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The Week — June 14: Severance disparity exposed

Women get the severance shaft, according to a study put on by one UVic professor. -
Women get the severance shaft, according to a study put on by one UVic professor.
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Severance disparity exposed

Women still aren’t standing up for themselves as much as they could be — at least when it comes to settlements in severance pay, according to a new UVic study.

Dr. Ken Thornicroft, professor of business law and employment relations at UVic’s Gustavson School of Business, performed two studies that explored gender bias in severance settlements, but what he found was surprising: whether they go to court to settle a wrongful dismissal claim or negotiate a settlement on their own, women get fewer weeks of severance pay than men — in almost every case.

“Women face a marked disadvantage when negotiating severance pay settlements, which in some cases could mean a loss of several months’ pay,” says Thornicroft. “What’s disturbing about the findings is that an anti-female bias is equally demonstrated by women and men — the males recovered nearly two months’ additional notice than did the females in the negotiation experiment.”

Thornicroft and his team studied 128 cases of men and women in high-paying (think six-digits) managerial positions, and developed their findings from a study of decisions issued by provincial and territorial courts of appeal from 2000 to 2011. Then, Thornicroft conducted a seven-year experiment with his business students about reasonable notice entitlements, examining 688 cases of men and women undergoing settlements. The team found, across the board, that results from the appellate courts’ study indicated women are systematically awarded about 1.5 to 1.7 months less notice than similar male litigants. When it comes to personal negotiating, women also fared worse than men.

While reasons for the variance are hard to determine, especially in negotiating situations, Thornicroft says a potential solution — beyond recognizing that this is an issue — is to establish a legislated formula for calculating reasonable notice.

“A statutory formula would eliminate the issue of gender from coming into play, and reduce the potential for costly court cases,” he says. “Negotiations driven by a formula cut out that variable and clearly state, here’s what you’re entitled to, end of story.”

Meanwhile, ladies, harden that bottom line.

A time to rejoice for Joyce

Speaking of UVic, devout fans of James Joyce will be thrilled to know June 16 marks the infamous anniversary of the day spent in one of the most notable tomes of our time: Ulysses. And now is the perfect time to dive right in, especially if you’re a Twitter lover.

“Ulysses gets this bad rap as being a difficult read ... but it’s really like following one person’s inane Twitter feed for a day: June 16, 1904 in Dublin. We know what Bloom eats for lunch, we know when he farts,” says Dr. Stephen Ross, professor at UVic’s Department of English, and organizer of the school’s Modernist Versions Project. “Not everything in the book is important, but it is an important novel.”

In an effort to help demystify the hard-to-read reputation Joyce’s book has earned, the Modernist Versions Project is launching its first ambitious initiative in the form of “Year of Ulysses” — the group will be uploading one chapter every three weeks of the original 1922 copyrighted version of the text, so that those interested can read along in chunks online, then join in with the Twitter live chats that follow (see hashtag #youlysseschat). To kick off the event, the group will host an opening launch party to release the first three chapters of the book online at none other than the James Joyce Bistro (Peacock Billiards at 834 Johnson) Friday, June 15, at 9 p.m.

But why would anyone want to dedicate a whole year to reading one person’s historic fictitious day-in-the-life? As Ross points out, we already do this.

“We’re reading an academic, self-absorbed young man — we’re kind of meant to laugh at him,” says Ross. “But the key to this novel is that Bloom is preoccupied with the idea that we’re ignorant of how others view us ... and when you think about that, it’s a fundamental problem we all have today. We’re constantly self-dramatizing, deciding what we want people to see of us on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest, but we have no control over what they really think.”

Learn more about the project and read along, starting Friday, at modernistversions.com.

A day for dad’s aspirations

Before you waste money on another tie this Father’s Day, turns out the real way you can show Dad some love is by helping him start his own business.

According to some new figures from Statistics Canada, 82 per cent of men would like to start their own business, with goals in the food and hospitality industry winning most aspirations nation-wide.

In B.C., the arts/entertainment/recreation sector was where most men said they saw their potential venture (14 per cent), with the food and hospitality industry coming in second at 13 per cent. environmental services came in last at five per cent.

Maybe Dad will need that tie after all. M

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