Can We Stop Measuring Gender Wage Inequity So Stupidly?

Democrats and left-wing activists have been touting HB1257, which is supposedly equal pay legislation but really doesn’t change much of anything from existing law. In fact, HB1257 seems less about equal pay than about giving Rep. Kylie Oversen (D-Grand Forks) after-the-fact justification for that “woman of the year” award she won on dubious accomplishments.

The legislation itself doesn’t bother me – the changes are so inconsequential that the bill passed unanimously in the House with little fanfare – but the justification for this fluff bill is objectionable.

Case in point, the video story above from Valley News Live’s Ashely Bishop. An excerpt:

According to the National Women’s Law Center, the wage gap with men and women is still happening. According to the survey, in North Dakota, a full-time working woman makes only 70 cents for every dollar a man makes.

“Pay discrimination exists; it is a problem and we need tools to address the problem,” said North Dakota Women’s Network Executive Director Renee Stromme.

So basically, because there’s a gap between pay when you compare all men to all women we’re supposed to leap the conclusion that the reason is discrimination.

That’s just lazy thinking.

Women are free to set their own paths of study, and the choices women are making tend to result in lower pay in the aggregate. That’s not evidence of some patriarchal conspiracy to discriminate against women. That’s evidence of cause and effect.

Some level of discrimination probably exists, but does that explain the entire wage gap? Does it explain even a significant portion of it?

Remember that there are other factors which impact earnings aside from gender. Things like time on the job. Education and career decisions.

Here’s a fun fact about who does the hiring in America: Approximately 77% of human resources position in the country are held by women according to multiple studies.

It’s hard to believe that HR departments across the nation that are employing just 23% men (talk about a gender gap) are making anti-women decisions on wages. If the wage gap is truly the result of sexism, it’s mostly women doing the discrimination.

Here’s another fun fact: In 2012, “Ninety-two percent, or 4,045 of all on-the-job fatalities were among men,” according to Jacquelyn Smith writing for Forbes. That speaks to men picking jobs that are more dangerous in far greater numbers than women, and thus command higher wages.

And speaking of choices, when we look at the differences between men and women when it comes to academic pursuits, we tend to see men choosing areas of study with higher pay and women choosing areas with lower pay. The data is reflected in gender breakdowns in advanced placement subject exams (see the full chart here).

If women are choosing areas of study that will result in lower-paying careers, whose fault is that? Should we force these young women to make difference choices? One could argue that we should do more to break down gender stereotypes in career fields (like the idea that computer nerds are boys or that nurses have to be women), but that’s beside the point. Women are free to set their own paths of study, and the choices women are making tend to result in lower pay in the aggregate.

That’s not evidence of some patriarchal conspiracy to discriminate against women. That’s evidence of cause and effect.

Legislation like HB1257 might make for feel-good headlines, or talking points for activists, or even line items for the thin resumes of first-term state lawmakers), but it’s based on a phony premise which is that the gender wage gap between all women and all men is evidence in and of itself of widespread and systematic discrimination.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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