October 29 2012
An Unbalanced Conversation about the Pay Gap
Last week the American Association of University Women (AAUW) released yet another report about the pay gap between the genders — not surprisingly just two weeks before a presidential election when Mr. Obama is desperate for single women voters.
The AAUW hardly needed any more media attention, but of course today the New York Times picked up the story, simply parroting the AAUW report without even the pretense of doing any reporting of its own. At least National Journal took quite a bit of time with me on the phone before writing their story on the report.
I can concede that even when you control for a variety of variables — college major, time taken out of the workplace, time spent in the office — a small wage gap persists between men and women (in the AAUW study, 6.6 percent). The more important question, however, is why?
Feminist groups on the left, including the AAUW, continue to insist the pay gap is entirely a function of gender bias. But that’s certainly not the whole story. The fact is there is a robust conversation about what other social, cultural, and biological factors might play into the different choices men and women make and how that translates into wages. For instance, we know that women don’t negotiate their salaries as often as men do. (See The Science on Women and Science, edited by AEI’s Christina Hoff Sommers, a good treatment of these gender differences.)
The bottom line is that the wage gap is not the overwhelming threat progressives make it out to be. A small pay disparity remains and there’s a chance to have a honest conversation about the reasons behind it and what women can do to overcome it — but it should start with all the facts on the table.
— Sabrina L. Schaeffer is executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum.