Next Tuesday — the same day Pennsylvania holds its Democratic primary — feminists will stomp to state capitols across the nation to proclaim the falsehood of the so-called gender wage gap. But if women really only make 77 cents on every dollar men earn, why is the well-oiled protest machine behind Equal Pay Day encouraging women to take the day off?
Since 1996, the National Committee on Pay Equity has organized Equal Pay Day. According to the organization’s Web site, “Because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay.” On this year’s day of protest, we are all encouraged to “wear RED on Equal Pay Day to symbolize how far women and minorities are ‘in the red’ with their pay!”
I won’t be wearing red that day. I won’t be joining in the chants for equality. And while I’ll be busy working, I might just put on green — the color of money and a nod to the equality that the vast majority of women have achieved in the workplace.
We should also mark this annual liberal holiday by spreading the truth. By using basic government statistics — readily available but consciously neglected by every known feminist activist — we calmly demonstrate that while the average woman does indeed earn less than the average man, the gap has very little, if anything, to do with discrimination. It has everything to do with choice.
According to the NCPE, women’s earnings in 2006 were 76.9 percent of men’s, with the median full-time, year-round female employee earning just $32,515, compared to a median male earning of $42,261. But should we be outraged? No. And here’s why.
Women earn less largely because we have the luxury of decisions that men generally can only dream of. We work less hours in the average work week, we are more likely to take time off to have kids or care for aging parents, and we choose lower paying fields requiring less formal education. Oh, and we’re less far less likely to be killed at work, a little detail often neglected at the NCPE.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, men are much more likely to suffer fatal workplace injuries than women. According to 2006 BLS statistics, the most recent year available, 428 American women were killed on the job. Compare this with the 5,275 men who lost their lives.
The reason: Men take more dangerous, laborious, and physically demanding jobs, and they are compensated heavily for taking such positions. According to the BLS, the most deadly fields for 2006 were those heavily dominated by men, including logging, mining, waste management, law enforcement, construction, and transportation projects.
Conversely, as the BLS statistics demonstrated, the fields with the lowest death rates, including education and social services, are female-dominated. Ultimately, the average man is more willing than the average woman to spend his days inside dark mines to extract coal.
Act like a man and you’ll be compensated as one. According to a 2002 analysis published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, “among people ages 27 to 33 who have never had a child, women’s earnings approach 98 percent of men’s.”
In addition, as the NCPA notes, “data from the National Longitudinal Survey reveal that women between the ages of 18 and 34 have been out of the labor force 27 percent of the time, in contrast to 11 percent for men.”
But the bottom line is that most women don’t want to act like men. And that is why they continue to ignore Equal Pay Day. Year after year, government statistics repeatedly demonstrate that we sacrifice higher salaries in favor of more time with our kids and our aging parents. We choose more satisfying, but lower-grossing fields. We even spend less hours per week in the car commuting to work than our male co-workers. If only men could be so lucky.
When I’ve spoken out on the gender wage lie in the past, I’ve been confronted by angry name calling and allegations that I don’t know what it’s like to live hour-to-hour or paycheck-to-paycheck. In fact, I lived just such a life as a young adult, knowing what it’s like to survive off little more than ramen noodles and the generosity of friends.
For women living such an existence today, self-pity based on a contrived notion of discrimination will get them nowhere. Hard work, including longer hours, more aggressive salary negotiations, and a better education are their hope out. And even tonight, after I put my kids to bed in a home that my husband and I bought together, I will head back to my computer. I will be studying toward the law degree that I hope will one day help increase my annual salary.
But the Left doesn’t want women to believe in the American Dream. If we listen to Hillary Clinton, we just can’t make it without government help. She has long bragged of championing the “Paycheck Fairness Act,” legislation that according to the NCPE, “seeks to end wage discrimination against those who work in female-dominated or minority-dominated jobs by establishing equal pay for equivalent work.” NCPE gives the following example: “Within individual companies, employers could not pay jobs that are held predominately by women less than jobs held predominately by men if those jobs are equivalent in value to the employer.”
So, what about hospitals? Certainly, a smart hospital administrator seeking quality patient care should value a good nurse as much — or even more — than a good doctor. But should the doctor and the nurse make the same amount?
Oh, but as NCPE notes, there is a loophole to the legislation, allowing “exceptions for different wage rates based on seniority, merit, or quantity or quality of work. It also contains a small business exemption.” Just imagine the endless litigation if the bill were to ever pass.
I believe that Clinton is right when she writes that “women are eight times less likely to negotiate their starting salaries then (sic) men and if a woman with a starting salary of $25,000 fails to negotiate for $5,000 more a year, she stands to lose more than $568,000 by age 60.”
Her response is to advocate, also as part of the PFA, taxpayer-funded counseling that would teach women how to negotiate better salaries.
Clinton has so little faith in women that she believes we need special help from bureaucrats to learn the value of negotiation. A little free market education should suffice just fine.
But Clinton doesn’t just stop with market meddling and mandatory counseling. She also brags on her Web site that she has “introduced a Senate Resolution honoring women in the trades,” and worked to improve the federal vocational educational program “by providing incentives for states to help girls and women enter and succeed in non-traditional fields.” In Clinton’s world, government-initiated social engineering would encourage women to become welders over pre-school teachers. Would she also advocate that women work longer hours, take more dangerous jobs, and spend more time away from their kids while commuting to work?
Next Tuesday, don’t wear red. Wear green. Wear it because women are succeeding in the free market more than ever before,doing so in spite of loud, government-backed paternalistic campaign that continues to insist we can’t make it on our own.
Sign up to the Human Events newsletter