Photo credit: Metropolico.org (CC-By-SA 2.0)

I’m writing this on a day that’s been dubbed “Equal Pay Day” in the USA.  A day that’s apparently been set aside to protest something that doesn’t exist.

The wage gap.

We are definitely scratching the bottom of the barrel for “causes”, if we’ve been reduced to championing the fight against mythical boogeymen.

The wage gap argument tends to rear it’s ugly head, when feminist activists have run out of new things to feign offense about.  It’s their standby.  Their comfort zone.  They trot it out to claim victimhood at the hands of nefarious, corporate CEO’s, usually men.

As an Executive Recruiter, the wage gap argument is one I encountered frequently and it’s a topic that I would actually welcome a sane, intelligent debate on, as long as that debate is based on quantifiable data, and not feelings and raw emotions.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to have such a debate, since said quantifiable data doesn’t exist, due to the several variables that go into determining pay.  If a man is making $5,000 a year more than a female in the same job, do they have the same number of years of experience?  Do they work for the same company?  Do they have the same level of education?  Is their career stability the same?  Finally, are they both equally as adept at negotiating an offer when one is received, or did one of them accept the first offer presented to them?

True story:  I was working with a company that needed two Directors of Sales.  They narrowed it down to two candidates, one male and one female.  They offered an $85,000 base salary to each.  The female immediately accepted.  The male said “Let me think about it” and came back the next day with this brilliant counter:  “While I appreciate the offer, I took pen to paper last night, and I really need $90,000 to make this work.  That’s only a difference of a couple of dollars per hour in a 45 hour work week.  Surely, they aren’t willing to walk away from this for $2 per hour”.  Naturally, they gave it to him.

There’s your “wage gap”.

Now, it IS true, that on average, women earn roughly $0.70 less per hour than men.  But to blame it on discrimination is misguided.  In fact, on average, childless women in their twenties, out-earn their male counterparts by a whopping $1.08 per hour.  Time taken off from the labor force to raise children, as well as career choices are two of the major contributing factors as women get older.  Men tend to take more dangerous, higher pay positions than women do.  So “yes”.  When we’re comparing male oil rig workers with 15 straight years on the job, with female receptionists with 5 years on the job, there’s going to be a gap, and there should be.

Until someone tackles the mammoth undertaking of comparing all of the variables in the same line of work, we can drop the wage gap issue.

And we certainly don’t need to set aside a special day to fight against something that doesn’t exist in the first place.

1 comment
  1. Good piece. If I’m not mistaken, a pay equity mandate has been in the US Code since the early 1960s. The fact that it’s still a “problem” is precisely due to the absence of quantifiable data to establish baselines for enforcement.

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