Despite evidence of progress towards equality in the workplace, a recent study conducted by the federal government confirmed that there are still significant gaps between male and female technical writers that have yet to be bridged.
The study concluded that female technical writers earn fewer peanuts than male technical writers, but more than cougars, although they often receive additional compensation in the form of extra coffee (and valium).
According to several executives interviewed, the reasons for the discrimination are painfully obvious:
- Female technical writers are less able to subdue SMEs. Getting an SME to reveal crucial information is a task that is very mentally and physically taxing. Veteran technical writers have been known to wait in ambush until the odd hours of the night before they are able to get a good shot with a stun gun. They then often have to drag the unconscious SME to a remote cubicle, chain them to the wall, drug them, and sometimes even torture them in order to elicit cooperation. Most executives in the survey reported that men are better at this task than women.
- Female technical writers insist on going home at reasonable hours, citing the need to spend time with their families. As a result they are reluctant to work more than 18 hours a day. Male technical writers, on the other hand are more willing to work 24/7 because “sleep is for the weak.”
- “Content is king” – not queen. According to some managers, customers have a magical ability to discern between content written by women and content written by men. Content written by men never changes. The product may be updated 500 times, but the manual remains the same. Women on the other hand are constantly looking to improve things: the output, the content, the style, the delivery channel. This drives (male) customers insane as they never know what they are going to get when they open the documentation.
“These results are really not surprising,” said A., a female technical writer who works for NASA. “One evening I was requested to accompany the astronauts into outer space so that I could get a first-hand experience of how the shuttle works. When I told them that I needed to be back from the mission in time to prepare dinner for my family, they stared at me for five minutes, and then assigned the task to my male team-mate.”
“I really don’t see what the big deal is” says M., one of the men who participated in the study. “My company invented a time machine. When I proposed that we use it to deliver content BEFORE the deadline everyone was ecstatic, except my female team-mate who pointed out that the possible side-effects included male-pattern baldness, breast cancer, unwanted pregnancy and being forever lost in space and time. She is no longer working with the department.” M. works with the department of experimental physics at his company.
The study concluded that unless women are willing to abandon all considerations for personal safety and welfare and common sense, management in most companies will be disinclined to offer equal pay. The study went on to recommend that companies should only hire women who previously served in the army in Iraq and Afghanistan as technical writers. Because as the researchers noted: “any woman who can chase down terrorists can easily extract information from SMEs, and more importantly negotiate better terms from HR.”
Published as Peanuts as Underfunded Negotiation Scenarios, the study did not stipulate differences between compensation in roasted or boiled peanuts.