National Equal Pay Day

Today is “National Equal Pay Day,” as advocated by the National Committee on Pay Equity, and proclaimed by President Obama.  The idea is to highlight the difference in pay between women and men.  On average, women make $0.77 for every $1.00 men make.  April 12, 2011, is the day that the average woman would have to work to earn the same amount that the average man earned in 2010.

The question is, why is this?  In the comments to an earlier post about Wal-Mart, I made several guesses as to why this is:

  • Women take several years off for child-rearing, and this hampers their career.
  • Women take different career paths than men.
  • Women have a different way of interaction, which doesn’t mesh right now with the corporate culture (collaborative vs. competitive), which can lead to them being overlooked for upper management (there are very few female C-level executives at Fortune 500 companies).
  • While a woman’s management style may be more productive than a man’s management style, there is a certain stereotype or mold that a manager is expected to fill.  Until this changes on a large scale (and it could, if there’s a competitive advantage to the female model of management), women will continue to be passed over for these positions.

It seems to me that people who bemoan the fact that women make $0.77 for every dollar a man makes don’t actually take the time to consider why this is the case.

I read several interesting articles in regards to pay equity today, and read some interesting statistics:

  • Saying the “average woman” earns less than the “average man” is statistically misleading, because in order to make such a comparison, you need to be comparing the same kind of men to the same kind of women, doing the same kind of work.
  • Young, unmarried, childless women actually make MORE than young, unmarried, childless men (an average of 8% more) – see this TIME Magazine article or the Enterprise Blog.
  • Women who never marry and never have kids actually reach greater heights in their industry FASTER than men—they reach the executive suite faster, they reach tenure faster, etc.
  • Women don’t tend to go into occupations that have a high rate of obsolescence—they go into occupations where they can take 5 years or so off to have children, and then re-enter the workforce without much loss.  For instance, women tend not to go into the computer field where, if they take 5 years off, they’d have to start over again at the bottom when returning.  Rather, they take jobs as teachers, where the job doesn’t change dramatically in 5 years.

This seems to support my (and my others’) theory that the main driver of gender inequality in pay is women taking time off for child-rearing (and asymmetric distribution of household duties, as Thomas Sowell says in the video below), instead of widespread gender discrimination by employers.

Do you think there’s widespread gender discrimination that leads to pay inequity?

(If you cannot see this video in your RSS reader or email, then click here)
You can also watch the entire interview here.

Other resources:

Is There Equal Pay for Equal Work? – The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood

Value and Opportunity: The Issue of Comparable Pay for Comparable Worth – The Cato Institute (this is an interesting article, even though it was published in 1984)