June 5 2012
A Good Day for Women's Equality
Carrie L. Lukas
It’s not: This bill would have encouraged more class-action lawsuits and made workplaces less flexible and efficient by encouraging the adoption of one-size-fits-all compensation practices. Trial lawyers would have been the only real beneficiaries of the Paycheck Fairness Act’s new legal regime. Women who want more job opportunities and greater flexibility should welcome the bill’s defeat.
Yet there is more good news: The Washington Post’s Fact Checker struck an important blow against the premise of those pushing bills like the PaycheckFairness Act and the whole “War on Women” notion. Glenn Kessler explored the different data sets behind the endlessly repeated claim that women earn 77 cents for a man’s dollar and concluded:
This brings us to our larger point: Broad comparisons are inherently problematic. As the BLS points out: “Users should note that the comparisons of earnings in this report are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that may be significant in explaining earnings differences.”
He goes on to cite a survey prepared for the Labor Department that showed that once they controlled for other characteristics “much of the hourly wage gap dwindled, to about 5 cents on the dollar.”
Of course, this didn’t stop the National Organization for Women from repeating the tired line, “It is unacceptable that women are still paid, on average, 77 cents for every dollar paid to men,” with the clear — and misleading — suggestion that this gap is driven by discrimination. Yet certainly the Washington Post’s exposé on the statistic is a step in the right direction.
Let’s hope that the rest of the writers at the Washington Post keep this in mind the next time they hear that stat misused as evidence of an ongoing “War on Women.”