April 16 marked Equal Pay Day, the so-called day of the year when women’s wages catch up with men’s. Many feminist groups — and political leaders — persist in spreading the pernicious myth that women earn much less than men for the same jobs, despite countless studies that debunk these shaky statistics.
The IWF continues to counter this fallacy in Congress and in the media. Recently, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) released a “study” trumpeting an alarming increase in the wage gap between men and women. Syndicated columnist Betsy Hart investigated the claims, and wrote that the “study” was actually an “emotionalized reinterpretation of the original General Accounting Office data done by staff members of Maloney and Dingell.”
The original study, says Hart, looked at the wages of women managers in ten major industries — but as usual failed to take into account crucial factors such as experience, level of managerial responsibility, or uninterrupted years in the workforce.
Hart reports that “this was never intended to be the legitimate fact-finding mission Maloney and Dingell suggest. Instead, the government ‘study’ did just what its backers determined it would do from the outset: It ‘demonstrated’ discrimination against women in the workplace.”
Empty rhetoric unsupported by fact is not uncommon among equal pay advocates. IWF, on the other hand, stands on firm ground with facts. In April, IWF Senior Fellow Christine Stolba testified in a congressional field hearing regarding the “glass ceiling.” She pointed out the “serious methodological flaws that render suspect [the Maloney-/Dingell report’s] conclusions about the existence of discrimination against women in management.”
Stolba rightly concluded that “the underlying tone of the report suggests that equality for women means statistical parity with men in all fields. But this is a misguided standard of success, because it fails to account for the heterogeneity of the female population and the powerful force of individual choice.”
But IWF didn’t stop there. Christine Stolba engaged in some powerful myth-busting when she squared off against Rep. Maloney on CBS’ The Early Show. On that show, Maloney asserted that women earned 76 cents to the male dollar. But she can’t keep her numbers straight: When IWF President Nancy M. Pfotenhauer debated Maloney a few weeks later on CNN’s Crossfire, Maloney claimed that women earned 73 cents to each male dollar, a statistic which co-host Paul Begala vigorously defended, claiming it came straight from the Census Bureau. Pfotenhauer challenged him: “No, it’s not from the Census Bureau.” Begala then admitted the statistic came from NOW.
On Crossfire, Pfotenhauer countered Maloney’s unsubstantiated claims of discrimination with solid facts and straightforward common sense. And while Maloney whined that businesses “just want to discriminate all the time,” Pfotenhauer presented the often-overlooked fact that women’s own choices — to take time out to raise kids, to work part-time, etc. — are crucial factors that must be weighed.
Over the last six years, the Independent Women’s Forum has made considerable headway in exposing the inaccuracies of the wage gap myth, and we look forward to the day when the truth about the wage gap is widely understood. It is inexcusable when distorted statistics are used to make women feel like victims.