Equity blues

June 6, 2008

Holy cow — common sense in a USA TODAY editorial:

Despite significant gains in the past three decades, women working full time still receive only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. That’s not debatable, but why the gap persists and what to do about it are.

The National Committee on Pay Equity, a coalition of women’s and labor groups, sees it largely as a matter of discrimination. The committee urges women to participate in “Equal Pay Day,” ask businesses to audit themselves, form “WAGE clubs” to lobby on the issue and complain to members of Congress.

 

None of this is likely to make much difference.

 

While some women have undeniably suffered pay discrimination in the workplace, and remaining instances warrant harsh legal remedies, bias is just one piece of a much larger puzzle.

 

For starters, the gap is not as bad as it might sound. It refers to overall earnings by gender, not pay for people doing the same job.

 

The fact is, women’s career choices have more to do with the pay difference than does discrimination.

As usual, the paper tries to undercut its own argument by presenting the opposing view from the National Committee on Pay Equity, which believes:

Historical discrimination. In centuries past, women were recruited for occupations (e.g. librarian) in part because they could be paid less. In decades past, it was thought that men worked to support a family while women worked for pin money. Old attitudes are built into wage structures and die hard.

Well, in the past, men did work to support a family, and women didn’t. It might look like discrimination from today’s perspective, but back then, it was just the way things were. Men and women had different roles.

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