Next week gender activists and feminist organizations like the American Association of University Women will be promoting “Equal Pay Day” on Tuesday, April 10 and this is an update of my “Bigfoot” post from a year ago to help counteract some of questionable statistics and mythology that get recycled every year in early April about the “gender pay gap.” The annual event known as Equal Pay Day brings awareness to a completely bogus apples-to-oranges comparison of median incomes by gender. Specifically this year’s Equal Pay Day will publicize the 19.5% unadjusted difference in median annual earnings for women and men working full-time in 2016 (most recent data available) when absolutely nothing relevant is controlled for that would help explain that 19.5% raw differences in income like hours worked, marital status, number of children, education, occupation, number of years of continuous uninterrupted job experience, working conditions, work safety, workplace flexibility, family friendliness of the workplace, job security, and time spent commuting.
To start, let’s acknowledge that there is widespread acceptance by the general public, especially among women, progressives, and Democrats, of the completely bogus, false claim that women are paid “77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men” — in the words of President Obama in 2012 even though that’s a complete myth that is easily falsifiable and in fact was rated “Mostly False” by Politifact. Hillary Clinton repackaged the bogus claim for the campaign trail by stating in late 2015 that “On average, women need to work an extra two hours each day to earn the same paycheck as their male co-workers.”
In 2015, Linda Hallman, who was then the executive director of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), sent a mass email about Equal Pay Day falsely claiming “Think about it: Women have to work almost four months longer than men do to earn the same amount of money for doing the same job. What’s more, we have to set aside a day each year just to call the nation’s attention to it.”
The National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) claims that because women make only 80.5 cents for every dollar men make, the average American working woman will have to continue work until Tuesday, April 10 — Equal Pay Day — to earn the same amount of income as her male counterpart earned last year. A Tuesday is always selected for Equal Pay Day because that day allegedly represents how far into each work week all year that women have to work to earn what their male co-workers earned during the previous week. Actually, if you do the math, a 19.5% gender difference in unadjusted median annual earnings would place Equal Pay Day sometime during the last week of March and not the second week of April. But since the NCPE’s entire campaign is based on questionable and faulty statistics at its core, being mathematically inaccurate about the exact date of Equal Pay Day probably isn’t too surprising.
Despite the widespread public acceptance of the frequent “77/80 cents on the dollar for the same job” claims documented above, there is rarely ever any specific evidence presented showing that any specific organization is in violation of federal law by paying women 19.5% or more less than men for doing the same job. What politicians like Obama and Clinton, and gender activist organizations like the NCPE and AAUW are really implying is that firms and organizations across the country are rampantly and illegally violating the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by paying women 77/80 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men, and those deliberate, flagrant and ongoing violations are somehow going undetected. If there were such ubiquitous gender wage disparities in violation of federal law, why are there not extensive investigations by the Department of Justice, the Office of Civil Rights, or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission?
And why isn’t there a cottage industry of law firms specializing in representing women who are victims of the supposed pervasive gender discrimination and advertising on TV, the way there are hundreds of law firms advertising on TV who offer to represent mesothelioma victims who were exposed to asbestos on the job in previous decades?
Just where do we find these companies that apparently have illegal dual-wage policies: one wage schedule for men and another one for women at wages 20/23% below their male co-workers for doing the same job? Which specific organizations are actually paying women 20/23% less than men and exposing their organizations to legal prosecution, fines, and penalties? Those questions are never answered by Obama, Clinton, the NCPE or AAUW.
Well, let’s next consider some examples of cases where it’s pretty clear that we would NOT find the kind of blatant gender pay discrimination that would result in women earning “77/80 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” Here are some of those examples:
Women-owned businesses. According to this report, there are more than 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States, employing nearly 9 million workers, which represents more than 9% of all private sector jobs. It seems highly unlikely that women would engage in the highly illegal (and unethical) activity of paying their female employees 20/23% less than their male co-workers. If the implication of “77 cents on the dollar” is that women are being victimized by employers, we wouldn’t accuse women of being the victimizers of other women, would we? Doesn’t seem too likely.
Female CEOs. According to the BLS, there were nearly 460,000 women holding the position of “Chief Executive” of their organization last year. Would these female CEOs have any tolerance for an illegal company compensation policy that paid female employees 20/23% less than their male co-workers for the same job? Not very likely.
Union Members. In 2017, there were 14.8 million wage and salary workers represented by unions. Unions typically negotiate compensation contracts based on seniority, not gender, and it would be almost impossible that unions would violate federal law by negotiating contracts with employers that called for paying women 20/23% less than men for the same position with the same seniority.
Workers Paid by Commission. There were more than 1.3 million real estate agents in the US last year who are paid by commission, and 57% of them are women. There are 624,000 insurance sales agents and more than half (52%) of them are female. Since compensation for these sales agents is primarily determined by commission, and those commissions are based on some percentage of agents’ sales volume, there doesn’t seem to be much support for any claims of a 20/23% gender pay gap for those occupations. For example, when have you ever heard that “female realtors or insurance agents are paid 80 cents on the dollar for selling the same amount of real estate or insurance as their male colleagues”? Just what I thought — never.
Government Employees. There are more than 22.3 million Americans who work for the government at the federal (2.8 million), state (5.1 million), and local level (14.4 million). Illegal discrimination by paying a female government employee 20% less than a man for doing the same government job? Not likely at all. Government salaries are strictly determined by job classification, experience, and seniority, and are clearly not adjusted by gender.
Waiters and Waitresses. There are more than 2 million waiters and waitresses in America, and 70% are female. Because their compensation is based primarily on tips, I don’t think there could be any case made that “waitresses are paid 20% less on average than waiters for doing the same job, working the same number of hours, serving the same number of customers that generated the same dollar amount of sales.” Unless, of course, customers discriminate against women and give waitresses tips that are 20% lower than the tips they leave for waiters? Not likely.
Public School Teachers and College Professors. There are nearly 5 million teachers at the elementary and secondary level (mostly at public schools), and another 1.42 million college professors (BLS data here). There are also nearly one million education administrators and almost two-thirds (64.2%) of those positions are held by females. Of course, some of these educators might also be represented in “Union Members” and “Government Employees” categories above, but when have you ever heard a female elementary school teacher or female college professor claim that they were being paid 20% less than their equally-qualified male colleagues? Never. Most of those salary records are public, like for the faculty and staff employed by the University of Michigan (all three campuses). If any female faculty or staff members at the University of Michigan are getting paid 20% (or some other percentage) less than their male counterparts, it should be pretty easy to prove it. A complaint of gender pay discrimination in Michigan can easily be filed here at the website of the Detroit office of the EEOC.
Human Resource Professionals. There are 327,000 human resource managers in the US and almost 71% of them are female. Would it be even remotely possible that any of the hundreds of thousands of female HR managers are engaged in illegal activity and violating federal law by paying other women in their organizations 20/23% less than men for the same position with the same qualifications? Not likely.
Many Large Companies Have Females as Their Top HR Executive. For example, the top HR position at the Target Corporation is held by a woman — Stephanie Lundquist, she’s the Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, and four of Target’s top 11 executives are female. Any possibility that Target is violating the Equal Pay Act, exposing its organization to possible lawsuits, penalties, and fines by paying female Target employees 20/23%, or even 5% less than men for the same job? Nope. Likewise, Walmart’s top two HR executives are women. Any possibility that those female HR executives would tolerate systematic illegal and unethical gender pay discrimination that would result in Walmart paying women 20% less than men and thereby expose the organization to lawsuits and investigations by the Office of Civil Rights and EEOC? Not very likely.
Of course, the list above is not exhaustive and does not completely cover all industries, all occupations, and all female workers, but it should challenge the narrative that women are so routinely paid 20 or 23% less than men for doing the same job – across the board in all industries and for every occupation, even in firms owned or managed by women, or whose HR departments are headed by a woman — that we, unfortunately, have to “set aside a day each year just to call the nation’s attention to the widespread and rampant gender discrimination.”
Just where are the organizations that have illegal dual-pay schedules that routinely compensate women 20% less than men for the same job with the same qualifications? In reality, those organizations are as rare as a sighting of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. And yet the “pay gap myth” just keeps getting recycled over and over again, and regularly repackaged by politicians like President Obama and Hillary Clinton — for obvious political purposes. The fact that the myth is clearly unsupported by any actual evidence doesn’t seem to matter to most women, nor to nearly all Democrats.
Bottom Line: If there are actually employers who are illegally paying women 20% less than men for doing the same job, those companies should be exposed, publicized and prosecuted. Just like if the Loch Ness monster and Bigfoot do actually exist, they should be exposed and publicized with video footage. But just like the elusiveness of actual evidence for Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster should make us question their existence, the elusiveness of any widespread evidence of “77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men” should also make us question that unsubstantiated gender pay gap myth.
The 20/23% gender pay gap myth for doing the exact same work is an “apples-to-oranges” statistical fraud that keeps getting recycled and promoted by politicians, the NCPE and AAUW because it apparently has a huge payoff in terms of votes and financial support. And it will continue to have a payoff as long as average Americans, especially women, buy the statistical snake-oil that women are paid 20/23% less than men on average for doing the same job. Along with the myths of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster, the 20/23% wage gap claim is a myth that just won’t die, regardless, or maybe because of, the scant evidence.
Perversely perhaps, maybe the false “77 cents on the dollar” narrative is actually kept alive by the total lack of any evidence that there are any employers who actually pay women 23% less than men for the same job. After all, it’s better to keep those mythical violations very vague, ambiguous, and undocumented as a way to keep the myth alive, like very rare sightings of Bigfoot. If the bogus myth of widespread 20/23% gender wage gaps throughout the economy was ever exposed to the sunlight of evidence and truth, it would wilt and disappear, and would no longer be available as a popular issue to generate political support and votes from women. So maybe it’s just the distant hope that someday there could be actual widespread evidence of an organization paying women 20% less than men for doing the same work, or that there could someday be a sighting of Bigfoot, that keep those myths alive.
Addendum: As CD regular “Give Me Freedom” pointed out in the comments on my Bigfoot post last year, it’s even worse than I suggest because the “77 cents on the dollar” myth as stated is the average gender pay gap and there would obviously be many women who are paid even less than “77 cents on the dollar” for the average to work out to 77 cents. Here’s more from GMF:
So where are the women earning 70, or 60 or 50 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men, for the average to work out to be 77 cents? If such a large number of women are being paid the same as men, or even close to the same, and the average is 77 cents on the dollar, then there must be a good number of women who are earning much less than 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as a man. I would think we would see and help those women first because their discrimination is even more severe than the average. Just as the “bigger” Bigfoots would be easier to spot, these women who are earning even less than 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men would stand out more and would be more likely to be highlighted as examples of discriminatory pay practices.
Read more at: http://www.aei.org/publication/for-equal-pay-day-evidence-of-employers-paying-women-19-5-less-than-men-for-the-same-work-is-as-elusive-as-bigfoot-sightings/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+aei-ideas%2Fcarpe-diem+%28AEIdeas+%C2%BB+Carpe+Diem%29