Last week, the House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a 1970s relic that would have enshrined the interchangeability of the sexes into the U.S. Constitution, had it not expired before meeting the standard for ratification. 

During the hearing, Democrat lawmakers and their six witnesses cited several popular left-wing narratives about women and girls in the U.S., including the notion that the ERA is necessary to absolve gender pay differences.

Is this true?

“The ERA is not merely a symbol, it will make a real difference in the lives of women and people who face discrimination, sexual violence, and unequal pay. The pay gap between men and women has persisted for decades, with the average woman being paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to men, for women of color, the gap is even wider.”
-Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.)

Mostly false or misleading. Significant errors or omissions. Mostly make believe.

Proponents of the ERA point to the wage gap as evidence that American women — in their view — lack adequate legal protection from discrimination. But the wage gap is a misused statistic that represents the overall disparity in men’s and women’s aggregate wages. 

The gender pay gap is the difference in the earnings of all men and women working full time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women earned 82 percent (or 82 cents on the dollar) that men earned in 2019 according to weekly earnings.

However, there is no evidence this is driven by gender discrimination. The BLS explains that these figures do not control for factors that significantly impact workers’ pay including the number of hours worked, education, work title, industry, job skills, and specialization. When controlling for those factors, the pay gap shrinks to a few cents. Economists cannot say with certainty that the reason for the small unexplained pay disparity is sex discrimination.

If the ERA were enshrined in our Constitution, it would it fail to add any protections against wage discrimination, which is already illegal in the U.S. via the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Similarly, sexual violence is already illegal, and the ERA would do nothing to help victims of sexual violence—it could actually endanger some women by opening our locker rooms, prisons and shelters to biological men.)

But, when it comes to the wage gap, the ERA could be construed to require pay “parity,” which is different from equal pay for equal work. As IWF’s Inez Stepman, the sole witness for the minority, explained during the hearing,

Sure, men and women on aggregate have different choices and preferences. This is not discrimination. I reject the idea that because a disparity exists, that automatically that means that there’s a discrimination at play here. The ERA could potentially lead to us taking some of these disparities as discrimination, which would mean that the ERA would be set against the choices of actual American women and about how they want to balance their lives, their careers and their families. That’s not progress in my book.