Jewish World Review March 22, 1999 /5 Nissan 5759
Return of pay equity?
(JWR) ---- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com)
THEY DESERVE A CERTAIN ADMIRATION, these tireless liberals do, for their
ceaseless struggle to right wrongs --- even when the wrongs are all in their
Take equal pay. According to the AFL-CIO, Sen. Tom Daschle and President
Bill Clinton, unequal pay continues to beset American women. Columnist Ellen
Goodman argues that while women earned 59 cents on the dollar compared with
men in 1969, they now earn 74 cents on the dollar compared with men.
President Clinton cites the same figure and hopes for passage of
legislation that would permit the Department of Labor to evaluate jobs and
tell employers what to pay each employee.
Echoing a thousand campaigns past, the National Committee on Pay Equity (an
arm of the AFL-CIO) has issued a handbook for activists that recommends such
ideas as "Hold a BBQ or community cookout with food that is reduced in size
to reflect the wage gap" or encourage local restaurants to offer "discounts
on selected items to highlight the disparity in pay, such as: a drink
special, with $0.74 drinks for women and $1.00 drinks for men."
As usual, the zeal of these would-be reformers is inversely proportional to
Ellen Goodman is quite wrong to imagine that little has changed since 1969.
One thing that has changed is that the national debate now profits from the
contributions of non-feminist but scholarly women who know how to evaluate
A pair of them, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, an economist with the American
Enterprise Institute, and Christine Stolba, a doctoral candidate at Emory
University, have published (with the help of the Independent Women's Forum)
a new edition of their book "Women's Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the
Economic Progress of Women in America."
As everyday experience suggests, women have made dramatic economic progress
in the past 40 years. In nearly every field of endeavor, from advanced
degrees to business ownership, women have made great strides. Women
comprised only 12 percent of pharmacists in 1970, compared with 44 percent
today. They were only 27 percent of public relations specialists, whereas
they now dominate the field with 66 percent. There are five times as many
female lawyers today as there were 30 years ago and nearly three times as
The wage gap, Furchtgott-Roth and Stolba explain, is a crude comparison of
the wages of all men compared with the wages of all women. It does not take
into account education, training, time on the job, or full or part-time
work. In reality, the most important factor in the wage gap between men and
women is probably summed up in one word: children. Women with children tend
to take more time off from work, accumulate less seniority and accordingly
earn less than men. And the more children a woman has, the more her income
is likely to suffer. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth finds that
among workers ages 27 to 33 who have no children, women's earnings are 98
percent of men's.
The president, the AFL-CIO and other organs of the establishment tend to
take it on faith that when men's and women's wages differ, discrimination
must be at work. They are familiar with the data showing that mothers earn
less than childless women but tend to see this as yet further
discrimination. Furchtgott-Roth and Stolba respond with an economist's
question: If firms can get away with such discrimination, why do we not see
employers taking advantage of this by hiring only mothers and pocketing the
This slim volume deserves an award for maximum number of myths shattered
per page. Do women enter the work force because they must or because they
choose? The latter, in most cases. Does a glass ceiling keep women from the
top echelon of business?
No, it takes decades to rack up the education and
work experience necessary to become a top CEO. As women move up the
pipeline, they are achieving top spots. Though feminists complain of a "pink
ghetto," it is men who hold the vast majority of the least desirable and
most dangerous jobs such as pest controller and timber cutter. For every
woman who is killed on the job, 13 men die.
The Labor Department should look into this. Comparable death,
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©1999, Creators Syndicate