Monday, March 3, 2014

Equal Pay For Equal Work?

In his State of the Union address last month President Obama made the statement that working women in this country earn an average of 77 cents on the dollar compared to what men make. He demanded that women should receive equal pay for equal work.

I have no problem with the last statement. Having worked in the military then for the federal government my entire career saw that very thing happen. The women I worked for and with got the same pay as their male counterparts. And that's exactly how it should be in the private sector - equal pay for equal work. But in researching this topic I discovered that there are some discrepancies in the theory.

In an article back in 2012, the Institute For Women's Policy Research in Washington DC made the following comments: "Some economists challenge the 77 percent figure by pointing out it does not compare women’s and men’s earnings in the same jobs: in other words, the figure implicitly compares truck drivers, who are mostly male, with secretaries, who are mostly female, for example. Yes, the figure does compare women and men across the whole economy, but do we believe women should receive lower pay because they are any less talented, competent, or hard working than men? Given their equal competency, shouldn’t both women and men be able to find jobs in the economy that pay them what they’re worth?
When citing the wage gap, it may be more accurate to say, as President Obama often does, that women earn only 77 percent of what men earn for an equal day’s work (rather than for equal work)."
That last sentence changes the entire conversation. Translated, it says "Women who work an eight hour day should be paid the same as a man who works an eight hour day regardless of what their jobs are." That's pure socialism. And if you're going to apply that standard shouldn't it apply to both men and women? After all - if you're going to pay a woman flipping burgers at McDonald's $15 an hour wouldn't it be required for the men as well? And does the IFWPR really think a woman flipping burgers for eight hours should be paid the same as someone with an office job or a factory job - regardless of their gender? What about the other way around? Should a male flipping burgers be paid the same as a female Executive Assistant at some corporation. Eight hours is eight hours, after all.
There is debate about the actual percentage of pay difference between men and women. The Obama administration says the discrepancy is 23%. Last night I heard a woman on a talk show say in reality it's more like 9%. I'm guess that like everything else the truth is somewhere in the middle. But to pay a woman less than a man for doing the exact same job is wrong. 
An article I read earlier said that weekly wages for women and men are closer to being equal but annual income has a larger gap. There are many reasons for this difference - a main one being parental duties. It's a fact that in the average, both-working-parent households in American the mothers take more time off from work to care for their children than the fathers. This contributes to annual incomes being unequal. But should it? I'm going to tread dangerous ground here and state my own personal opinion. (I know...  I never do that!)
The federal government has policies in place that allow for people to take paid time off for various medical reasons, including child birth, illness, family deaths, etc. Some private corporations do as well. But it is not mandatory for private companies and businesses (particularly small businesses) to offer that. After all - they are in business to make money and giving employees extra, paid time off doesn't always translate into profit. I certainly would encourage businesses to do that as much as they can. It's great for morale and could make employees more loyal to the company. But it's not something every business can afford to do.

Women working for businesses that do not offer unpaid time off for child care, etc., probably contributes to the annual pay discrepancy. It may not be fair but statistically (since mothers take more time for their kids than fathers) it's a reality.

There are many businesses in the private sector that do not pay women equally with men for the same job. That does need to change. Gender should not be a factor in a pay scale for the same job. Should the government mandate that every business in the nation create a plan to give paid time off for child care? I personally would say no. Just as raising the minimum wage will affect business growth, hiring and overall profit margin - mandating a business to give paid time off would do the same thing.

Women who are being paid less than men for performing the same jobs will probably be forced to file law-suits, at their own peril, to rectify the situation. It might work - it might not.

An acquaintance of mine the other day said one of the things she likes about President Obama was that he was all about equal pay for women. But let's look at that for a minute. According to various sources there is a large discrepancy between the salaries of men and women working in the Obama White House. The average mean salary for women is around $60,000 and the average mean salary for men is $71,000. Of the 20 top level White House employees, who earn over $170,000 each, only six are women. So much for equal pay for equal work. The White House record is worse than the general economy.

Liberals defend the President saying "He doesn't set the pay for White House employees." But when he goes on TV to give the State of the Union Address and one of his topics is equal pay for women he should be able to say "We have a problem with that in my administration and I'm already working to correct it." Instead he simply ignored that fact as if it wasn't there.

So there you have it. One day, maybe, this country will actually do things fairly for all of its citizens. That doesn't mean equal pay for an eight hour day but certainly equal pay for performing the same job. Don't look for it from the current administration. On this issue it seems the President's words are simply hot air. If he can't fix his own house how does one think he can fix it nationwide?

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