Do Women Receive Equal Pay For Equal Work?

It is very common to hear the statistic ‘women make $0.77 for every $1.00 men earn for doing the same job’ in reference to the ‘gender wage gap’, especially now that the Paycheck Fairness Act has been reintroduced into Congress by Senator Clinton. But Carrie Lukas, in a recent Washington Post article about the Act, argues that the legislation would actually hurt women in the workplace, rather than helping them.

Paycheck Fairness Act

The Act, which would ‘close loopholes in the law’ and disallow an affirmative defense by employers defending against equal pay lawsuits, is just asking for trouble.’ The result of its passage would be government-mandated pay increases to women would be to pay those individuals who are already being compensated with non-monetary benefits more money, all in the name of a single statistic.But that statistic, the ’77 cents’ statistic, is demonstrably false.

It looks like they account for everything, right?’

No.’ What this fails to account for are the motivating factors involved in that gap, and what the gap actually means.’

Speaking partly from her own experience, Carrie Lukas relates how in their careers, women have always overwhelmingly valued flexibility in work hours, secondary benefits such as generous health plans, availability of leave of absences, fulfillment, and the like.’ This is shown by survey after survey.’ For example, a recent Rochester University of Technology survey that showed that 79 percent of the men were most concerned with money, as compared to only 29 percent of women.Women are therefore more often remunerated with these desired benefits, rather than monetary raises.

Additionally, the most dangerous jobs are traditionally given to men (94 percent of all on-the-job fatalities are suffered by male workers, according to a 2005 study by Arrah Nielson), and men tend to work an average of eight hours more per week than their female colleagues (according to a 1997 study by Phillip Rones and Jennifer Gardner).It only follows to reason that men are paid more for dangerous work and longer hours.

Author Warren Farrell, author of ‘Why Men Earn More’ and former board member of the NYC Board of Directors for the National Organization for Women, points out that employers are not generally stupid, and if they could cut costs by hiring all women for 3/4 of the standard pay rate, they would jump on the chance to do so.’ In a 2005 article in the New York Times, he indicates that once factors such as age, education, and hours worked are controlled, those women who are unmarried and childless (and therefore presumably more focused on their careers alone) actually earn $1.17 for every $1.00 a man earns for the same job.

Wage gap after all?

So perhaps there is a ‘gender wage gap,’ but not the one we might think.’ ‘ And certainly not one that can be solved with such a clunky piece of legislation as the Paycheck Act.

A prominent example of the problem with today’s attitude is seen when we examine the recent decision by the All England Club, which regulates tennis affairs in Britain, regarding the prizes at the Wimbledon Championship.’ They ruled that in the future, the prizes for men’s and women’s tennis would be the same’hellip; even though men played best-of-five sets, and women played best-of-three sets.’ This put them in line with the other major tennis championships (U.S. Open, Australian Open, French Open), which had made the switch some time previously.

Entertainment too?

This decision by the Club was an unthinking homage to the false $0.77 statistic that has been repeated so many times that it is now accepted without challenge.’ Men do more work and provide more entertainment by playing tennis for spectators for up to five sets, but get the same amount as the women who do less work and provide less entertainment by only playing up to three.Not exactly equitable.

The way forward

All of this is not to say that there are no problems of gender inequality in the workforce.For example, perceived gender roles can limit women to jobs with lower incomes, such as secretaries or waitresses, than the comparable jobs seen as ‘men’s work’, such as contractors or plumbers.But the solution is not to pass a law that would devastate the ability of employers to defend themselves in court against unjust equal pay lawsuits.The solution is to have a rational discussion about the problem and approach each case individually with a reasonable attitude, not an inaccurate statistic about ’77 cents.’

For Hillary Clinton’s use of the statistic, see below:

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