Today is Equal Pay Day. Left-leaning feminists claim, due to the wage gap, that women would have needed to work all of 2015 and until April 12, 2016, to make what men earned just in 2015. The wage gap supposedly shows that women today earn about 80 percent of what men earn, but this statistic is widely misunderstood.
In reality, the wage gap is largely the result of different choices that men and women make. One common tradeoff that women make is to seek more flexibility in our jobs instead of maximizing our pay.
Efforts to close the wage gap, while well-intended, actually threaten these flexible arrangements. We should take care not to limit workplace flexibility, as everyone — not just working moms — can benefit from having options at work.
I've been working at the Washington, D.C.- based Independent Women's Forum for about six years. When I got married in 2014 and my husband's job moved us to Denver, I was able to continue working (remotely) in the same position.
Workplace flexibility has a lot to offer me: I save money by buying and dry-cleaning fewer professional clothes. I don't have a commute, and I can travel for the holidays at non-peak times. I can juggle errands and personal appointments with my work schedule.
More and more employers are recognizing that virtual office spaces save tremendously on business overhead costs. And as studies show, workers who have flexibility are often more productive and more satisfied. Allowing flexible options for workers can be a good business decision.
Working from home isn't for everyone. Some workers need a traditional workplace to thrive in their roles. And obviously, certain professions are inherently inflexible.
Still, the option of workplace flexibility is one that benefits us all, because it allows many industries to maximize efficiency and productivity.
Unfortunately, in an effort to close the wage gap, some are pushing for more government oversight of how workers are compensated, which could lead to less workplace flexibility. Take the innocuously named Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA). This bill wouldn't outlaw gender-based wage discrimination. That's already illegal, per the 1963 Equal Pay Act and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Instead, the PFA would shift the burden of proof from accusers to the accused, forcing employers to justify every compensation decision as a business necessity. It would also make other changes to pay discrimination lawsuits, increasing legal exposure for employers.
Employers' easiest response to this legislation (to minimize the potential for lawsuits) would be to create more rigid compensation structures. They'd stop offering flexibility options and require all workers to behave and work the same, so that they would all be paid the same. While this might sound like "equality," it's actually a great loss in terms of the freedom to negotiate one's own work life.
Our society and our economy are showing great progress in the area of increased workplace flexibility. It would be a great blow to limit this progress, and not just for working moms. "Equal Pay Day" overlooks the fact that compensation isn't just about pay — some of us prefer more flexibility over more money.
Hadley Heath Manning is director of health policy for the Independent Women's Forum.