Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fluke, and others, on equal pay

Hold on to your hats, folks: Sandra Fluke is back in the news, this time writing for CNN about the equal pay gap:

As a graduating student surrounded by classmates about to assume their first jobs, I assure the senator that none of my female classmates is thinking, "Salary isn't that important to me. I don't plan to work hard and don't need to be paid fairly, because I won't be a breadwinner. A man will come along to take care of that for me."

Instead, many young women about to enter the workforce are focused on paying off their student loan debt. Those who are also mothers are worried about how to financially provide for, and simultaneously care for, their young children. The single moms among us face even larger challenges. And we are worried about our sisters who don't have college degrees and so don't have the same earning power.

What female students might not remember is that the men with whom we stand shoulder-to-shoulder at graduation don't face the same financial challenges. Many young women of my generation believe they live in a post-feminist world, without unfair sex discrimination -- a world in which career paths are designed with fathers and mothers in mind. Unfortunately, that world doesn't exist quite yet.

A significant gender pay gap still persists. That's why we cannot be passive as we acknowledge Equal Pay Day, which marks the day when a woman's earnings catch up to what her male peers earned in the previous year. To millennials, it's startling to see that women still earn just 77 cents to the dollar of what men earn. Women of color are hit especially hard: African-American and Hispanic women earn 70% and 61%, respectively, of what white men earn. Without any male income in their household, single women and lesbians may feel the pay gap effect all the more. This wage gap costs working women and their families more than $10,000 annually and jeopardizes women's retirement security.

This gap isn't just about women making different choices in their careers. Even after accounting for occupation, hours worked, education, age, race, ethnicity, marital status, number of children and more, a difference of 5% still persists in the earnings of male and female college graduates one year after graduation. After 10 years in the workplace, that gap more than doubles to 12%.

There's lots more, if you have the stomach for it.

And there's a little problem, too--I mean, a problem aside from the same woman who demanded that religious citizens have an obligation to provide her with free birth control now insisting that women should be treated no differently from men. Which is it, Ms. Fluke? You can't have it both ways! But the problem I refer to is simple: Fluke doesn't cite any statistics supporting her claim that even after accounting for choices and differences in background pay still differs by 5% to 12% for people one to ten years post-graduation--and other reports, which do cite statistics, paint a very different picture.

Take this, from Steve Tobak at CBS, written last March:

According to all the media headlines about a new White House report, there's still a big pay gap between men and women in America. The report found that women earn 75 cents for every dollar men make. Sounds pretty conclusive, doesn't it? Well, it's not. It's misleading.

According to highly acclaimed career expert and best-selling author, Marty Nemko, "The data is clear that for the same work men and women are paid roughly the same. The media need to look beyond the claims of feminist organizations."

On a radio talk show, Nemko clearly and forcefully debunked that ultimate myth - that women make less than men - by explaining why, when you compare apples to apples, it simply isn't true. Even the White House report: Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being explains why. Simply put, men choose higher-paying jobs.

Here are 8 reasons why the widely accepted and reported concept that women are paid less than men is a myth. The timing couldn't be better - today's International Women's Day 2011. What better time to empower women with the truth instead of treating them like victims. And, in case you're wondering, Nemko's source of information is primarily the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics - rock solid.

Read the 8 reasons here.

Now, if that's not enough, take a quick peek at this essay by Carrie Lukas in the Wall Street Journal from last April:

The Department of Labor's Time Use survey shows that full-time working women spend an average of 8.01 hours per day on the job, compared to 8.75 hours for full-time working men. One would expect that someone who works 9% more would also earn more. This one fact alone accounts for more than a third of the wage gap.

Choice of occupation also plays an important role in earnings. While feminists suggest that women are coerced into lower-paying job sectors, most women know that something else is often at work. Women gravitate toward jobs with fewer risks, more comfortable conditions, regular hours, more personal fulfillment and greater flexibility. Simply put, many women—not all, but enough to have a big impact on the statistics—are willing to trade higher pay for other desirable job characteristics.

Men, by contrast, often take on jobs that involve physical labor, outdoor work, overnight shifts and dangerous conditions (which is also why men suffer the overwhelming majority of injuries and deaths at the workplace). They put up with these unpleasant factors so that they can earn more.

Recent studies have shown that the wage gap shrinks—or even reverses—when relevant factors are taken into account and comparisons are made between men and women in similar circumstances. In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts. Given that women are outpacing men in educational attainment, and that our economy is increasingly geared toward knowledge-based jobs, it makes sense that women's earnings are going up compared to men's.

Hmm. 8% more doesn't sound like 5 to 10% less, does it?

That may be why Carrie Lukas writes this year, in Forbes, that it's time to end the myth that women don't get equal pay:

Equal Pay Day is supposed to represent the day that women have finally earned enough to make up for last year’s wage gap. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time working women earned 81 percent of what full-time working men earned in 2010 (the most recent data available), leaving a “gap” of 19 percent between the sexes. But that means to make up for that “under-payment,” women would have to work through March 10. So we are celebrating Equal Pay Day more than a month late.Yet the mistaken logic of Equal Pay Day goes deeper than this simple calculation. Equal Pay Day presumes that the difference between men and women’s average earnings stems from discrimination, as President Obama suggested in his official proclamation last year: “I call upon all Americans to recognize the full value of women’s skills and their significant contributions to the labor force, acknowledge the injustice of wage discrimination, and join efforts to achieve equal pay.”

The wage gap statistic, however, doesn’t compare two similarly situated co-workers of different sexes, working in the same industry, performing the same work, for the same number of hours a day. It merely reflects the median earnings of all men and women classified as full-time workers.

Lukas then repeats some of the points she's made before: that men work longer hours and are over-represented in difficult, uncomfortable, and dangerous jobs, while women choose careers that have perceived rewards beyond mere salary; she points out:

Unsurprisingly, children play an important role in men and women’s work-life decisions. Simply put, women who have children or plan to have children tend to be willing to trade higher pay for more kid-friendly positions. In contrast, men with children typically seek to earn more money in order to support children, sometimes taking on more hours and less attractive positions to do so.

Academics can debate why men and women make these different choices. The important takeaway, however, is that there are many reasons that men and women on average earn different amounts. It’s a mistake to assume that “wage gap” statistics reflect on-the-job discrimination.

Sandra Fluke insists that women are paid less than men when they do the exact same jobs working the exact same hours and with the exact same level of education and experience. But Carrie Lukas, Marty Nemko, and a whole host of writers, economists and others have refuted that claim time and time again. The bottom line is that when women make educational and career choices like those of men and spend the same number of hours working they can meet or even exceed men's salaries. But women want to be free to choose to put their children or families ahead of their careers, to work shorter hours when necessary, to reject certain dangerous or unpleasant career fields, to seek family-friendly jobs and occupations, and to decide for themselves whether they measure in terms of dollars accumulated or in terms of less-traditional measures of job satisfaction. Shouldn't true feminists respect the reality at work here, and honor the choices women make in these areas?


L. said...

"Shouldn't true feminists respect the reality at work here, and honor the choices women make in these areas?"

In a word, NO.

The reality -- as I know, from being in a management position in a U.S. company and being privy to hiring decisions -- is that men were offered about 10% more for the SAME JOB than married women.

Why? Because men were perceived as breadwinners supporting their families (oddly, even if they had working wives). And women were perceived as being supported by their husbands. "Gee, they're earning the family's second income, they don't need to earn as much as the breadwinner," etc. Also, women of childbearing age (20's, 30's) were offered less because "You never knew when they're going to take a little 'baby break' for a few months, and maybe never come back to work," etc.

I called bullsh*t whenever I saw it, but these attitudes were real.

I will avidly support anyone's decision to be a stay-at-home wife (or husband!), but I will get angry whenever I hear someone assuming that ALL women make that choice. I refuse to be punished for other woman's choices, and if this counts as dishonoring those choices, then I can surely live with that.

eulogos said...

Frankly, I think society was better off when these assumptions were true. And children certainly were.
Susan Peterson

priest's wife said...

I make almost double what my husband makes hourly.


I work only 10 hours and I receive no benefits- he works 40 hours (well- really more, but that is what he is paid for)-- so the feminists could say I make less than 75% of him- but it is my CHOICE to work part-time

L. said...

Susan Peterson, I don't know if you're referring to my comment when you say "these assumptions," but if you are, I fail to see how it's better for children to have mothers earn 10% less than their fathers for the SAME JOB.
Not only does that scenario shortchange a significant percentage of women in the workforce, it also cuts right at the heart of the small but growing demographic of stay-at-home fathers.
In order to have a society in which individual families are able to make choices that best meet their particular needs, we need to start with a level playing field.

NJ Kim said...

Something else that I didn't see mentioned anywhere is the skill one has at negotiating a salary and/or raise. I had a boss tell me once that the company will only pay you the bare minimum they think it'll take to keep you. My eyes were opened.

I think women have a harder time in general in asking for more, for confidently recognizing their worth in the company and demanding better compensation.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Contraception should be equally available to men and women. The fact that women use it more, because most methods don't apply to men, is irrelevant.

Some time ago, there were carping cynics who complained that providing pregnancy leave to women was sexual discrimination. OK, provide by law that any man or woman who becomes pregnant is entitled to pregnancy leave, and to return to their job when the leave ends. No discrimination. I don't want to hear men complaining that they don't get the same leave. If they want the leave, all they have to do is get pregnant.

(Speaking as a man, in case anyone is still confused).