Dear Mr. President:
Last week you announced plans to fight so-called discrimination against working women by highlighting the fact that “3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women” and “fewer than 20 percent of the seats in Congress are occupied by women.” In light of this supposed problem, you pledged legislation to close the pay gap. “Right now women are a growing number of breadwinners in the household, but they’re still earning just 77 cents for every dollar a man does.”
The 77-cents mantra is provocative, to be sure. But stating that women in America earn less than men — without explaining why — either shows a marked ignorance on your part or it demonstrates your willingness to lie to the American people. What I can’t figure out is which one applies to you.
The pay gap in America is not between men and women at all but between married women and other men and women who spend their lifetimes in the workforce. According to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau data, women ages 22 to 30 with no husband and no children earn a median $27,000 a year — 8 percent more than comparable men in the top 366 metropolitan areas. Women without children do just fine. Since we’ve been talking about her as of late, think Virginia Rometty.
As for most women — those who do have children — there’s a perfectly good explanation why they don’t make as much money as men. The vast majority of women’s career choices involve a balance between work and the rest of life. That’s why most mothers with children at home are either unemployed or work part-time, around the needs of their families. It comes down to time and how to spend it.
Certainly there are women who attempt to balance full-time, demanding careers with motherhood; but they are not the norm. The average woman has no desire to live the life required for most high-pay positions — such jobs demand well over 40 hours per week. There are fewer female politicians for the same reason.
Your statement that women make less than men do for the same job is a throwaway line to promote the feminist myth that women are victims of employment discrimination. But equal pay for equal work has been U.S. law since 1963, and the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) is an aggressive federal agency that will take the case of any woman who feels she’s been discriminated against in the workplace. If what you said were true, then bosses would hire only, or mostly, women, wouldn’t they?
The bottom line is that the pay gap exists because of a voluntary division of labor, not discrimination by a conspiracy of male chauvinists. Men simply work more hours than women. And people who work more hours — or work at more difficult, unpleasant, or riskier jobs, earn more. And they should.
You’re wasting valuable time and money, Mr. President. There will never be male-female pay parity so long as most women spend part of their lives caring for their children. And thank God they do.
The proper role of government is to provide equal opportunity, not preferential treatment. In America, each of us is paid a compromise between what we want and what someone is willing to pay. Those millions of decisions add up to what we call the private-enterprise system.
Perhaps you missed that class at Harvard.
— Suzanne Venker is co-author of The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know – and Men Can’t Say. Her new book, How to Choose a Husband, will be published February 2013. Suzanne’s website is www.suzannevenker.com.