Apart from a few radicals, most Americans believe in equality. The great disagreement comes when people try to determine what equality actually is. On one side are those concerned with establishing the optimal environment for the equality of opportunity, while the other side wants to guarantee the equality of results. Feminism began as a necessary movement to allow women many of the choices formerly only available to men. Unfortunately, modern feminism has transformed into nothing more than a racket of victims looking to gain special privileges.
From lower physical requirements for female firefighters, soldiers, and police officers, to quotas in sports with the enactment of Title XI, modern feminist causes have been about special treatment over equal treatment. Perhaps the clearest example of this is the way in which feminists have tackled the issue of the so-called gender income gap.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) for example loves to tout the fact that women’s median annual salary is only “78 cents for every $1.00” earned by men. But like most of these statistics, they are used to paint a story that just isn’t so. Several feminist groups claim that this wage gap is evidence of systematic discrimination against women in the workplace and are using it to pass legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act. Regrettably, the conclusion of the feminists has no basis in reality.
The first problem with their line of reasoning is that one cannot assume discrimination based on unequal results. For example, 75 percent of public educators in the United States are female according to the National Education Association. To conclude that this gender gap in employment is due to discrimination toward males in the public school system is not even taken seriously, nor should it be, but this same logic somehow applies to the wage gap.
The most reasonable explanation for the lack of male public educators is that men simply choose not to become teachers at the same rate as women. This issue of choice also happens to be at the heart of the gender income gap. The inconvenient truth of the matter is that women lag behind men in wages because of the choices they make. Women tend to go into different areas of study, choose different sorts of jobs (often with less risks involved), and manage their home lives with different considerations than men.
The Labor Department issued a study in 2009 which concluded that difference in income between the genders “are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”
This study only reinforced what has been known by most economists for a relatively long time. In a recent interview, economist Thomas Sowell noted that in 1969, unmarried women earned a higher income than men who were never married, they also became tenured professors at a higher rate than men who were never married. The variable to look for is marriage and child rearing, two choices that make a very big difference in determining the lifetime income of women.
It’s true that feminist groups use this dishonest wage gap statistic to push their agenda, but they often forget other very important facts as it relates to gender in the workplace. One statistic you never hear NOW using to petition Congress for in order to promote equity is the gender difference in workplace related deaths. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 men accounted for 93 percent of all workplace fatalities, even though women were responsible for 43 percent of all hours worked. Of course this statistic goes back to the point that men typically are willing to take on riskier jobs than women. Riskier jobs often mean higher pay.
Another angle not often considered by those who fret over the wage gap is that it makes little sense to an employer. If women truly did equal work for less pay, why would an employer ever hire a man except as a last resort? Businesses have one primary objective, and that is to turn a profit. If an employer could hire a woman and pay her a significantly lower rate than what it would have to pay a man, with equal results, what business wouldn’t take advantage of a deal like that?
Facts are stubborn things. Men choose fields that tend to earn more income and are more likely to work longer hours. Women are more likely to be selective when choosing work, taking flexibility and environment into account, as well as time for children and family. So before anyone participates in the upcoming feminist rallies in April to show their solidarity, consider how baseless the wage-gap grievance really is. Sadly enough, the wage gap fallacy is only the tip of the iceberg in the emotionally charged movement that is modern day feminism.