The feminist website Jezebel is giddy over talk-show host Meredith Vieira supposedly “owning” Stacey Dash in a debate about equal pay, accusing the Fox News host of being uninformed and basically clueless.
Not so fast.
While Dash admitted there is definite wage disparity between men and women, she wasn’t willing to jump on the “It’s because I’m a woman!” bandwagon. In a word, she refused to play the victim.
“Stop making excuses,” Dash said. “If there are opportunities, seize them. And be prepared for them. And be the best, if that’s what it takes. If you have to be extraordinary, be extraordinary.”
Vieira didn’t want to hear any of that. It’s so much easier to blame “the man” than to take personal responsibility for life’s inequalities. She argued that women don’t earn the same as men because the culture devalues women. What else could it possibly be?
“For many years, I was not getting paid the same as the guys,” Vieira complained.
“And you think it’s because you’re a woman?” Dash asked.
“I think that’s a lot to do with it…” Vieira retorted.
Unequal Outcomes Don’t Necessarily Mean Discrimination
Let’s stop right here, because this is the problem with people who clamor about pay inequality. They don’t know for a fact that the reason women make less than men is because of gender. They only think so. They’re making assumptions, and you know what it means when you make assumptions? You got it.
While full-time working women earn 77 percent of what their male counterparts earn (according to White House statistics), this doesn’t prove that women are being discriminated against. In fact, statistics show the opposite. Pew Research has found there just might be factors other than sex discrimination at play.
According to the Pew survey, women took more “career interruptions to care for their family” than did men. In addition, research has shown that “these types of interruptions can have an impact on long-term earnings.”
“Roughly four-in-ten mothers say they have taken a significant amount of time off from work (39%) or reduced their work hours (42%) to care for a child or other family member,” Pew reported. “Roughly a quarter (27%) say they have quit work altogether to take care of these familial responsibilities. (Fewer men say the same. For example, just 24% of fathers say they have taken a significant amount of time off to care for a child or other family member.)”
Women Make Different Career Choices
The Wall Street Journal shows that “77 cents for every dollar a man earns” is really a myth because every “full-time” worker is not the same. “Men were almost twice as likely as women to work more than 40 hours a week, and women almost twice as likely to work only 35 to 39 hours per week. Once that is taken into consideration, the pay gap begins to shrink. Women who worked a 40-hour week earned 88% of male earnings.”
There’s also the issue of marriage and children: “Single women who have never married earned 96% of men’s earnings in 2013.” The reality is—and it’s a reality many women don’t seem to want to face—is that some working women look for jobs that provide more flexibility, and those jobs typically pay less. In other words, women are choosing to make less than men.
Education is also a variable. “Even within groups with the same educational attainment, women often choose fields of study, such as sociology, liberal arts or psychology, that pay less in the labor market. Men are more likely to major in finance, accounting or engineering. And as the American Association of University Women reports, men are four times more likely to bargain over salaries once they enter the job market.”
Risk is another factor. “Nearly all the most dangerous occupations, such as loggers or iron workers, are majority male and 92% of work-related deaths in 2012 were to men. Dangerous jobs tend to pay higher salaries to attract workers. Also: Males are more likely to pursue occupations where compensation is risky from year to year, such as law and finance. Research shows that average pay in such jobs is higher to compensate for that risk.”
In a more comprehensive study that actually took into consideration relevant variables, the WSJ reports, nearly all of the 23% raw gender pay gap cited by the White House “can be attributed to factors other than discrimination.” The researchers concluded that “labor market discrimination is unlikely to account for more than 5% but may not be present at all.” Can someone send Vieira a Tweet? I think she might be clueless on this point.
Sure, Discrimination Happens Sometimes, But It’s Illegal
When you break it all down, wage differences often have little to do with sex discrimination. That doesn’t mean that sex discrimination doesn’t happen. It does. I cover legal news, and I see these cases. Women getting paid less than men for trivial reasons, women not getting promoted, women being unfairly reassigned, etc. It happens, and anyone who says it doesn’t is fooling himself. But, if a woman thinks she is being discriminated against, she needs to file a lawsuit, not whine about it or make unfounded accusations maligning our culture in the court of public opinion.
Many people don’t realize we’ve had an equal-pay law on the books since 1963. This is what it says:
No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex: Provided, That an employer who is paying a wage rate differential in violation of this subsection shall not, in order to comply with the provisions of this subsection, reduce the wage rate of any employee.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 isn’t the only law that protects employees from discrimination. There’s also Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Under these laws, jobs don’t have to be identical—you don’t even have to have the same title—but they must be substantially equal in skill, effort, responsibility, working conditions, and establishment. “Pay differentials are permitted when they are based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production, or a factor other than sex. These are known as affirmative defenses, and it is the employer’s burden to prove that they apply.”
As you can see, it’s pretty difficult to find employees who are actually “equal” in their employment. So the complaint that wage disparity is the result of a “culture that devalues women” isn’t warranted.
When Dash tried to explain to Vieira that we have laws that protect a woman’s right to get paid the same as a man, Vieira wailed, “Except we don’t. But we don’t. We don’t! We don’t! We don’t!”
Calm down, Meredith.
Instead of whining about it, why don’t you follow Dash’s advice and stop playing the victim and take your destiny in your own hands. Start with realizing that pay inequality is inevitable because of the varied choices people make. And if real discrimination is actually happening, call a lawyer.