Who said the Old Boys Club is no longer? Those suffering through the worst of the recession have grown accustomed to filling out hundreds of job applications only to hear no response. Indeed, the official national unemployment total of 9.1 percent must be appreciated in the context of the complementary figure of 16.1 percent. That tally includes the underemployed who are either occupying insufficient part-time positions or have simply given up on the search.
Not surprisingly, when positions do open up, companies often only go through the motions of posting the opening, when in fact they fill the job through networking. But what is surprising is the extent to which it is men are benefiting from such connections. A recently released study from NC State University found that men were 12 percent were likely to benefit from "informal recruitment." The study, overseen by NC State sociology professor Dr. Steve McDonald, surveyed responses from 12,000 workers who provided feedback based on their own specialized work experience.
The results were seen as a way of further explaining the wage gap between men and women, with the latter still making 77 percent on average of what their male counterparts do.
"Previously, researchers have argued that women face lower-wage payoffs than men with similar work experience because the women have fewer opportunities to develop job skills," McDonald says. "But this study suggests that a lack of useful social connections may also be driving the gender wage gap."
The problem, the NC State study said, was particularly pronounced in the upper echelons of management. The process of men seeking out their buddies to replenish the higher corporate ranks appears to be self-sustaining.
"The more that can be done to institute formal hiring practices, the closer we will be to an equitable job market," McDonald said.
The study is just the latest, and newest, facet of the classic wage disparity story. Last week, the results from a study from CareerBuilder made it clear that the wage disparity is not offset by women reaping the benefits of their male partners' salaries. Female workers on average are living paycheck to paycheck at a rate of 46 percent, as compared to 38 percent for men. For their part, CareerBuilder pointed out that such news should at the least be appreciated in view of an overall improvement in the category of workers living paycheck to paycheck; the national average of workers in that category has returned to 2007 levels of 42 percent.
"The majority of U.S. workers (72 percent) reported that they are more fiscally responsible since the recession and have made a variety of changes to their living and spending habits," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources at CareerBuilder.
It has been nearly a half century since John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, and observers are constantly raising the question why the disparity has been stuck at around 77 percent for nearly two decades.
The Obama administration made equal pay its very first issue when the president took office in 2009. The first law Obama signed in office was the Lily Ledbetter Act, which renews the statute of limitations for filing discrimination charges to every discriminatory paycheck, thereby eliminating the protection provided by workers remaining in the dark.
But advocates want to go further. Embracing the view that the true enemy is such confidentiality, and that disparity can never survive disclosure, these advocates have been pushing for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The measure would not only aid the filing of class action lawsuits, it would make it illegal for companies to retaliate against female employees who try and find out male wages' salaries.
Backed by President Obama, and passed by the House, the PFA came up two votes short of overcoming a Republican-filibuster in the Senate in November of last year. It remains stalled in the Senate.
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