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The WSJ article says

The average woman believes she’ll hold eight jobs over the course of her lifetime compared to seven jobs for the average man, according to a new Citigroup Inc. and LinkedIn Corp. survey of more than 1,000 professional male and female LinkedIn members.

"Women tend to think about their skills as being very versatile and adaptive," which helps explain the job switching, said Linda Descano, chief executive for Women & Co., Citi’s personal finance arm for women. But "if we’re going to make all these twists and turns we need to be really strong in negotiation."

This raised three questions for me:

  • Is eight vs seven really a significant enough difference to talk about "twists and turns"?
  • Is there any correlation between expectations and actual number of jobs held?
  • Is there any correlation between number of jobs held (and thus number of salary negotiations) and salary trend over a career?

It turns out the story is even more muddled. I hadn't clicked through to the linked articles (shame on me, perhaps), and it turns out the WSJ jumbled the facts, too. The linked article says it's 10 jobs for women as opposed to 6 for men (not 8 vs 7), and also clarifies that this is for Baby Boomers, who are already starting to retire and whose expectations and reality are likely to be much different than for people earlier in their careers today (and who might most benefit from career advice).

In any case, it sounds like the story was selected in advance (women have it rough in the workplace) and then a few facts were selected to decorate it. If the job-count-by-gender had gone the other way, it's easy to imagine this article saying "women don't get as many chances to negotiate their salaries as men do, so they'd better improve their negotiation skills to make every one count." The sad thing is that we already have credible evidence from other sources of obstacles that women face in their careers, so articles like this one slide through. Lazy analysis, even in service of a supportable conclusion, is still lazy analysis.

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