Guardian UK | RS_News | June 9 2012
OPINION ~ Once again, with dispiriting regularity, yet another bill to make it easier to fight for equal pay for women and men has come up for debate by Congress. And once again, we are being bombarded by misleading punditry funded by interested think tanks.
Is this issue dead, as claimed – and if so, is one of the key justifications for arguing that feminism is unnecessary, correct? Sadly, the answer is a resounding “no”.
Opponents of the Paycheck Fairness Act have been stealthy and effective at seeding the debate with disinformation. A well-worn iteration on television and in highbrow analysis magazines is that the wage gap is really due to a “choices gap” – meaning that, these days, any wage disparity between men and women has to do only with the different lifestyle choices women are making. They say women opt for a “mommy track”, for instance, or for professions that yield them more freedom to stay home with children.
The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) has been taking aim at these canards for many years now, arguing that the wage gap “isn’t merely a matter of choice in occupation”, for women are “typically paid less than men in the same occupation”, regardless of pay level.
The truth is that a full-time working woman is paid an average of 77 cents for each dollar earned by a white male in the United States. The situation is even worse for African-American and Hispanic women, who earn 62 and 54 cents respectively for every white male dollar.
According to a factsheet (pdf) put together by the NWLC, the yearly gap between white women and men comes to a total of $10,784, and the trend is for this volume to grow over the years, especially for college graduates. Stresses the organization:
“Even when women make the same career choices as men and work the same hours, they earn less.”
And, as women get older, the wage gap based on gender only increases. This may help explain why so many young women think this is not such a big deal, while older women will not wake up to the full extent of the systematic unfairness until it is too late for much organized action.