leads to a bonus modifier for the fare in order to get more drivers into areas where they are needed the most. Men more actively seek out areas where there are high bonus factors available, leading to more income per trip.

What do we learn from this?

One of the most deciding factors is time spent working. If women prefer to work part-time they will accumulate less experience. Less experience usually means being less productive which then results in less pay. Either directly if the wage is coupled to hours worked or also indirectly because someone with more experience will move up the food chain faster. This holds true for both genders and this report shows that women do not need men to discriminate against them in order to be paid less. They can achieve this just fine by themselves. The question one should ask would be why the difference in work hours? Family? Lack of interest? Maybe being an Uber driver is not appealing to the general female populace, hell, I could hardly think of a more annoying job myself. It’s all in the eye of the beholder I guess.

But, if someone suggests that a person A with less experience than person B should be paid the exact same amount, they are actually the ones who are discriminating.

And since we men are apparently born with the need for speed and a greater risk tolerance, take it easy girls, this also means that we are far more likely to live life the squirrel way: Live fast, die young, and leave a flat patch of fur on the highway ;)

Sex on the Blockchain

Thu, Jan 11, 2018

We have officially reached the point in the evolution of mankind where it might soon be possible to use a blockchain powered mobile app in order to set up a legally binding contract before proceeding to more delicate matters.

Money quote:

Escalate a breach with a single click, triggering cease and desist letters and enforcing penalty payments

Maybe this will be just the start. Perhaps, in a couple of years from now, the way people go for a fling will be along the lines of “So, my lawyer is going to talk to your lawyer and then, after we sign the contract in two weeks, we can fuck?”. Which actually is just a small step up from “Ohh, Babe, wait a second, you have to swipe here and give me at least 2 hours of consent before we can go any further!”.

I’m actually still hoping this is a hoax but would it surprise me if it wasn’t? No, not really. Romance, RIP 2018.

James Damore Sues Google

Tue, Jan 9, 2018

James Damore, the engineer that got fired by Google for writing an internal memo about how there is an aura of fear amongst Google employes of being fired for expressing conservative or even just scientific views about the whole gender debate (note the irony), has just filed a case against his former employer (and here is the suit) for discrimination.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out. Apparently the suit (linked above) contains numerous screenshots of interesting things going on. In addition to marvels in the text, as in Google paying a so called peer bonus where a colleague can recommend another colleague for a bonus because that colleague spoke out against the values in Damore’s memo. Oddly reminiscent of Trumps let’s-buy-UN-votes tactics.

Overall, the second half of the suit is riddled with screenshots of things posted on the internal google newsgroups and message groups. It actually paints a pretty clear picture of who is discriminating against who.

Apparently there is another new buzzword (at least for me) you can write down for later use in your bullshit bingo sessions. Gender Pricing is the name of the game and I have just been alerted to this by reading about a recent gender study (German) by the Antidiskriminierungsstelle (federal anti-discrimination agency) that attempts to find cases of women being charged more for the same product or service than men.

Their posterchild is the visit at the hairdresser where women are usually charged more than men. Now this is probably already obvious to you if you have ever been to the hairdresser with your wife or girlfriend: A womans haircut can hardly be compared to a mens haircut unless the woman gets a quick neckshave with an electric razor and a little bit of scissor action on the top. Notice I am not even mentioning coloration, streaks, bleaching or whatever here (which takes the whole case even more ad absurdum) just the cut in general. This is also the main reasoning given by the hairdressers that were interviewed in the framework of this study as written in the aforementioned report on page 122:

Even though the argument of the businesses, that women haircuts require a significantly larger amount of work, can be confirmed by observations and questioning of female customers, there are only limited choices for women. For example a woman, who only wants a simple “mens haircut” will usually not dare to ask for or receive it.

So even though all evidence points to a significantly higher workload for womens haircuts than for mens, and this is confirmed in this study, the very few women that only want a quick electric razor shave do not get one and one of the reasons is that they do not ask for it. And this is supposed to be the fault of who exactly? In addition, even though I am sure they exist, I do not know a single woman who would be satisfied with one of these super simple mens haircuts. So now the hairdressers are sexist because they do not immediately cater to the insignificant number of razor-cut loving females that are too scared to ask for one themselves? But wait, there is more:

Questioned about the reasons for the increased workload when catering to womens hairdressing needs and regarding the amount of time scheduled for these appointments the businesses replied that the service for women is more time intensive. Reasons for this are many, for example the complexity of the haircut, the need for more consulting and discussion, the lower frequency of visits and therefore more work to be done at each visit, and that haircuts regarded as “short” by women are still significantly longer than those regarded as short by men. If the time spent on customers of different sexes is taken into account, the difference in price is negligible. Usually 30 minutes are reserved for men and 45 minutes for women. Even with all these reasons one still has to question the reasoning behind these differences in time and especially because of the difference in service the pricing could be done without taking the sex into account.

So after being given loads of valid reasons, which were confirmed by the female customers before, explaining in detail why a womans haircut is more time consuming, which then completely kills the difference in price, one should still argue against women being alotted more time than men. So apparently the hairdresser should just work faster when serving women? At least that would be the only way I can think of that would solve this weird request. And they finish by stating that especially because of all the different (and expensive) things you can pay for at your hairdresser the pricing should be the same for men and for women.

What kind of an idiotic request is this? I am pretty sure that if a man with a meter of hair books an appointment at a hairdresser in order to get streaks, some bleach, and a delicate haircut culminating in a complicated updo after that will not get this service for the same 20 EUR that some other guy paid for just getting a 10 minute razor haircut.

This study is actually contradicting itself on pretty much every page unless it finds that “there isn’t any observable difference after all”. And if the hairdressers story wasn’t embarrassing enough, on page 102 you can find pictures and prices of comparable sets of razor blades for mens and womens razors with a headline that reads

Example for non-equally priced personal hygiene products: razor products. Prices for the Aldi-razors (left) 4.49 EUR “for women”, 3.89 EUR “for men”.

The only problem is, the prices shown on the product pictures at the bottom of the page are 1.43 EUR for women, 1.59 EUR for men. I don’t know if you have to be a mathematician or physicist to recognize which sex pays less here for razor blades. Granted, this is the “discounted price” but even if you look at the non-discounted price it would be 4.79 EUR (women) and 4.99 EUR (men) which still favours the product marketed to women over the one marketed to men. In addition these are completely different numbers than the claimed 4.49 EUR and 3.89 EUR in the text. Who the hell proofread this pamphlet? (Here’s a screenshot in case they move the PDF or change it)

Of course the German media is all over this and I wish journalists would at least try to read and check a study before they take it for granted. The persistence with which the authors try to make a case against all facts, and the bluntness they employ while doing so up to openly admitting they have no case but wanting to complain anyway, is almost frightening.