Perhaps it’s progress that the president waited until the second half of the speech to trot out the must-have line about equal pay and the wage gap. Perhaps his speech writers just needed to fill time so cut and paste a line from dozens of previous speeches:
You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.
Women deserve equal pay for equal work.
Yet they are behind the curve in using a statistic that is increasingly acknowledged as misleading. As feminist writer Hanna Rosin wrote about the 77-cent statistic in Slate:
I’ve heard the line enough times that I feel the need to set the record straight: It’s not true.
The official Bureau of Labor Department statistics show that the median earnings of full-time female workers is 77 percent of the median earnings of full-time male workers. But that is very different than “77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” The latter gives the impression that a man and a woman standing next to each other doing the same job for the same number of hours get paid different salaries. That’s not at all the case.
She goes on to describe – as those of us on the right have countless times before – that it’s the different choices men and women make (hours spent working, industry, fields of specialty, time spent out of the workforce, etc.) that are the primary drivers of the wage gap.
We can all debate why it is that women and men make such different choices, and whether that in itself is a problem society ought to seek to solve. Yet it would be nice if first we could all agree to stop misleading Americans by repeating this statistic and pretending that the 23-cent wage gap is evidence of rampant workplace sexism. Mainstream journalists are moving in that direction; it would be nice if the president’s speechwriters would catch on.
— Carrie L. Lukas is the managing director of the Independent Women’s Forum.