I just realized that I am following Carrie Lukas on Diana Furchgott-Roth’s excellent piece in which she explains what adopting Senator Barack Obama’s position on comparable worth would mean. Since Carrie and I chose to highlight some of the same and some different quotes in Diana’s piece, I am going to leave this up. Her summary of Senator Obama’s position is so exquisitely clear:

“But Mr. Obama wants still more [than was mandated by the Equal Pay Act of 1963], and he is a co-sponsor of the Fair Pay Act, proposed by Senator Harkin of Iowa. It calls for equal pay for ‘equivalent’ jobs, whatever that means. Section 3 (a) prohibits employers from paying women in female-dominated occupations salaries different from those paid men in male-dominated occupations, unless ‘a differential is based on a bona fide factor … such as education, training, or experience. …’

I failed to grasp in a previous post the difference between Senator Clinton’s stand and Obama’s approach to the subject. Furchtgott-Roth explains:

“Compared to the Harkin bill, Mrs. Clinton’s Paycheck Fairness Act is restrained. It instructs the secretary of labor to ‘develop guidelines to enable employers to evaluate job categories.’ Employers would not be required to comply with the guidelines, although surely there would be pressure to do so. Onerous as these provisions are, the Fair Pay Act goes further.

“Consider a large firm such as Exxon. Would it have to pay clerical workers, mostly women, as much as it pays refinery hands, mostly men? With such ‘equality,’ who would be willing to work at the distant, more dangerous jobs in the refinery?…

“Into how many categories would the commission divide hospital jobs? Bank jobs? Insurance jobs? Would employers with, say, 40 employees split themselves into two companies to escape the paperwork? Wages change constantly and job classifications are imperfect, and can be changed. Employers might not know the race and national origin of workers, and workers might not want to be asked.”

Furchtgott-Roth was coauthor of Women’s Figures, an important IWF publication on the subject of the so-called wage gap (which almost vanishes when the proper data is fed into the equation). In today’s piece, Furchtgott-Roth notes:

“Some women are paid less than some men because of the choices they make about field of study, occupation, and time out of the work force for child-raising. Compared to men, women tend to choose more college majors in the lower-paid humanities rather than in the sciences. Men and women who choose computer science and engineering have higher incomes.

“Women take time out of the work force to have children and care for them; some choose jobs with more pleasant working conditions, fewer hours, or more flexible schedules. Employees who stop working for a while for any reason miss out on promotions and raises that others get.

“Although Congress has not enacted comparable worth, a few states, such as Washington and Minnesota, have done so on state and local government operations. The extra funding for increased women’s salaries comes from the taxpayers and does not cause the governmental entity to go out of business. Requiring private businesses to adopt comparable worth would raise costs of hiring, hurting women’s opportunities.”