The wage gap: does it still exist? Today’s feminists would tell you that it is as real as ever and that women earn on average 78 cents for every 1 dollar that men earn. As a result, April 20 has become “Equal Pay Day:” a day to protest wage disparities between men and women. But according to Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at American Enterprise Institute, there’s more to the story:
Even feminist economists acknowledge that today’s pay disparities are almost entirely the result of women’s different life choices—what they study in school, where they work, and how they balance home and career. This is not to deny that some employers will try to pay Jill 78 cents and Jack $1.00 for an identical job. But our strict laws give Jill the right to take that employer to court. The claim that American women as a group face systemic wage discrimination is groundless.
Sommers goes onto explain the reasons why many women make life choices so different from men. Often, women prefer part-time work when they begin their families and women find fulfillment often in less high-paying careers. Sommers cites research data to prove her point:
And of course women are much more involved with babies than men. According to a 2009 Pew survey, “A strong majority of all working mothers (62%) say they would prefer to work part time . . . An overwhelming majority [of working fathers] (79%) say they prefer full-time work. Only one-in-five say they would choose part-time work.”
So if the “wage gap” is built on faulty numbers, why do feminist groups continue to complain and fight for pay “equity”? And what sort of repercussions could the nation face as a result? Sommers argues that feminist groups promoting Equal Pay Day are doing damage to women and men in the long run by reinforcing a false “victim” mentality that seeks government redressing of wrongs. Feminist groups have already pushed the “Paycheck Fairness Act” through Congress, which has now moved to Senate hearings. The repercussions if such a bill is passed? Plenty, including an unleashing of lawsuits and easy settlements for female employees citing “paycheck unfairness.”
Specifically, however, the bill could do much damage to the free market. Sommers explains,
Universities, for example, typically pay professors in the business school more than those in the school of social work. They cite market forces as the justification. But according to feminist theory, market forces are tainted by past discrimination. Women’s Studies departments will eagerly provide expert witnesses to testify that sexist attitudes led society to place a higher value on male-centered fields like business than female-centered fields like social work. If the Paycheck Fairness Act passes, it will wreak havoc in the American workplace. Employers today are already nervous about making new hires. This legislation will give them added pause.
When will women stop playing the victim card and start taking personal responsibilities for the life choices we make? Such legislation, if passed, will only allow for greater inequity to flourish. Women should promote equal opportunity in the workplace, where men and women have the same chance to advance and succeed. Ensuring equal outcomes will only ensure negative outcomes.