April 18 2012

She's Baaack!

Charlotte Hays

Sandra Fluke, who became famous for contending that contraception for a year costs her female colleagues at Georgetown Law $3,000, has penned a piece on Equal Pay Day.

Fluke starts from the premise that women such as herself, a graduate of one of the top law schools in the country, will face gender discrimination:

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.

So, if you don’t feel that you are being discriminated against on the basis of your sex, you live in a dream world and require more attuned people like Ms. Fluke to raise your consciousness. Could have fooled me, what with employers seeking to hire women and young women outnumbering men on college campuses.

Ms. Fluke cites the wage gap so beloved of feminists. IWF argues that the wage gap is the result of choices women make and that, when these are factored in, the gap shrinks to about two cents on the dollar, not the 77 cents to a dollar margin Fluke cites. Ms. Fluke writes:

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%.

Ms. Fluke is citing an American Association of University Women study. But there are many reasons a gap shows up ten years after graduation. One is preferences for personally fulfilling work (the women’s choices Fluke dismisses). Even women who don’t have children might start gravitating towards careers that prepare for having kids.

I must note that Ms. Fluke seems unaware of statistics showing that young, urban professional women just out of college actually earn more than their male counterparts. My colleague Carrie Lukas wrote last year in the Wall Street Journal:

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.

Ms. Fluke, who is being represented by a PR firm that has close ties to the Obama administration (or did before the administration had to throw the firm’s most famous member, Hilary Rosen, under the bus), then turns her attention to the Lilly Leadbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, curiously a talking point of the administration’s, too.

As Carrie, our resident expert on the wage gap, has noted, the Lilly Leadbetter Act isn’t about fair pay—it’s about lawsuits. In a way, one might argue that it is going to do a heck of a lot more for the Sandra Flukes of this world than the Lilly Leadbetters.

Fluke’s basic idea is that the government should be more involved in the workplace, setting pay scales, mandating paid sick leave, etc. We all want better wages and paid sick leave, but employers need to be able to set these policies themselves. Some might go out of business if government steps in and makes them provide things they can’t afford. Fluke doesn’t have any notion of the need to balance competing concerns.

But it is hard to take seriously the economic reasoning of a woman who thought contraception cost $3,000 a year, when it was available at a nearby Target for $9 a month.

 

 

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