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10 Things You Need To Know About Wage Equality


Yup, women - on average - make less than men. Wage inequality! But is it really so cut and dry?

Image source: Shutterstock

I saw a captivating commercial this last week.

There’s a woman standing in front of a mirror in an office bathroom, nervously mumbling to her reflection.

Over and over again she talks to the mirror, rehearsing difficult task of asking for a raise. Finally she works up the courage, leaves the bathroom - and the commercial closes with a pitch that their deodorant holds up better under high stress situations.

Oh yeah, and the hashtag #EqualPayDay appears on the bottom of the screen.

It’s a common narrative: women make less than men. Because, discrimination - right?

Image source: Shutterstock

Or is it?

Let’s dig in.

1. There actually IS an annual Equal Pay Day.

Started 20 years ago by the National Committee on Pay Equity, Equal Pay Day marks “the day that symbolically marks how much longer women supposedly have to work to catch up to what men earned in the previous year.” For the record, this year it was April 12th.

2. There IS income inequality between genders.

Politics and agendas aside, let’s just look at the data. According to the Bureau of Labor Department statistics, yup - you’re looking at a 22 percent gap between what full-time female workers earn and what full-time male workers earn. There’s a catch though…

3. There’s a BIG difference between national average median income versus “on the dollar” earnings for the exact same job and the exact same skillset.

We’ve all heard it: “Women make 78 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts.”

And while that makes for a heck of a campaign stump line, it’s flatly untrue. But if women’s median income is 22 percent less than a men’s isn’t that the same?

No. ACTUAL wage discrimination is when a fully capable, trained and talented woman makes 22 percent less than her fully capable, trained and talented male coworker in the EXACT same position under the EXACT same conditions. Median income, however, is effected by a whole host of personal choices (which we’ll discuss below).

4. Men tend to choose higher paying career paths.

It’s a fact: Women tend to choose careers that don’t pay as much.

Still, people will say women are pressured into making these career choices. By whom, exactly? After all, we’re talking about a society in which more women than men are graduating from college. So I’m confused - who’s doing the pressuring in college if girls are dominating graduation rates?

Still others will claim that it’s overt sexism and hostile work environments in certain fields that drive women away. Where exactly is the data to back that up that claim as being systematic?

But let’s assume that it’s true. Please tell that to Madam C.J. Walker. Or Jackie Robinson. Or anyone else venturing into (and becoming completely successful in) fields traditionally reserved for other genders or races, or both.

5. Men tend to work slightly longer days than women.

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

“…even among full-time workers (those usually working 35 hours or more per week), men worked longer than women—8.4 hours compared with 7.8 hours.”

Look at the gap over the course of a year (assuming roughly 261 work days a year). At 8.4 hours a day, men are working 2,192.4 hours a year, while women at - 7.8 hours a day - are working roughly 2,035.8 a year. That’s a gap of 156.6 hours a year.

Is it any wonder women take home less pay?

And no, we women are hardly lazy. Just for one reason or other, we’re working a bit less. We’re choosing flexible schedules at a higher rate, we’re selecting jobs that provide greater windows of time for family. Which leads me to #6…

6. Children affect income (and it’s not just the diapers).

Seriously though, there’s a University of Massachusetts study that indicates that for every child a woman has, her income goes down 4 percent.

Why? You take extra time off from work beyond what your employer’s maternity leave pays you (cha-ching). You decide to work less hours in the day to get home earlier to be with your children (cha-ching). You decide to stay home all together until your kids get older - and don’t re-enter the workforce for several years, putting you behind your colleagues (male and female) who stayed in (cha-ching).

Some will also point out that employers are less excited about hiring a mother whose children might be a distraction. And that may be true.

Here’s the thing: That’s all the result of a choice. We can have arguments about how our maternity leave isn’t enough, or employers should be more flexible - but at the end of the day, you made a choice to have kids (or engaged in the activity that, ehem, CAN lead to kids). That’s not the result of Ol’ Boys Club salary discrimination.

7. Men are more likely to ask for a raise.

And if you’re not asking for a raise - male or female - you’re very unlikely to magically “get” it.

As The American Enterprise Institute’s Christina Hoff Sommers writes, the actual wage gap (which, with all factors considered, is roughly 6.6 cents) “may be owed to women’s supposedly inferior negotiating skills - not unscrupulous employers.”

So sure, negotiate for your pay. Be bold. If you work hard and you can prove you’re worth more, why not? Just know that whatever you’re making now (if you don’t believe it’s enough) probably isn’t because your boss is a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”

8. Yes, there are some examples of what looks like pure discrimination.

Take professional soccer, for example. The U.S. “national women’s soccer team is paid 40 percent less than the men’s.”

Professional soccer is professional soccer, right? Well, yes - except we’re not considering demand here. Yes, the Women’s World Cup this year drew record viewership, but in general, women’s soccer tends to draw less attention than men’s. Why? It’s certainly not because these women aren’t epically talented, it’s about what the consumer is consuming. As Shane Ferro of Business Insider puts it, “Female soccer players are paid less because their sport makes less.”

It’s not because ESPN hates women and covers their sports less, it’s not because world sports organizations hate women, either. I can guarantee that the minute consumers become more interested in female soccer, you’ll see Hope Solo earning a heck of a lot more than Tim Howard.

Mark my words.

9. Gender-based pay discrimination is already illegal.

Signed into law on June 10, 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, the Equal Pay Act is pretty clear (emphasis mine):

“No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.”


It’s already illegal to pay a female less than a male for the exact same job in the exact same circumstance.

So, I’m wondering: Where are the mass federal prosecutions of businesses routinely and happily breaking this law?

10. It’s got a solution: Force women to make different choices.

I love this line: “It [the median income gap] can only be fixed by forcing women to make different choices, which is absurd.”

What choices, you ask? Well…

  • Don’t study the major you like.
  • Don’t choose the career you want.
  • Don’t get married and have children.
  • Don’t stay home with your kids.

Absurd, indeed.

Ladies (and gentleman), let’s take personal responsibility. If an employer is actually breaking the law, go the authorities. Period.

Otherwise, if you’re like most people not employed by a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,” then it looks like you’ve got a decision to make.

It’s about what you value most - because let me be very clear: life requires us to make choices to balance our professional goals with our personal life because it’s often difficult to make it ALL fit in.

If your eye’s on the money, then make your choice.

Problem solved.

Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com (a political commentary blog), and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show (TheBlaze Radio Network, Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m. ET). She can be reached at: afuturefree@aol.com; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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