As Election Day 2014 nears, it is still not too late to debunk a myth that has been furiously circulating over the past year or two, that “men are paid more than women for the same work.” Of course, this argument has been made for decades, but the more recent version is predicated on a statistic that for every dollar a man is paid, a woman is paid only 77 cents.
There is a good chance that statistic is true – that women, in fact, on the whole earn 77% less than men do for the same job – so for the purposes of this column, let’s accept it as completely accurate. Even so, that does not mean men are paid more than women – at least not in the way that the argument suggests.
A simple illustration: you are sitting around the table during Thanksgiving dinner with ten family members: five women and five men. The women, on average, earn only 77% of what the men earn. That does not automatically mean that upon being hired, the human resources office said: “Oh, this candidate is a man, so we’ll pay him $1000 per week. But this other one is a woman, so pay her only $770.”
But that is the implication liberals/Democrats are peddling: that we live in a nation in which employers decide how much they will pay specific applicants directly based on their gender. (Conservatives/Republicans are every bit as shameful in terms of what they will distort to try to gain votes, by the way, but this particular atrocity is not their doing.)
That contention – that prospective employers say or think: “he’s a man, pay him more – she’s a woman, pay her less” is absurd beyond belief. First of all, doing that would be illegal. Yes there’s a law – a federal one, in fact – that says you can’t pay a man more money just because he’s a man. It’s been around for quite a while. One hundred forty-six years, to be exact. Actually, it is a Constitutional amendment – the Fourteenth – which guarantees equal protection under the law. Simply put, if McDonald’s, Walmart, the local grocery store, or a small accounting firm down the road risked discrimination of employee pay rates based on nothing but gender, they would be out of business.
Losing one’s livelihood is a very serious consequence, one that most people would go to great lengths to avoid. Logically, then, it would seem that only something so fundamental to the core of one’s belief system would be worth the risk.
To a great extent, fanaticism/extremism falls into that category. Islamic fundamentalists kill themselves by flying planes into buildings, just as Japanese kamikaze pilots did for their emperor in World War II. Racists burn crosses on other people’s lawns, and pro-life extremists bomb abortion clinics – both acts that can lead to very long jail sentences. These extremists have such a deep-seated passion, a hateful one, and so they are blind to any consequences, including their own demise.
But is there really such hatred for women?
Though I have argued many times on these pages that the bad “isms” (racism, anti-Semitism, religious fundamentalism, etc.) are the exception, not the rule, there is no doubt that they exist, to an alarming extent. For example, even if we say that just 1 percent of people in America are racists, that’s almost 3.5 million people. So, even though, percentage-wise, it is negligible, it is still a problem. The same holds true for Islamic terrorists – they may constitute a small portion of all Muslims, but even one suicide bomber on this earth is too many.
But misogynists are a far, far rarer breed. What man could possibly hate women as a whole? Does that man hate his own mother, wife, daughter, grandmother, aunts, cousins, etc.? People who hate others for what they are, usually don’t count members of that group as the people in the world they love most. Hitler, for example, could not say: “I hate Jews, but my parents are Jews, my wife and children are Jews, and I love them all very dearly.” So, I ask again: are there really people out there who would say: “if I hire a woman, I will pay her less than a man, even if it means losing my business for violating the Constitution and all ensuing laws that stem from it”?
Are there some jobs for which we are more likely to hire a man than a woman, or vice versa? Of course! Let’s not be foolish and pretend otherwise. Consider two easily-recognized characters from popular culture: Tony Soprano and his daughter, Meadow, from the HBO smash hit of a decade ago, the Sopranos. Big, burly Tony would make a better bouncer in a bar, and petite Meadow a better bikini model. The point is, no one in his right mind would hire Tony to model bikinis, or Meadow to intimidate loud, belligerent drunks. So in that case, it would never get to the point of paying the man more than the woman, because the man – or woman – in question, depending on the particular job, would not be hired in the first place.
For any job, therefore, it’s all about qualifications. If the qualifications are equal, why on earth would anyone even think to pay the woman less money than the man?
If all of this true, and employers do not routinely pay men more to do the same jobs, then were does this “women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn” statistic come from?
Purportedly, if you take a particular profession (let’s say, accountants) and you add up the total earned by men, and divide that by the number of men in the field, you can calculate the average salary for a male accountant. Then, if you do the same for female accountants, you may wind up with that .77/1.00 ratio. Aaah, statistics – how misleading they can be.
That statistical analysis conveniently leaves out a number of factors, such as: maybe in a particular field, the male applicants have more experience, or demand more money, or are willing to work overtime. Maybe some of the women recently had babies and reduce their working hours (I know countless women – friends and family members, who have done that), and therefore accept less pay. And, yes, some of it does have to do with institutional sexism. Fifty years ago, there were certainly more male accountants than females, by an overwhelming margin. So, a lot of the top echelon accountants whose earnings are in the millions, because they have been doing this for half a century, are overwhelmingly men.
Do men still “have it easier” in the workplace overall, as compared to women? Probably. Institutional discrimination does not go away easily, after all. But none of that suggests that an accounting firm – or any other employer – that needs to hire two applicants, decides to hire John and Mary, whose credentials are identical, and pay Mary 77 percent less than John. And shame on those who perpetuate such falsehoods for political manipulation.