First off, let me wish you a very happy Equal Pay Day!
Today is a big day. First, there are 3 huge policy initiatives taken on behalf of President Obama and congressional Democrats to eradicate discrepancies in workforce pay between men and women. Second, Equal Pay Day is a jarring reminder that undocumented statistics are very, very bad for our national acumen regarding labor economics and very, very good for trendy, pseudo-intellectual BuzzFeed thought pieces.
Because women do not earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by men. Rather, the wage gap between men and women varies with socioeconomic segmentation. Controlling for age and education across time, the Pew Research Center estimates that young women earn 93 cents to every dollar their male counterparts earn in a year. Admittedly, 7 cents adds up. This means that women of our age caught up to young men by roughly the last week in January of this year to make the equivalent sum that men earned over the course of only one year.
Now, we must consider why this 7 cent difference persists. The Pew-sponsored survey gathered data that the leading cause of pay difference was women’s continual choice to take career-interrupting actions to care for family. The report concludes:
“Research has shown that these types of interruptions can have an impact on long-term earnings. Roughly four-in-ten mothers say they have taken a significant amount of time off from work (39%) or reduced their work hours (42%) to care for a child or other family member. Roughly a quarter (27%) say they have quit work altogether to take care of these familial responsibilities. (Fewer men say the same. For example, just 24% of fathers say they have taken a significant amount of time off to care for a child or other family member.)”
Following this leading cause, the secondary hypothetical causes are gender discrimination and the lack of women in higher-paying jobs traditionally dominated by men like STEM, banking, and managerial positions.
Interesting. Let’s move on to consider the recent policy initiatives.
Capitalizing on today’s theme — equal pay regardless of gender — Democrats and President Obama have pegged work force equality as a major issue upon which to capitalize and run in the up-coming November mid-term elections. The agenda is as follows:
First, Obama will sign an executive order banning federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their compensation. Although it is difficult to quantify how frequently such retaliation occurs in the workplace, a 2011 Institute for Women’s Policy Research study reported approximately half of all workers are prohibited from discussing compensation by their superiors.
Second, Mr. Obama will sign a presidential memorandum instructing Labor Secretary Tom Perez in the establishment of new regulations mandating federal contractors to submit to the Department of Labor summary data on compensation paid to their employers, including data on sex and race.
Third, the Senate will soon consider the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would impose new regulations on how companies pay employees in an effort to ensure women are not unfairly earning less than their male counterparts. Admittedly, the chance of this bill passing through the GOP-strong house is slight. However, the bill would require companies to demonstrate that discrepancies between employee pay is due to circumstances unrelated to gender.
The aim of these three measures is to gain traction with women and minority voters whose turnout could swing the midterm elections to the Democrat’s favor in November.
Very well. But what are the implications for golden Notre Dame women? If you allow me to stand on my HCND soapbox: I instruct you to tear down those inaccurate Gender Relations posters in the Hesburgh Library Fishbowl, tackle your finance and engineer textbooks with rigor, encourage your eventual daughters to major in STEM or enroll in Mendoza, and start your own business (which you can do with a humanities degree, I wholeheartedly promise you).
Let’s all fight inaccurate statistics together. I’ll see you in the corner office.