Gender-gap pay issues are a myth
“Did you know women are still paid less than men? Let’s start with the pay gap. It’s no secret that women still earn less than men — I wrote recently how even millennial women, while narrowing the divide, continue to earn less than their male counterparts. Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.”
— President Barack Obama
“The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.” — President Ronald Reagan
Once again we see the president “romancing the voters” to energize his base with another spurious myth in his State of the Union message replayed by Bill O’Reilly Feb. 27 on “The Factor.”
If all your information comes from politicians, you may believe that women who work “full time” are unfairly paid less compared to men. However, do you still believe it’s unfair when knowing the comparison is between women who work a 35-hour week and men who work 41 hours or more? (The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines “full-time” as 35 hours).
Also, 69 percent of men work 50 or more weeks a year versus 59 percent of women. Is it fair to compare apples and oranges, i.e., only weekly pay and not compare hours, not compare hourly wages and not compare weeks per year?
Do you think it’s unfair that women with a college degree in Leisure Studies earn less than men with engineering degrees, or ironworkers who build high-rise buildings, bridges and dams?
Do you think it’s unfair that women who leave work early to meet their children home from school earn less than men who work a full eight hours or more? Twice as many women by choice work part time as men, 14.9 percent versus 7.3 percent.
Do you think it’s unfair that women in their 20s beginning their work careers earn less than men over 50 in their peak earning years and that some difference in pay is not so much due to a “glass ceiling ” as due to years of continuous experience and education? Some 60 percent more men than women work over age 65.
It takes hard pick-and-shovel work to sort out the truth when those with a political agenda compare work weeks rather than hourly wages, and who disregard benefits between women and men. Also, if you only skim the news, you may believe it’s unfair that single-woman households comprised of high school dropouts earn less than households with married couples.
A “household” as defined by the census can be one person or several people employed or not. Such distinctions are rarely disclosed when “gender gap” is the sensational headline being reported. The bottom line is how can politicians fabricate a “war on women” without romancing the voters?
Ask yourself, could it be that the so-called growing gap in “household” incomes is due not to discrimination but a change in household makeup? Until fairly recently, doctors and attorneys married non-working housewives (before “housewives” became a pejorative word).
With the increase in two-income households — doctors married to doctors, attorneys or other high-income professionals — the gap cannot help but increase. One way household incomes could be equalized, of course, would be for the government to pass a law that smart spouses must marry dumb people, or Ph.D.’s must marry dropouts in order to equalize household incomes and close the gender gap.
Yet the media typically lump all the factors above together then claim women face a “glass ceiling” that results in substantially lower take-home pay than their male counterparts — even though paying less for the same work has been flat-out illegal since 1964 under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The most recent study published in October 2011 by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, based on Department of Labor Statistics, reports the “gender gap” drops to 3.6 percent when comparing education, continuous years on the job, additional sick leave by women, identical job requirements and most important, hours worked per week.
Over the years, we’ve been expected to believe that employers would rather pay men up to 41 percent higher wages for doing identical jobs as qualified women and sacrifice profits. Not likely! The 3.6% is well within the margin of error.
Back in 1994, the New York Times, citing the census, reported that black college-educated women with five years on the job earned more than black men or white women and only 5.5% less than white men. The latest Bureau of Labor data still show college-educated African-American women earning more than white women.
Women today dominate many fields — 100 percent of medical secretaries, 96.1 percent of administrative assistants, but still less than 1 percent of the highest-paying jobs of miners, welders, iron workers, loggers, roofers, bricklayers, sewer cleaners, off-shore drilling riggers and high-rise window washers. All these jobs are lumped together in calculating the gap. A remarkable aside: Men account for 82 percent of occupational deaths — 12 times more than women — which itself holds some interesting implications for comparing jobs between men and women.
While it’s true that only one woman in 301,000 GE employees has a chance of becoming CEO of General Electric, it’s also true that only one man in 301,000 has a chance of becoming CEO. A college degree alone doesn’t make one qualified.
Why are so many people uninformed, myth-informed on so many issues? Former Los Angeles Times reporter Rick Paddock told me, “The truth — newspapers don’t print the truth, they print what people say.”
If they print two sides of an issue as Sally Fields said in the movie “Absence of Malice,” one side may be “not true — but accurate” and therefore, much, if not most, of the information upon which we base our opinions may be not true. All that we read today is true, partially true or not true. Only by examining all sides can we decide for ourselves what’s true and what’s not.