Last week, as part of our XX Files on the IWF home page we reprinted “Because I’m a Girl” by 24-year-old Mary Katherine Ham, editor of the Heritage Foundation’s Insider magazine and its blog Insider Online. In the essay, originally posted on Town Hall, Mary Katherine reports her unfortunate experience meeting a young former Democratic National Committee staffer at a Capitol Hill bar.

No, “Brad” didn’t have a lousy pickup line–it was even worse. When Mary Katherine asked him what the Democratic Party could do for her as a young person making a modest salary, he started off, “Well you know, as a female…” and then trotted out a list of Big Strong Government affirmative action and pay equity rules that the Dems would like to put into place to help frail flowers like Mary Katherine get ahead. Mary Katherine was incensed at liberal Brad’s “blatant sexism,” as she called it:

“I need the Democratic Party to help me move up in life. I can’t be expected to do it all by my little lonesome. And why not? Because I’m a girl.”

Mary Katherine’s essay has garnered quite a bit of attention on the blogosphere, including this retort by regular IWF-disser World O’Cr– on Salon (scroll down):

“You can imagine Mary Katherine’s outrage, because she does NOT need any special breaks, like equal pay for equal work, just because she is female. No, she wants the RICH to get the special breaks, so when she moves to the upper class, she will be able to crush the little people….”

Oh, sure. But we did receive this serious comment via e-mail from InkWell reader G.B.:

“Surely Ms. Ham has not been discriminated against as a woman. We who are privileged and middle-class seldom are. However, there have been some very specific cases of sexual discrimination against even those in the middle and upper classes recently (gasp!), or hasn’t Ms. Ham been following the Morgan Stanley and reopening of the Merrill Lynch case? Surely Ms. Ham reads the Wall Street Journal and knows of the serious– and statistically documented– variations in pay going to even these upper-level women. Perhaps, like those women who are different from her in class and level of opportunity, she has chosen to ignore these women as well.”

The problem is that neither the Morgan Stanley nor the Merrill Lynch cases add up to much. The original Merrill Lynch case involved a female broker, Hydie Summers, in the firm’s San Antonio office who might have had a bad boss (even we conservatives concede that not all managers are perfect and that some are even sexist pigs); Merrill Lynch eventually paid her $2.2 million. Now, perhaps inspired by Summers’s haul, Stephanie Vallalbal, an executive fired from Merrill Lynch’s London office, wants $13.5 million, claiming that she was paid only $550,000, whereas some men in the office got up to $1 million. Merrill Lynch contends there were good reasons for the pay discrepancy and points out that it filled Vallalbal’s slot with another woman. Morgan Stanley recently paid $54 million to settle a class-action sex discrmination suit but acknowledged no wrongdoing. My bet is that lawyers are getting a good chunk of that money.

In short, I’m dubious about whether any of these cases are evidence of across-the-board sex discrmination in the brokerage business. Furthermore, as Mary Katherine points out, there are many reasons why women earn less than men in their fields, and the chief one is that women simply choose to work less hard, for a variety of personal and family reasons that make perfect sense to me.