An open letter to Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families

At Huffington Post on September 21, 2012, Debra L. Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women & Families, says: “In nearly every corner of the country – in 423 out of 435 congressional districts – women are paid less than men.”

Here’s the bulk of the comment I made — and which likely will not be published — at her National Partnership for Women & Families:

Here’s what the report you refer to in your commentary actually says: “In 97 percent of congressional districts — 423 out of 435 districts — the MEDIAN yearly pay for women is less than the MEDIAN yearly pay for men.”

Where your blindness/obtuseness comes in: you didn’t even notice the word “median,” or don’t know what it means. As an ideologue, you can’t be embarrassed by such lapses.

By leaving out the word “median,” you make it sound as though every man makes more money than every woman.

Remember this: “Men are smarter than women”? That infuriated women, and rightly so, because the hyper-generalization made many people think — and made every man WANT to think — that every man is smarter than every woman (although the generalization put a lot of pressure on men!).

See “Women’s 77 cents to men’s dollar: What it really means.”

Excerpts:

Women’s 77 cents to men’s dollar is arrived at by comparing the sexes’ median incomes: women’s median is 77 percent of men’s. In 2009, the median income of full-time, year-round workers was $47,127 for men, compared to $36,278 for women or 77 percent of men’s median. http://tinyurl.com/5pl8or

Median means 50% of workers earn above the figures and 50% below. THAT MEANS THAT A LOT OF FEMALE WORKERS IN THE HIGHER RANGES OF WOMEN’S MEDIAN MAKE MORE MONEY THAN A LOT OF MALE WORKERS IN THE LOWER RANGES OF MEN’S MEDIAN.

The advocates’ interpretation of “women’s 77 cents to men’s dollar” doesn’t account for the number of hours worked each week, experience, seniority, training, education or even the job description itself. It compares all women to all men, not people in the same job with the same experience. So the salary of a 60-year-old male computer engineer with 30 years at his company is weighed against that of a young first-year female teacher. Also, men are much more likely than women to work two jobs; hence, more often than women, a man earning, say, $50,000 from his two jobs is weighed against a women earning $25,000 from her one job, so that he appears to be unfairly earning twice as much as she.

Thus, contrary to what pay-equity advocates say, women’s 77 cents to men’s dollar does NOT mean women are paid less than men in the same jobs. Nor does it mean, even more incredibly in the vein of “men are stronger than women” (which means to many that every man is stronger than every woman), that every woman earns 23% less than every man, perhaps leading some of the more benighted and the blinkered ideological to believe Diane Sawyer of ABC News earns less than the young man walking back and forth on the street wearing a “Pizzas $5” sign.

Over the decades, strategically ignoring the true meaning of “women’s 77 cents to men’s dollar” has been less than productive:

No law yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap – http://tinyurl.com/74cooen), not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not the 1991 Glass Ceiling Commission created by the Civil Rights Act, not the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act not diversity, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act…. Nor will a “paycheck fairness” law work.

Here’s an example showing why even the most educated, sophisticated women average less pay even in the same profession:

“In 2011, 22% of male physicians and 44% of female physicians worked less than full time, up from 7% of men and 29% of women from Cejka’s 2005 survey.” -March 26, 2012, http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/03/26/bil10326.htm

A gap feminists haven’t complained about: Women earn 77 cents to men’s dollar but control 85 percent of the spending. How can the lower-earning group control the vast bulk of the spending? (If feminists say spending most of the money is a burden for wives, then what is earning most of the money for husbands?) See http://www.she-conomy.com/facts-on-women

Here’s why no matter how much evidence refutes your ideology, you will not — cannot — change your mind:

Your need to be “right.” Which is driven by your fear of being wrong.

This fear, and I quote from my “In-depth Look at Women’s Pay Equity,” usually runs deep and powerful in those who routinely take their opinions pubic, as NOW leaders do. It is hard for me to imagine NOW’s chief Terry O’Neill, perhaps after she read Warren Farrell’s “Why Men Earn More,” going on television and gushing sheepishly, “Boy, was I wrong about the gender wage gap!”

She knows this is not what NOW’s rank and file, generally steeped in female victimology, want to hear. She’d likely be pilloried, and her organization would collapse like a house of cards in a wind storm. Moreover, she’d be at risk of losing her high-status job, her likely high income, and her continual, ego-gratifying moments in the sun while being handled with kid gloves by her handmaidens in the mainstream media (“The Ed Show,” for example). She is like any other public pontificator: trapped by her fear of being seen as “wrong” about her long-publicized perceptions.

So O’Neill has no choice, really, except to continue keeping the strange-headed monster of pay equity well fed and pushing for legislation that does nothing but burden business to the detriment of the economy.

And that’s exactly what NOW has been doing, with zero progress, for at least two decades.

_________________

The slogan “women’s 77 cents to men’s dollar” caught on because of an “availability cascade,” which Wikipedia explains as:

An availability cascade is a self-reinforcing cycle that explains the development of certain kinds of collective beliefs. A novel idea or insight, usually one that seems to explain a complex process in a simple or straightforward manner, gains rapid currency in the popular discourse by its very simplicity and by its apparent insightfulness. Its rising popularity triggers a chain reaction within the social network: individuals adopt the new insight because other people within the network have adopted it, and on its face it seems plausible. The reason for this increased use and popularity of the new idea involves both the availability of the previously obscure term or idea, and the need of individuals using the term or idea to appear to be current with the stated beliefs and ideas of others, regardless of whether they in fact fully believe in the idea that they are expressing. Their need for social acceptance, and the apparent sophistication of the new insight, overwhelm their critical thinking.

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