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Jewish World Review Feb. 12, 2002 / Rosh Chodesh Adar, 5762

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Consumer Reports

Finding a glass ceiling where there is none -- IN the last five years, the wage gap between men and women has ... .widened, according to the surprising results of a congressional study recently released to gasping press attention.

A General Accounting Office report commissioned by two Democratic members of Congress, Reps. Carolyn Maloney of New York and John Dingell of Michigan, claimed that in a survey of 10 major industries the wages of women managers have on average fallen dramatically in relation to those of men in the last five years. In almost the same breath as the members bemoan the results they call for more studies, and suggest increased federal regulation might be needed to "fix" whatever the problem is.

But it turns out the problem is the "study." The taxpayer funded analysis was really little more than a biased and highly-emotionalized reinterpretation of the original GAO data, done by. . .staff members of Maloney and Dingell. So for instance the title of the GAO report "Women in Management: Analysis of Selected Data from the Current Population Survey" becomes, in the creative hands of the Maloney/Dingell staff, "A New Look Through the Glass Ceiling: Where are the Women?"

And creative they had to be. The GAO data was straight forward in highlighting the fact that while it controlled for some variables like education, age and marital status, it did not control for significant factors like levels of experience, managerial responsibility and the all important continuous years in the workforce. (The Maloney/Dingell analysis in effect dismissed these shortcomings.)

But, studies which do control for all relevant factors continually show that the wage gap between men and women virtually or totally disappears.

That's the finding of scholars Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Christine Stolba in their new book, "The Feminist Dilemma: When Success is Not Enough." The authors, who have for years tracked the progress of women in the American workforce, review a wide range of data that shows that when women pursue career paths with a resume and a resolve equal to that of their male colleagues, they close the wage gap.

The problem is only one for feminists who cannot conceive of women preferring to forgo or cutback careers for a time (or altogether) to care for children, or choosing slower-paced careers at the outset, like pediatrics as opposed to neurosurgery, even when they know this might affect their long-term earnings potential. At best, feminists frame this dynamic as featuring a "choice" women shouldn't have to make - because it's a choice feminists don't want them to make.

As Dr. Martha Riche, former director of the Census Bureau and a demographer who helped in the "analysis" of the GAO report candidly told me in response to the "choice" question, "I'm wary of 'choice.' It's another way of saying we haven't made an effort" to change the choices women are given.

And, heaven forbid, if that choice is made there shouldn't be consequences for it. The authors of "The Feminist Dilemma" quote Susan Bianchi-Sand, then-executive director of the National Committee for Pay Equity who said, "Yes, women leave at 5:00 to go home and look after their children. But they're still working, just not for their employers. Why should they get paid less?" (But then, why shouldn't those women who do put in the extra hours be paid more?)

Maloney herself was the most revealing. Not knowing me but apparently believing that because I'm a columnist and a woman I'm a leading member of the feminist Sisterhood, she let me in on some sorority secrets. For starters, that these taxpayer funded "wage-gap" studies she and Dingell have commissioned aren't for legitimate fact finding. Nor are there "more questions raised by the study" than answers, as Dingell, suggesting a wide-eyed naivete about what the studies would eventually show, cagily told The Washington Post.

Maloney laid out the real plan for me: "Women have always been discriminated against. . . this (the findings of the report) is another example of that," she said. "But," she went on to expound to me too candidly, "we have to prove it. That's what we're trying to do."

Naturally, I was made to understand, it's all very hush-hush. They especially don't want to alert the Right to what they are up to. As Maloney told me, they "don't want to scare the right wing so that they stop collecting data" on women in the workforce.

But it's not conservatives who have anything to fear from the hard data. Once again, it's the Sisterhood.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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