Equal Pay Day is a Farce (and Demoralizing).

by Evil HR Lady on April 2, 2019

Today is Equal Pay Day and while it’s supposed to be a day where we focus on reducing pay inequalities, it also 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 they are operating on assumptions that are completely and totally 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 loses $10,086 due to pay inequity

To keep reading, click here: Equal Pay Day is a Farce (and Demoralizing).

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

parker davis April 2, 2019 at 9:01 pm

A most outstanding and well thought out post. But you will find some hostility on you position, since many would rather look at whatever numbers justify their their agenda. I worked for a very large chemical company and a look at gross data indicated that females were paid significantly less than men. While gross numbers showed this to be true, we began some additional research and found just what you have stated, i.e., it was mostly a question of choice. Few women (compared to men) then and even today were reluctant to pursue degrees in chemical engineering, chemistry, geology, mineralogy. They were also reluctant to take positions involving considerable travel, working in mines, chemical plants, refineries, etc. This lack of experience made advancement to middle management positions difficult. One the other hand, we found that females who were willing to make the sacrifices advanced to positions equal to or exceeding that of their female counterparts. You explained this very clearly and made a point that is very critical, but also very difficult for the equal pay folks to accept.

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Beth Hill April 2, 2019 at 9:10 pm

Thanks for your perspective. I agree that the decisions that you make influence your salary and you are correct that typically women are making decisions that put their family ahead of their jobs (and therefore their salaries and earning potential).

However, it sounds like you are not leaving room in your argument for unintentional bias (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/317858). This bias can start with the hiring process and impact the jobs that women are hired for (only lower paying jobs). I have read several of your post related to equal pay and feel that you are avoiding bias when discussing equal pay. Unintentional bias is a real HR issue that impacts the equal pay movement (as well as other movements).

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James April 2, 2019 at 10:34 pm

Here’s an experiment I’d like to see someone try: Pick some completely arbitrary way to divide the population into two roughly equal groups–say, hair or eye color, something that has nothing to do with their ability to do their jobs. What’s the difference in pay between those two groups?

Do this for a dozen or so traits, and we’ll be able to quantify the amount of variation we’d expect to exist in randomly-chosen halves of the population, giving us a null hypothesis. If the difference in pay between men and women is significantly different from this null hypothesis, we can conclude that there’s probably something going on; if it’s not, we can conclude that it’s probably (and the value for significance we choose will say WHAT probability) simply random variation.

That no one has done such a study (as far as I can tell) is an indication that we are not actually taking this issue seriously.

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Camellia April 3, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Well, it’s mostly women who are taking this seriously and they traditionally have not been in positions where they could get granst/approvals for a study like this. But wouldn’t that be awesome?!? I would love to see the results!

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LH Holdings April 3, 2019 at 12:19 am

Shocker! Another column where Suzanne dismissed the fact that a minority group is systematically mistreated. Studies have shown time and time again that all conditions being equal ( experience, education, etc) women will be paid less and then when they have the AUDACITY to try and negotiate are perceived in a negative light. Women are not expecting to. be paid the same for working less, they are demanding to be paid the SAME for doing the same work. It’s not a difficult concept to understand. Unless you have bowed and sacrificed yourself to the alter of capitalism above all else.

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Goober April 3, 2019 at 6:19 pm

Women aren’t a minority. They are, in fact, a majority, at 50.8% of the population. That they are just under half the work force is, again, a choice they have made as individuals.

As for the same pay for the same work, did you even *read* the article? Especially the parts about how they aren’t *not* doing the same work, they’re working less hours, and choosing careers that pay less.

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Kathy April 3, 2019 at 2:44 am

I have seen a few early studies and would like to see more comparing pay and wealth between men and women who are childless by choice. It’s not such a small group anymore. It would help to shed light on whether the problem is caused by gender prejudice or whether it’s due to the biologic necessities of child bearing and/or the cultural traditions of how a family should operate.

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MariaRose April 3, 2019 at 3:11 am

This article actually addressed a conversation, I just had with my millennial son on this specific topic, as I was trying to explain the problems I faced trying to get a fair equal salary to do the exact same job as a man with equal skills. (I am part of that generation of women who had to break through male-dominated jobs for equal pay.) I pushed for better pay than the pay offered, but you had to choose your battles because sometimes you have to give up pay to get certain benefits. (think flexible schedules, work from home, etc). The generation I was in developed better work conditions not just for women but for all workers who did the same jobs.
What is happening today with our young women entering the workforce is a certain change in attitude to what rights they should have. Where my generation realized to get the same pay, we had to perform at work at the skill level required for the job and if we need to change our schedules to accommodate having the added burden of raising children, we knew we would expect to earn less because of less time spent at work. Today’s young women, instead of pushing to change the workforce atmosphere to accommodate childcare, want the same pay while not working at the job and raising children. Instead of blaming the attitude still in place that assumes all childcare is female, which in a world where the majority of couples with children have both parents working unless one makes a top 10% income, today’s young women demand to be paid for non-work related time, instead of working to create a job workplace that eliminates women leaving the workplace to afford adequate childcare. This is a benefit that all personnel would appreciate. A better version of equality.

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charles April 3, 2019 at 4:11 am

Take the job that I do – training – and break it down by gender and, yes, it is true! Women make less than men.

But, as Mark Twain is credited with saying; there are three kinds of lies: “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics.”

Because if you take trainers and break them out – not by gender – by the type of training that they do. Such as corporate “soft skills” (e.g. HR new hire orientation) or hardcore IT training the pay difference can be quite dramatic. Those with the easier skills (e.g., soft skills) are paid less than those that require more technical expertise (e.g., computer programming). And is someone going to say that the more technical skills do not deserve more pay?

If you then break those two groups out by gender there is almost no difference in pay.

And, is anyone really surprised that more men choose the technical skills vs the warm and fuzzy stuff? Or that there are more women inclined to go for the HR stuff?

Further, I get quite offended (really rather cranky!) when someone suggests that I am paid more because I am a man rather than because I am training on more demanding material.

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grannybunny April 3, 2019 at 2:04 pm

Aw, geez! What came first, the chicken or the egg? Are women “choosing” to work jobs that pay less, or do the jobs pay less because they are — traditionally — filled by women? Trying to blame the lingering pay gap totally on personal choices ignores the sexual discrimination and sexual double standards that still exist in our society. There have been numerous studies showing that identical resumes that appear to be from women — as opposed to those with masculine or gender-neutral sounding names — are rejected more often. Likewise, job offers made to women tend to have lower starting salaries. Women attempting to negotiate are viewed negatively; whereas, men are rewarded for the same behavior. The same gender-based double standard applies to everything from assertive behavior to, even, attempts at humor. A woman seeking accommodations related to care-giving can quickly find herself “mommy-tracked,” with her career momentum slowed and her potential declining. A man seeking accommodations for normal parental activities may be heralded. Women attempting to break into traditionally male-dominated fields and/or upper management still face many barriers. Lily Ledbetter may be retired, but there are still a lot of “Lily Ledbetters” out there.

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Camellia April 3, 2019 at 2:40 pm

I agree with you, grannybunny, and with Beth Hill, James, and LH Holdings’ comments today. The ‘identical resumes’ studies are particularly compelling.

I’ve dealt with these issues and my daughter is dealing with these issues. Will my little granddaughter still be facing these issues when it is time for her to join the work force? It is so discouraging…

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grannybunny April 3, 2019 at 4:01 pm
BethRA April 3, 2019 at 5:36 pm

Thanks, I was about to post the same thing. A couple of highlights for those who won’t bother following the link:

Myth 1: The pay gap doesn’t account for women’s job choice.

Bennett: While it’s true that women are more likely to work in lower-paying fields like education and health care, the pay gap also persists within those fields. As our colleague Claire Cain-Miller has written, female food preparers earn 87 percent of what male food preparers earn, according to data from Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economist. (Female surgeons earn 71 percent of what male surgeons earn in the same specialties, Professor Goldin found.)

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BethRA April 3, 2019 at 5:38 pm

Myth 2: The gap persists because women take time off to have children.

Bennett: Women’s compensation does often suffer when they return to work after having children. But even in their first year out of college, childless women earn 93 percent of what their male peers do, even if they had a similar G.P.A. and were working in the same fields.

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BethRA April 3, 2019 at 5:39 pm

Myth 4: Women don’t get paid well because they don’t negotiate well.

Bennett: That has long been a factor in the pay gap. But a 2018 study, published in the Harvard Business Review found that …women are asking for raises as often as men… they are less likely to get them.

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kaysong April 3, 2019 at 11:37 pm

Background: I have no kids and I have always worked long hours (late nights and weekends) throughout my career. I’m an accountant who took on IT, report writing and training duties to augment my skillset.

I worked for the same company twice. When I left for more money the first time (because they wouldn’t pay me what I was worth), they had to hire 3 people to replace me. When I left the second time (other than pay, they are a great company and the work is interesting), they paid my MALE replacement (who had 5 yrs experience to my 20 yrs and was only going to be doing half of what I was doing as far as job duties) 100 dollars more a week than they were paying me.

I know this is just one data point but I can tell you exactly why I wasn’t paid appropriately. In his head, the big boss sees men as having families to support and women as working for extra money. The fact that I’m the sole breadwinner for my family doesn’t even occur to them. It’s not a conscious bias but it’s there in the back of their minds that women aren’t worth as much money.

I don’t think it’s fair to blame the pay gap all on women’s choices. I made all the right choices per your article and it still happened to me. My current company pays me appropriately but they are much bigger and my boss (a man) is highly tuned to push back against pay bias for women. It’s something he has on his mind. That’s what we need. Men (and women) who acknowledge the bias and work to combat it.

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Goober April 4, 2019 at 1:51 am

The counterpoint to your experience is Google discovering gender based pay inequity among their staff – they were paying women more for the same work than men. (Or the woman my father met many, many years ago. She owned a radio station, paid for with the proceeds from six divorces – all six exes had divorced her for physical cruelty. She flat refused to employ men at all, until the city council started holding their press briefings in the men’s room, at which point she married some mousy little guy whose sole job was covering the briefings.)

The devil is always in the details, and complicated problems never have simple solutions.

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sunnyday April 4, 2019 at 7:45 pm

I can understand your experience. I worked a technical role for 10 years and my CEO (female btw) would never sign off on a raise to bring me up to the market rate for my job. When I left, I made 2x my previous salary because the new job hired using pay scales/brackets.
The man who replaced me had 1 year experience and was given a starting salary 15K more than what I was earning.
But the lesson here is to always be open to new opportunities and be ready to make the change. I think women are less likely to change jobs while men change more frequently. All these jumps add up to more titles, experiences, and salary.

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kaysong April 8, 2019 at 5:41 pm

Exactly! Changing jobs is definitely something you need to be open to during your career. It’s comfortable to stay in one place forever but you limit your opportunities and salary.

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