Thursday, April 9, 2015

Debunking the equal pay for equal work myth

During her Academy Awards acceptance speech earlier this year, actress Patricia Arquette briefly drifted away from the standard “thank you” and said this: “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

The crowd erupted in one of the loudest and most immediate applauses of the night and social media blew up over her statement.

Such a reaction wasn’t entirely unexpected. Hollywood is in the business of peddling myths, made-up storylines that are supposed to tug at the heartstrings of the masses, and there’s nothing more mythical than the widely-held belief that women don’t earn equal pay for equal work.

That baseless socioeconomic theory has been pushed not only by feminist fervor but also by political gamesmanship to gain favor with half of the population; after all, President Obama and Governor Cuomo pushed the issue almost immediately upon taking office even though anti-discriminatory protections have existed for decades. The equal pay warriors base their efforts on the commonly-touted statistic that women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men do (although the Bureau of labor Statistics has shown that it has grown to 81 cents in recent years, a statistic we will use in this discussion).

What they don’t do is tell you the full story. As a matter of fact, they even lie. The 19% income difference has absolutely nothing to do with equal pay for equal work, even though they will tell you that it does until they are blue in the face. Instead, it has everything to do with career choices and, in turn, unequal work.

The BLS says that women working full-time – and by “full-time” the BLS means at least 35 hours – earn $691 per week while men earn $854. A good portion of that gap can be attributed to the number of hours worked because you’re not comparing apples to apples; the BLS is using a wide brush stroke to cover all full-time workers, whether they work 35 hours or 60 hours.

The statistic doesn’t indicate that, as a rule, men have longer workweeks than women. Men are twice as likely to work in excess of 40 hours a week. The hours differential indicates a trade-off that still exists, even in this post-women’s lib era: Mothers opt to spend more time at home to care for their children emotionally and intellectually while fathers choose to work longer hours at the plant or office to take care of their children financially. By working less (at least from a career standpoint, because raising children is work unto itself and may be the most important “job” of all), women earn less.

Another driver of the income gap is career paths. Men still dominate what are higher-paying fields by the very nature of the work that are women aren’t as keen on, be it for physically-demanding reasons (manufacturing, construction, mining, maintenance) or high-risk, high-reward criteria (policing, prison guarding, logging).

Even some of the most highly-compensated white-collar jobs are more likely to be chosen by men. In a study by Georgetown University that looked at the academic majors that lead to the greatest incomes, those roles were dominated by the guys. Among the top five, women were the majority for only one of them: Petroleum Engineering (87% male); Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences (48% male); Mathematics and Computer Science (67% male); Aerospace Engineering (88% male) and Chemical Engineering (72% male).

That same study looked at the least remunerative college majors and found those to be mostly dominated by women: Counseling Psychology (74% female); Early Childhood Education (97% female); Theology and Religious Vocations (34% female); Human Services and Community Organization (81% female) and Social Work (88% female).

In essence, by being the creatures that they are, men choose the individualistic and deeper-thinking roles which are handsomely-funded by the private sector in direct relation for the revenues and profits they create, while women choose the more interpersonal and deeper-loving careers which typically reside in the public sector where there is a limit to the wages that can be paid.   

The simple truth of the matter is that the Patricia Arquettes, Barack Obamas and Andrew Cuomos of the world are dead wrong – and purposely misleading - when it comes to the wage gap between men and women. The “equal pay for equal work” routine is sheer nonsense. Women’s incomes are not lower on average because of some evil corporate conspiracy; they’re lower because of how women willingly choose to participate in the workplace.

From the 13 April 2015 Lockport Union Sun & Journal

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