Is it true that women only earn 77 percent for each dollar earned annually by men and 82 percent of each dollar earned weekly?
That’s what you hear over and over and over and over and over again. It showed up in the presidential debate. I saw it in recent comments on an article. It came up here in Wisconsin, where I live. It is stated on this website dedicated to ending the ‘wage gap.’
You know what I think? Rubbish. Propaganda. Manipulation. In short: Bull-crap.
This assertion is an aggregation of data that does not reflect the real world, and is phrased in order to play to special interests that have just one goal: financing their own lucrative jobs long into the future. They know that people tend to stop reading at the headline. But even if the assertion is true, and the headline accurate, it does not give us enough information to know whether or not we should be indignant.
Let’s consider some scenarios.
John is a secretary, working 40 hours a week at $10 an hour. His duties are exactly the same as Jane’s, who works 40 hours a week at $7.70 an hour. They both perform their duties well and in all other respects are similar.
Steve is a lumberjack who routinely throws three thousand pound logs over his shoulders and dodges trees falling all around him with such nimbleness he could weave his way through rain drops. Because of the nature of his job and the skill he has, he is paid $10 an hour, 40 hours a week. Miranda is a secretary who works hard and well for 40 hours a week and makes $7.70 an hour. Incidentally, women never apply for Steve’s job.
James is a secretary, working 40 hours a week at $10 an hour. His duties are exactly the same as Julie’s. Julie also makes $10 an hour, but due to family duties, can only work 30.8 hours a week. Thus, as it happens, Julie makes 77% less than James.
Now, common sense and common decency tells you that there is nothing particularly discriminatory about scenarios 2 and 3, and yet the assertion in the headlines and floating around that women only make 77% for each dollar earned by men holds true in them. It is only in scenario 1 where we can justifiably be annoyed. Now, does the assertion give us enough information to be able to know which scenario is in play? No. Absolutely not. The assertion rests on number crunching in the aggregate, but injustices can only be demonstrated when looking at particulars. It is probably not an accident that it is framed this way. The manipulators know most people don’t have time to examine everything put in front of them, and who could be against equal pay?
I took the liberty of performing such an examination, even though I had some good reasons already for thinking the great leaps based on the assertion were asinine.
First I looked here: http://www.pay-equity.org/
Notice how their examples all flow from lumping data together, and not addressing common sense distinctions such as the ones I highlighted in my three scenarios. Surely, I thought, someone must have a brain at that website, so my concern had to be addressed somewhere? Not really. The closest it comes is a report such as this one, which if you observe breaks things down by occupations, but still does not factor in the possibility that women might work fewer hours. Full time is defined as at least 35 hours a week. Even with that, half of our disparity could be accounted for; if a man works 40 hours a week and the woman works 35, that would close the ‘gap’ from 77% to 87%.
No word about the possibility that men might work more overtime than women, too. Surely that would have a bearing on the question? But not a hint of that reflected in the report.
Bear in mind that the HHS has redefined ‘full time’ as working 30 hours a week or more, as opposed to 40 hours a week, and the possibility going forward is even more wide open that the ‘wage gap’ can be explained in other ways than discrimination. I predict that in the next few years, even under a (perish the thought!) second Obama administration, the putative ‘wage gap’ inexplicably widens further… requiring even more government intervention, of course. The special interests are eager to play their part.
In the meantime, the very same report has a whole heading that says: “Women are More than Twice as Likely as Men to Work in Occupations with Poverty Wages”
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…. inquiring minds would like to know if THIS FACT ALONE might explain the ‘gap.’ The report says: “more than twice as many women (5.52 million) than men (2.3 million) work in occupations with median earnings for full-time work below the federal poverty threshold for a family of four.”
I don’t know about you, but a difference representing 3.2 million more women than men could, in the aggregate, seems like something that could go a long way in explaining the ‘gap.’ We may wonder if perhaps we need to address the issue from the point of perspective of how we can help women get jobs that do not pay ‘poverty wages’, but that is entirely separate from the issue of whether or not men doing the same work for the same length of time get paid the same ‘poverty wage.’ Remember, the charts showing the percentage of men’s wages that the women make per occupation do not tell us how many hours each work or whether or not overtime hours are taken into account. My money is on a BIG FAT NO.
I said before that I had reason to believe that this was all rubbish before I took the time to see what the other side said. I have several lines of anecdotal evidence, and I think a lot of people have the same experiences. But before I address that, it is worth mentioning that it is already ILLEGAL to pay a woman less for the same work that a man does. Has been for a long time. If there is a legitimate problem here, it comes down to enforcement. However, unlike many people in our country, I don’t believe businesspeople are idiots. I think that they are plenty sensitive about protecting their own rear ends, even if they are bloodthirsty robber barons (as 99% of them evidently are, to hear some talk) who don’t care a lick about their fellow man. Or woman.
Now my anecdotes. In the report I have been touching on, it has this particular statement:
Elementary and middle school teachers – weekly: $933. percentage of a man’s wage: 91.3%.
Now, anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows that most of the elementary and middle school teachers in this country are public school teachers–as is my wife, which is why I know this. You can go online to just about any school district to check their wage scale. For example, here is one I found in about 30 seconds.
Please observe on the first page a scale that tells you how much you will make per year of experience taking into account your education level. I looked and looked and looked and I couldn’t see any separate category that said “if you are a woman, you will make only 91.3% of these figures.”
Elementary and middle school teachers are discriminated against because they are women and only make 91.3% of what a man makes? From personal experience, I say BOGUS.
I have had a number of jobs over the years. The starting wages were often public. There was never any way that someone could be hired at a different rate. Indeed, in one of my current jobs, it is a demonstrable fact that everyone makes the same amount, whether they are male or female.
If in fact elementary and middle school teachers are making 91.3% less than their male counterparts (unlikely, it seems to me), then this means that liberal leftist unions across this country are deliberately and purposefully selling women short. If the women they represent are getting the shaft, it is happening right underneath the noses of the people who supposedly are there to keep such things from happening. Or, it is those organizations themselves inflicting the injustice. It isn’t Romney–oh, that dastardly Romney–or conservatives and Republicans. It is the Democrats, unions, and dare I say–special interest groups?–keeping women down.
Or… perhaps the answer is more benign, and other factors are in play. I’ve alluded to some, such as the nature of the jobs in question, the amount of hours worked, etc.
The report I’ve been citing says this at the end: “The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women, promote public dialogue, and strengthen families, communities, and societies.”
Evidently, I have a different definition of ‘rigorous’ than the IWPR has, because from my perspective, they completely overlooked some really obvious questions and considerations. But for some reason, judging from them and a lot of the other sites I looked at to make sure I had my facts straight, I don’t think ‘overlooked’ is quite the right word.
Disclaimer: I am not a woman-hater. Some of my best friends are women. I’m even married to a woman. (You have to clarify that these days). I think women should be paid equally for equal work. But I am not a dupe, and I will not be played.