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September 16 2016

'Pinksourcing' Is The Latest Misleading Equal Pay Effort

Forbes
Karin Agness

Many celebrities have issues that get discussed in very public ways, even on reality TV shows such as Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew. The issue a new comedy HuffPost series, “Celebs Have Issues,” tackles in its first episode isn’t about a failed relationship or addiction, but instead a public policy issue—equal pay for women in the workplace.

Dressed in pink, actress Kristen Bell makes a pitch that the way for companies to save money is not through outsourcing production “to far away countries like India, China and Narnia,” but through “Pinksourcing,” hiring a female labor force, because women are paid less than men. As she strolls through cubicles, she says, “With Pinksourcing, women are a bargain at the workplace, since you only have to pay them 77 cents on the dollar.”

Added bonus? “They smell nice” and bring in baked goods.

Bell’s jokes may be funny, but the video further misleads American women about the facts regarding pay in the workplace.

Many women have embraced the 77 cents on the dollar statistic as evidence that they face systematic discrimination in the workforce and as a reason to support additional federal legislation.

The Equal Pay Act, which was signed by President John F. Kennedy, made sex-based discrimination in pay illegal and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate based on sex in the workplace.

The 77 cents number is more complicated than Bell lets on.

The statistic Bell cites compares the median earnings of full-time working men and women overall in our economy, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.

It doesn’t compare two men and women working in the same job. It doesn’t take into account a lot of choices that men and women make that no doubt impact earnings—including choices such as education level, years of experience, type of job and hours worked.

Bell then mocks those women who choose to leave the workforce, “Women don’t even really want to be working anyway. They’d rather be home taking care of the family, while their husband gets to make life choices and follow his dreams and play fantasy football.”

While this is a comedy series, Bell makes it sound as if no woman in her right mind would ever make this choice. Some women do make the life choice to leave the workforce. That’s ok. Women who leave the workforce to take care of their families should be treated just as equally as women who forge ahead to the C-suite. The women’s empowerment movement should be about empowering women to make that decision.

It is not just celebrities who get the equal pay issue wrong.

When misleading information a celebrity is spreading is part of a narrative that could influence legislation, it especially needs to be debunked.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has repeatedly raised the equal pay issue and tweeted on April 15 this year, “A typical woman working full-time is paid just 79% of what a man makes, but there’s no discount for being a woman.”

The 77 cent or now 79 cent statistic is often used by Clinton to justify new equal pay legislation that would increase federal government regulation of employment pay decisions. But Clinton doesn’t talk about the secondary effects of the legislation, such as making it more expensive to hire employees, including women.

Bell, who sang with other celebrities at the Democratic National Convention, is taking on an important policy issue. Just as actresses get to know the characters before taking them on, Bell should get to know the equal pay issue before speaking out about it.

Before women of America embrace Bell’s “Pinksourcing” video, they should take a closer look at the 77 cents on the dollar statistic and the misleading way it has been used to justify calls for more equal pay regulations.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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