Each year, a conglomeration of feminist groups declares a day in April “Equal Pay Day,” supposedly the day when working women have finally earned enough income to make up for last year’s wage gap. These feminists want people to believe that women are routinely paid 77 percent of what men earn for doing the same work.
Yet that’s not at all what the statistic tells us. The Department of Labor statistic underlying the Equal Pay Day premise simply compares the earnings of the average full-time working woman to the average full-time working man, ignoring the number of hours they work each day, their industry, specialty, years of experience and all the other factors that impact how much someone earns. Economist June O’Neill shows that when this relevant information is taken into account, the wage gap shrinks to a few percentage points.
Why do feminists want people to think that the workplace is overwhelmingly hostile to women? The Left wants to grow government’s power and micromanage how businesses must compensate all workers. That’s easier to justify if people believe that discrimination and abuse is commonplace.
The policies promoted in the name of eradicating the wage gap would largely backfire on women, by creating a more one-size-fits-all employment structure and discouraging true workplace flexibility. Research shows that women are often willing to trade extra salary for extra flexibility; they won’t have such options if the government is given more power to dictate compensation practices.
Conservatives have better policy ideas for helping women, by creating better, more diverse employment opportunities. The Independent Women’s Forum just released a new report, Working for Women: A Modern Agenda for Improving Women’s Lives, which details conservative policy reforms to give women more workplace flexibility, job opportunities, and more resources and better options for balancing work and family life.
Women need to hear more from conservatives about these important issues. Conservatives must show that we don’t simply reject the Left’s government-growing ideas, but we have a positive vision of our own for how to help women. This report can help start that conversation.