OPINION – Most conservatives do not believe in the gender wage gap. Many do not even believe in the widely cited data showing that women make 82 percent the wages of men – meaning for every dollar a man makes a woman makes 82 cents on that dollar for equal work – and there are good reasons to believe these conservatives are correct to question some facts in the gender wage gap debate.
As the argument goes, these conservative gap deniers point out that men and women doing the same work to the same degree inevitably make the same pay. In fact, as they point out, it is illegal to differentiate pay by gender under those specific circumstances. By contrast, what these conservatives argue is that differences in pay are not due to discrimination but because men and women are often not really doing the same job to the same degree.
A big factor in job pay is experience. Women who choose to split their time between a career and a family might eventually be doing the same job as a man but not to the same degree of experience. This experiential difference between men and women is a bias but it is a natural bias. This natural job bias is not good or bad. It just is. If a woman leaves the workforce for a few years to give birth and raise her family, she naturally has less career experience as a man, as measured by time.
The woman is discriminating in this case, not the employer. That said, there are plenty of women with less experience who can do the same job better than a man – and vice versa. Seat time, if you will, should not be the measure of an employee. But seat time does factor into any wage gap and anyone who has ever worked for a government knows this. Government and union employees often get pay raises and job progression based on time served.
This evidence does not excuse existing gender wage gaps but it could explain it. Most conservatives believe circumstances explain the gap. Feminists often try to dispel the influence of those circumstances. The result is that we continue to argue over the gender wage gap without a means to better understand this phenomenon.
In the midst of this growing debate, President Obama issued an executive order in 2016 to collect information from businesses connecting wages with gender, race and ethnicity. The Trump administration has abandoned that order in the name of fewer regulations. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is required to follow guidelines in the Paperwork Reduction Act. This act proscribes the type and amount of paperwork businesses and the general public must endure. Trump’s OMB now has said that the collection of wage, gender, race and ethnicity data is a burden.
Ivanka Trump has been the president’s primary counselor on gender issues and now supports the elimination of this regulation saying, “Ultimately, while I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results.”
And, yet, we still have a debatable issue on our hands. Is there a gender wage gap or not? If there is, what does it look like? If there is, where is it? If there is, what are the circumstances that gave rise to it? And so on.
I tend to agree with conservative skeptics but the possibility remains that both sides are right and I would like to know. While I understand unnecessary regulations burden businesses and taxpayers, perhaps the Trump administration could encourage a comprehensive and conclusive study of the gender wage gap by other means. To kill one of the few ways to gather data on the subject without proposing any alternative just does not make sense.
I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.
Paul Mero is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.