“Equal pay for equal work”

Listening to the debates tonight, I heard Kerry say, “women are earning 76 cents on the dollar compared to men.” This is shocking! I wasn’t sure it was true.

Wireless to the rescue. I looked it up. I don’t see women so much in that role. Unless the guys were making way more money than I thought, I figured it was not quite the story.

But I looked it up. It seems to have some figures behind it. Man, I was hoping that we’d gotten a little further than that.

But this story puts a little thought into the figures. According to her, when you take some important factors into consideration, the wage gap is more like 98%.

Whoo hoo! and Ms. McElroy makes some very good points. I’ve thought about this, in these terms, for quite some time. Leaving aside the prejudicial and sexism stereotypes, what is the major difference between a man and a woman? A woman is the one who bears the children. It takes nine months for gestation. And it takes some time to get over the process of shoving this little person out of your body.

After that, mothers may want to take time out of their career to spend time with the child. A choice that she can make. That is, the lucky ones who have the economic room to not work, or work less for a while. Many women make the choice to have less responsibilities in their career, so that they can be available to pay attention to their child.

This does not diminish a woman’s capacity to perform any of the duties her career may have demanded. The fact is, a choice like that, one that takes a woman out of the running, off the rat race and into the baby track, has wage consequences.

If a man took several months or years out of the prime career growth time of his life to do another project, it is fully expected that he would not be able to walk away with no ground lost. It doesn’t work like that.

And a women should not expect that she can hit pause and step right back in where she left off. That wouldn’t be fair.

If we were to embrace the capacity that women bring to the table, it would be wise to find ways to change the culture of the workplace. Why do we have to work 24-7? Geez.

It would be good to have a jobs that allow for a balance and a challenge. We need that, so that the children don’t get left behind.

But it seems like women are not being left behind so much anymore, and for that I rejoice.

One thought on ““Equal pay for equal work”

  1. The 76% figure is really misleading. Here’s my summary of the labor economics literature on this point: wage differences between men and women are pretty well explained by occupational choice and by experience. So if a man and a woman both enter the same profession at the same age, and neither choose to have children, they will (on average) earn the same wage. Why 76%, then? Because women (again on average) tend to pick occupations that pay less well than men. Why would women do this? Well, the literature is less clear on this point, but my speculation is that women tend (again on average) to pick occupations that permit time away for child bearing, and these occupations tend to pay less than occupations that severely punish time away. The 76%, then, reflects how women (and men!) trade off their desire for a career against their desire for a family.

    Here’s another way to see the absurdity of the 76% number used to argue that women do no have equal opportunities in the labor market. If it were correct that a woman would earn only three quarters of what a man in the same occupation and with equivalent experience would earn, then there is a great business opportunity available to us. We should start a company, hire only women and pay them 77% of male wages. In no time, we’d be super rich since payroll is a large part of company budgets. Our poor competitors, who foolishly hire men, would have much higher costs than us, and it would just be a matter of time before we drove them out of business. We’d be rich in no time!

    Politicians who cite the 76% figure as a shorthand for womens’ lack of opportunity in the labor market are demagoging a complex issue.