Equal Pay Day

So, yesterday was Equal Pay Day, the day when the average woman’s wages catch up with what the average man earned the previous year.  Evelyn Murphy is promoting a new organization, the WAGE project, to combat wage inequality.  The web site looks interesting.

I have to admit that I took Murphy’s book, Getting Even, out of the library, and only made it about half way through it.  Drawing mostly on court records, she discusses the various ways that gender discrimination is alive and kicking.  From blue collar workers whose gear was soaked in urine, to the Sears saleswomen systematically kept out of the high commission departments, to investment bankers facing the old boys’ network, she records case after case.  It’s depressing reading.

Without minimizing the role of discrimination in keeping women’s earnings down, I think Murphy goes too far in dismissing the role of self-selection and work-family issues.  Yes, the workers from which the 77 cents on the dollar figure comes are all full-time workers.  But male full-time workers work, on average, more hours than female full-time workers.  And — as we’ve discussed here before — women feel freer, for better or worse, to choose jobs for reasons other than making the most money possible.

For terrific discussion of these issues, see:

8 Responses to “Equal Pay Day”

  1. stephen Says:

    Count me among those who don’t think the wage gap is real. Men and women are not equally represented in different sectors of the economy, because of their own personal choices. Women often prefer more social and fullfilling careers, and are willing to sacrifice money for meaning.
    If you go hunting for examples of discrimination, you will find them. Whether it’s against women or in favor of women. The Alas blog, and similar ones, have very entrenched opinions. They also assume that men and women are perfectly interchangeable in the workplace, when for many jobs employers might rightly prefer to higher one over the other, for good business reasons.
    Here is a good recent The Economist article based on an in depth UK study. I hope the link works:
    Wage Gap Article

  2. Bewise Says:

    You know I have a totally different opinion on the subject of equality in “WOMANS” wages.. straight and to the point when you simply bring up this issue you make this a classist argument between mens rights vs. womans rights and because there are black woman.. there are hispanic woman.. there are chinese woman?? who then are you talking about or are you simply attempting to get more affirmative action for your own “GROUP” be it a womans group.. black group.. hispanis group.. whatever.. if this is the case that places me in the all white male group.. and at that point I would defend my own group to the teeth so I hope that you dont get any rights and that you also dont get any of your so called “equality” as this would be taken from me.. to raise yourselves.. Your idea of equality is equal to men losing their footing so that a woman could gain hers.. Furthermore the golden rule says the “MAN” with the gold makes the rules… I think it should stay that way as money and influence bring power and prestige for the group that has the say so.. leading to one group raining superior over all others.. displayed in their rights as a people.. I do not abrogate giving any more even rights to females in that particular group (meaning those who advocate equality in earning for woman only)… A matter of fact since I am in the opposite group I advocate less rights and equality for them.. I would call this whole game nothing more than a witches circle and should be treated as such… Have a nice day…

  3. Christine Says:

    Bewise, be aware that whether you like it or not things change and the world will not be controlled by white men forever. Even Rome fell. However, you did bring to my mind a debate I had with a white male relative – did I believe in discrimination. I believe discrimination is wrong, but I suppose it is necessary to discriminate against white men in order for any person other than a white man to get ahead. I suppose that since most women take care of house and home they are left out of the workforce to enforce change. The world has changed since women have fought for equal opportunities and pay. There are still so many fields in which women and other cultures are discriminated. Women never asked for the majority, just opportunity. Historically this country has had to make changes in the rights of women for necessity – the Civil War brings to my mind all the widows and orphans. Unfortunately, the power group discriminates on more than women and only acts in self-interest.

  4. Jennifer Says:

    Stephen, I was surprised by you linking to that article, as I hadn’t remembered it saying that the wage gap is due to women’s choices, and on re-reading it, it doesn’t. It says that much of the pay gap at the beginning of a career (which is “only” 9%) is due to career choices, but goes on to say later that most of those choices are due to girls being pushed in particular directions by their schools and career advisers, and not being told the economic consequences of their choices.
    And the majority of the gap is due to motherhood, and the fact that part-time jobs (which most mothers want) pay far less per hour than equivalent full-time jobs, and are usually at lower levels of seniority as well.
    Sure, in a narrow sense, girls could seek out good advice beyond the school system, and avoid motherhood, but neither seem particularly realistic to me on a societal scale.

  5. bewise Says:

    Your correct.. the president of the world .. the leader of the united nations is black so accually white men do not control the world.. but as long as they are the class that I am in I support their right to rule.. if I was a woman… I would say that women should rule the world.. but as the rulers of the world control rights .. right down to the jobs I can receive I am siding with my own class at this point and I am not remorseful at all to say that.. Obviously I would be in a better political spectrum to side with my own side as long as they gave me what I want.. in a perfect world.. at least in my mind there would be anarchy for myself and for those that I control and the rest would become subjects so as not to get out of line and take control from me… But as this isnt a perfect world I try to still instill anarchy for my own life and side with whatever the other groups expressing power over me say to do so that I can go with the flow to an entent and basically tell them what they want to hear so that I can live my own life the way I want.. You cant make everyone happy but if you succeed in making yourselves happy then you have done much good.. thats my motto and I live by it.. to me woman have too many rights.. right to alimony.. child support.. palimony.. they are vested through marriage licenses to 50% of my assets and the government gets 50% of whats left over at death and 50% through capital gains.. if I got a penny of that money its too much at that rate.. my idea is to not get married to a golddigger and get as many tax cuts as you can legally and tell the woman that you want custody so that she doesn’t get a fat check for child support.. I will support my children.. with my own money I shouldnt have to give it to another person at whatever rate they see fit to raise my child for me.. and simply have visitation rights… I am not a visitor I am the father.. I am no deadbeat dad or spermdonor I am a sperm owner.. those are my reproductive rights and should be treated as such… As for womans rights they should be few and far between.. especially if they choose such calssist rights…so as to protect my own rights and I am sure they think the same about mine.. if they think it should be equal.. this is not possible 100% of the time.. if equality means I lose some of my rights then I would not like this very much.. if it means she loses thats better for me…. thats the real world.. its not all fun and games.. comments anyone?

  6. stephen Says:

    Well Jennifer if you count deciding to stay home with the kids as a choice (which it is), then it is all about women’s life decisions. Certainly the choice of staying home with the kids is also a possibility for dads, although many fewer dads make that choice. (Very often dads won’t be the one to stay home even if their wives have higher incomes.)
    The article speculates that sometimes women aren’t encouraged to pursue careers. I think they may be stretching it a bit.
    I think that commission set out to find discrimination and came up basically empty handed, and were just grasping at straws.
    If women need special encouragement to pursue lucrative careers, then that says something right there. I’m all in favor of giving them every opportunity that boys have. But once you start pushing them to make the same choices as boys I think it too easily slides into a situation of giving girls extra attention and preferential treatment in schools.
    In the end the mommy track may not be good for the GNP, but if it makes people happier to stay home with their kids then to hell with economics.

  7. Jennifer Says:

    Women don’t need special encouragement to pursue careers; but girls who don’t have much understanding of the real world need to be pushed into work experience where their interests and abilties are, not where gender expectations are. The article says “They were offered work experience in nurseries and hairdressers—even when they had expressed no interest in working in these fields” – hard to imagine that happening to boys. It’s not necessarily an equal playing field.
    And, as the working mother with a stay-at-home dad, I do understand that staying at home is a choice open to men and women. But that choice is punished in a way that doesn’t make economic sense by savagely reducing the opportunities for high pay per hour. Sure, women should be paid less if they are working fewer hours, and have less working experience. But most studies will find that women working part-time, controlling for any other factor you can think of, are paid a lot less per hour than men (or women) in equivalent full-time jobs.
    Economically, we as a society are losing out, as we are losing the high value add of all those women who happen to have taken five years out of their 40 year careers, and don’t want to work 45 hours a week. That doesn’t make them less productive workers per hour, but that’s how society treats them.

  8. tragula Says:

    It’s a classic chicken and egg situation. Do women become hairdressers because society expects them to? Or does society expect women to become hairdressers because many women make that choice?
    Guidance counselors are supposed to suggest the best options to students. But should they use a money yardstick or a happiness yardstick?
    There are plenty of feminists around who argue that women *should* make the most ambitious choices. But plenty of people, craftsmen, artists, actors, hairdressers, social workers etc, are just not that ambitious, in the monetary sense of the word. I think it’s important to accept the fact that some kids don’t dream about becoming president, or CEOs, or astronauts. They may just want to lead simple lives.

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