Today is Equal Pay Day and while it's supposed to be a day where we focus on reducing pay inequalities, it doesn't represent reality. "This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year," according to the National Committee on Pay Equity.
The problem is that this claim is based on assumptions that are completely false. And when you put false numbers into your equation, your answer will always be false. But if you ask, people will spout off the top of their heads that women are underpaid and everyone knows that--even the experts!
"On average, women make 80 cents for every dollar made by men," says the Today show. UltraViolet, an advocacy group, says the average woman is shortchanged $10,086 because of pay inequity.
The pay gap reality
The 80 cents on the dollar figure comes by averaging men's salaries and then averaging women's salaries and comparing the resulting number. But, the reality is, when you account for choices women make, the pay gap almost entirely disappears. It's a farce to say that women are paid unfairly compared with men.
What is true that women tend to work in lower paying positions. They hold 58 percent of jobs that typically pay less than $11 an hour. Additionally, women work fewer hours than men do. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes: "Even among full-time workers (those usually working 35 hours or more per week), men worked longer than women--8.2 hours compared with 7.8 hours." That adds up over a year.
Women also are more likely to have caregiver responsibilities. Now, we can argue that that is a societal problem that we should fix by encouraging men to care for children or aging parents. But it's not any business's problem to encourage couples to make different decisions. Do you want your boss telling you if your spouse can stay home with the kids or requiring you to drop your flexible schedule? (Women tend to prefer flexibility over money, when given the choice.)
Attempts to fix the pay gap
The idea that women make less than men bothers a lot of people and everyone aims to fix it. Discriminating on the basis of sex has been illegal for longer than I've been alive. Now, there is new legislation that, once again, attempts to address it.
The problem is, you can't eliminate gaps until you eliminate free choice. A recent Harvard study of bus drivers in Massachusetts found that while men outearned women, the assignments were all based on seniority with the highest seniority drivers getting to choose their schedules. Women consistantly chose the easier routes that paid less and turned down overtime.
Unless you force women to work more or men to work less, you have to deal with choices.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex (D-NY) also addressed a better solution than a new legislation, although she wasn't specifically speaking to this solution. "The pay gap and the wage gap persist through secrecy."
If you want to stop pay discrepancies, then make sure everyone knows what everyone else in the company earns. The only people who benefit from salary secrecy are bosses. Be open, and you'll reduce discrimination in all areas.
Telling women--and espcially young women--that the deck is stacked against them and they will never earn as much money as their male counterparts is not only false, but it also encourages failure and anger. Instead, teach them that if they want to make more money, they need to make different choices. Study engineering instead of English literature. Take the overtime shifts instead of going home early. Be a doctor instead of a nurse.
So, no, I'm not advocating advancing Equal Pay Day. I'm all for advancing Accountability for Choices Day. If you don't like your salary, make different choices.