Debunking the myth of the wage gap

Deidre Crowell, Staff Writer

Over the the past few years, the gender wage gap has become a prevalent social issue. Taking a look at the raw numbers, feminist activists claim that women’s earning 77 cents on the dollar men earn is outright discrimination. Although injustice certainly does exist in some instances, it is important that those who listen claims from political groups who want votes look at how such statements are worded as well as the bigger picture.

In 2012, Barack Obama’s campaign ad claim that “women (are) paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men,” was rated “Mostly False” by fact-checking giant PolitiFact. However, his 2014 claim during the State of the Union address that women “still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns,” was rated “Mostly True.” The difference between these two statements is subtle but important to decipher. The president’s first statement is false in that, when women work the same job as men, the wage gap narrows greatly. When looking at the entire population, however, women, on average, make a lower income than men.

According to a study by CONSAD Research Corporation, a few reasons for this figure is that women are more likely than men to seek part-time work and leave the labor force in order to care for their families. Additionally, they tend to favor jobs with sufficient benefits over high pay. Therefore, their net salary is lower because they often provide the healthcare and other insurance for their families. When taking these factors into account, the study found that the wage gap narrows to about 93 cents to the dollar. Although difficult to measure, a cause for the remaining 7% is likely a result of women’s tendencies to be reluctant to ask for raises and negotiate pay.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on gender, race, color, religion or national origin. As a result of this, a woman who feels she earns unfair wages has a legal basis for her claim and should take legal action instead of waving a sign. If women were openly allowed to accept a salary 30% lower than men, why wouldn’t companies cut expenses and hire only women? In 2009, the Department of Labor deputy assistant secretary stated that “the raw wage gap continues to be used in misleading ways to advance public policy agendas without fully explaining the reasons behind the gap,” and it “should not be used to justify corrective action.”

Fortunately, laws are in place which prohibit workplace discrimination. Those who believe they are victims of discrimination need to be heard. If someone finds an example of an instance that contradicts the law, it can be taken to court. Prejudice should be handled on a case-to-case basis, and claiming the existence of institutional prejudice causes an unnecessary divide between the genders and prevents the nation from focusing on actual issues.