April 8 is Equal Pay Day, marking the number of extra days into 2014 the average woman has to work to earn as much as her male counterpart did in 2013.--HuffPost
Variations on the theme that women make 77 cents for every dollar their male counterpart makes are endlessly repeated, often by careless, biased or comfortably ignorant media. (See below for links at the bottom for some.). I've tried to shed some light on the subject in my Chicago Tribune column today. Here it is in full:
Tuesday is "Equal Pay Day." Meaning that it's time again to unleash the hounds to flush out all those misogynists who are keeping women in chains.
Women's paychecks don't equal men's because a vast male cabal is populating human relations departments across the land making sure that women's paychecks always and everywhere are smaller.
At least that's the idea that you might get from everyone who rolls out, as they will today, the oft-repeated canard that women "are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men."
It's not true, according to PolitiFact.com, which noted that a 2012 campaign ad for President Barack Obama repeated the deception when it said, "The son of a single mom, proud father of two daughters, President Obama knows that women being paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men isn't just unfair, it hurts families."
Obama played a variation on the same tune when he said in his State of the Union address, "You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns." In this, he left out "for the same work as men," but the statistic remains simplistic and deceptive.
First, it is based on the median income for all women in all jobs, hiding important factors, such as the number of years worked, occupational differences, seasonal employment, self-employment, part-time employment, race and union membership.
How the wages are measured also makes a difference; if you look at weekly instead of annual averages, the wage gap narrows.
When you account for all these differences, a statistical, albeit a smaller, gap between men's and women's wages does remain. Just how much is caused by intentional discrimination is far from settled. Various studies claim that from about 4 percent to 40 percent of the difference cannot be explained by those demographic and other differences, leaving discrimination as the presumed cause. The wide disparity speaks to the inexactness of the science.
But inexact science makes no difference when you're out to make your case by ridiculing, misrepresenting and smearing the other side.
A prime example was some reaction to a recent panel discussion assembled by the conservative Heritage Foundation on "Women's History Month: Evaluating Feminism, Its Failures, and Its Future."
Dana Milbank, in a Washington Post column titled, "Conservatives to women: Lean back," sneered at the female panelists for daring to argue that women can benefit from marriage. It's like arguing, he suggested, that women should to go back in history. To what, I'm not sure.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Robin Abcarian called the discussion "only a misguided indictment of (feminism) based on the premise that having children outside of marriage is bad for kids, bad for women, the fault of feminism and should be restigmatized. Also, panelists said, feminism is bad because women are not as happy as they used to be."
Exactly so. Research shows childbirth outside of marriage does women no favors. And that marriage in many ways, such as emotionally and economically, is beneficial. And that women aren't as happy as they used to be.
After watching the one-hour video of the panel discussion (available on heritage.org), I wasn't sure the two writers paid much attention. But cherry picking the panelists' quotes did serve the purpose of painting a stereotypical portrait of conservatives and Republicans as people (including the women panelists) who would keep women barefoot and pregnant.
Except that the panelists — Karin Agness, founder of the Network of Enlightened Women, columnist Mona Charen and The Federalist senior editor Mollie Hemingway — cited studies showing that marriage does, indeed, reduce some of the perils that women today face.
Agness pointed out that one of feminism's faults today is that it persists in portraying women as victims, an outdated, 30-year-old strategy. It's hard to imagine, for example, an education system as it is set up today that is not promoting girls' achievements, she said.
Certainly, everyone should earn equal pay for equal work. The argument succeeds on its own merits without having to resort to scorn and deception.
Now follow the links to the endless irresponsible commentary:
"Today, women still make only 77 cents to every man's dollar..." The White House propaganda mill.
Finally, CNN attempts to set the record straight on the 77-cent claim:
Professional fact checkers at Factcheck.org (“exaggeration”), Politifact(“Mostly False”) and The Washington Post (“one Pinocchio”) have all found problems with the claim. The American Association of University Womenreleased a report that concluded the pay gap was closer to 7% than 23%.
Oh, and by the way, the White House's own record isn't all that great, according to the American Enterprise Institute:
Gender wage gap in Obama’s White House: Female staffers earn only 88 cents on the dollar compared to men.
A question on that discrepancy caught White House press secretary Jay Carney off guard Monday.
"What I can tell you is that we have, as an institution here, have aggressively addressed this challenge, and obviously, though, at the 88 cents that you cite, that is not a hundred, but it is better than the national average," he said. "And when it comes to the bottom line that women who do the same work as men have to be paid the same, there is no question that that is happening here at the White House at every level."
Confusion is good for the soul.
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