Yesterday, in case you missed it, was “Equal Pay Day”–a demonstration-fest organized by militant feminists to protest the fact that women on average earn only 76 cents for every man’s dollar. Equal Pay Day is supposed to mark how much longer than a year a woman making 76 cents would have to work to “catch up” with a man who works a year to earn a buck.
Somehow–maybe it was the election of the new pope–I missed the whole thing. And I have a feeling that at least 76 percent of U.S women did likewise. For example, the National Committee on Pay Equity listed a number of protest activities that gals could engage in to show how angry they were at higher-earning guys. The gals could wear red, for example. I think the color was supposed to symbolize rage. Or maybe blood, because you’d like to slit some male throats over the injustices in your paycheck. Or maybe just red ink–your own, symbolizing the fact that you couldn’t afford one of those giant-screen TVs that the guys buy with the extra money they make so they can watch the basketball playoffs. But yesterday, an unseasonably warm spring day in my own Washington, D.C., on which the career gals had trotted out their new summer outfits, I didn’t spot much red on female bodies. Pink and green, yes–those are this season’s hot colors–but not much red. Despite all the efforts of the National Committee on Pay Equity, I had a feeling that indifference ruled among the fair sex even in ultra-liberal Washington, D.C.
The Committee did report on some wage-related activities around the country. Here’s one:
“Activists for pay equity in Minnesota sponsored a morning ‘UnHappy Hour’ event. Members who attended were given 3/4 cups of coffee or latte, received 3/4 of a muffin and had 3/4 napkins to symbolize the almost 3/4 of a dollar that women are paid.”
“Almost” 3/4 of a dollar? When I last looked, 76 cents was a bit more than 3/4 of a dollar. Oops–female math-impairment again! Larry Summers, call your press agent. And anyway, wasn’t this event just like one of those “affirmative-action bake sales” that get conservative activists expelled from college by the campus political-correctness police?
The problem with Pay Equity Day–and maybe the reason why most women weren’t chomping on their symbolic 3/4 of a muffin yesterday–was that its promoters arrive at the 76-cent figure by crudely comparing the wages of all American men working full time to those of all American women working full time. There are no adjustments for age, education, occupation, marital status, or time taken off to be full-time homemakers and mothers. These factors, which all relate to the choices that individual men and women make about structuring their working lives, are the leading reasons why women as a whole earn less than men.
And most American women know that, which is why they’re not complaining. They know that 22-year-old Jim fresh out of college and 22-year-old Jane fresh out of college who go to work at the same ad agency are going to make identical salaries. But when Jim and Jane marry a few years later and start having children, the decisions that each make about balancing work and family obligations are likely to be radically different, and those differences will show up in the hours they put into their jobs, the earnings they take home, and even the kind of work they choose to do (Jane might look for lower-pressure employment closer to home, for example.)
The pay-equity people naturally want the government to smooth out and compensate for the different choices that men and women make about their work. A few years ago, the pay-equity folks were lobbying for “comparable worth” commissions that would require, say, receptionists to be paid as much as plumbers because they both worked equally hard. Nowadays the focus is on forcing employers to give paid maternity leave and other wage-boosters to working mothers. So far, fortunately, few American women have bought into these expensive social programs that would decrease everyone’s earnings. And it’s why most of the red you saw yesterday was likely to have been the faces of the National Committee on Pay Equity folks and their allies at the embarrassingly small show of enthusiasm over their planned protests.
By the way, the IWF did its own bit on the issue of pay equity, sponsoring a panel on Capitol Hill featuring Warren Farrell, Ph.D., author of Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth About the Pay Gap–and What Women Can Do About It. (Read more about the panel on the IWF’s home page.)