Equal Pay Act at 50: The Myth of the Gender Wage Gap
Romina Boccia /
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act.
Signed into law by John F. Kennedy in 1963, the act ruled it unlawful to pay women lower wages based on sex. Women all across the United States have a great deal to celebrate because of what they have accomplished in that time.
Women have not only caught up to men in many professional endeavors; single, young women are outperforming their male counterparts in urban areas. No surprise there, as women already earn more bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees than men do.
And yet many in Washington, including President Obama, claim that there is still a long way to go before women can claim success when it comes to equal pay. They point to the misleading statistic that women earn on average 77 cents for every dollar men earn—referred to as the gender wage gap.
This simplistic statistic purports the myth that women as a group experience widespread discrimination in the workplace and as a result earn lower wages and salaries. It fails to account for the different choices men and women make regarding their professional and family lives. Yes, choices. As reported by Heritage last October:
A 2009 study commissioned by the Department of Labor found that after controlling for occupation, experience, and other choices, women earn 95 percent as much as men do. In 2005, June O’Neill, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office, found that “There is no gender gap in wages among men and women with similar family roles.” Different choices—not discrimination—account for different employment and wage outcomes.
But even these facts don’t deter outdated feminist organizations and President Obama from spouting the confusing wage gap statistic to pursue unnecessary and harmful government involvement in labor markets. They want the so-called Paycheck Fairness Act, a measure that would backfire on women by encouraging more rigid pay structures, which would raise the barriers to greater flexibility in the workplace that are so important for working moms.
The Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative leader on policy issues affecting women, says it how it is in its new video “Straight Talk about the Wage Gap.” Their accompanying “Dear Daughter” letter encourages young women to reach for the stars and pursue their dreams fully with the understanding that every choice comes with trade-offs, and it’s our predicament to make our own decisions and take responsibility for them.
Women have accomplished so much already, and the trend is toward even greater professional achievement for women. Let’s not allow Washington to ruin women’s success with misguided legislation.