September 24 2013

Latest Forbes Article of Alleged Pay Gap Falls Short

Lindsey Dodge

Forbes’ writer Megan Casserly recently argued in “The Geography Of The Gender Pay Gap: Women’s Earnings By State” that those who push back against the alleged 77 cents-to-a-dollar gender wage discrepancy statistic are “not … able to see the forest through the trees.”

Unfortunately, Casserly seems to have several blind spots of her own.  She suggests that sexism and discrimination are still the reasons for a gender discrepancy, using the American Community Survey’s 2012 statistics on median wage earning and quotes from Lisa Maatz, the policy director at the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Casserly neglects to mention, however, that in the AAUW’s most recent report, they found, “ … When the choice or major, hours worked, and career choices are taken into account, the wage gap shrinks to 6.6 percent. That 6.6 percent is ‘unexplained.’”

When relying so heavily on one source and neglecting to quote an opposing viewpoint, it seems like Casserly could have at least dug a little deeper into AAUW own study which suggests that when career choices are taken into account, the alleged gap is both smaller than 77 percent and not readily attributable to discrimination.

Further, Casserly leads the reader to believe that states with more unionized workers are better for women’s wages. She quotes Maatz as saying, “Unions have always been very good for women in terms of getting their wages and benefits up to par.”

The use of the word ‘always’ is inappropriate:  unions were decidedly opposed to women entering the free market for a long time because of the perceived threat to men’s jobs women posed.

Just one example can be found in the first-ever report to Congress on pay disparities in 1910. As Chas P. Neill, the then-commissioner of labor, wrote, “The National Trades’ Union was decidedly opposed to the employment of women in industry.” He goes on to say, “One of its leaders, William English, in a Fourth-of-July oration before the Philadelphia Trades’ Union, … urged them [women] to form trades unions and raise their wages until ‘half the labor now performed will suffice to live upon … And the less you do,’ he added, ‘the more there will be for the men to do, and the better they will be paid for doing it, and ultimately, you will be what you ought to be, free from the performance of that kind of labor which was designed for man alone to perform.”

As to unions benefitting women’s wages and benefits nowadays, the jury is still out. Union restrictions on flexibility, perhaps the number one contributor to why women choose to work in certain jobs, often particularly hurt women. Further, unions tend to drive up the cost of services and materials to consumers (who are predominantly women). To say that unions have been good for women requires much further substantiation.

In the final analysis, Maatz’s statements about choice are particularly revealing. “I don’t think women are ever choosing jobs that they consciously know are paying them unfairly,” she is quoted as saying.

Perhaps not, but there are countless women who consciously choose jobs that they know will allow them flexibility or a certain lifestyle, and these more often than not involve personal choices of which I suspect Maatz and Casserly disapprove.  

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