In case you missed it, “Equal Pay Day” was on Tuesday and it brought with it the usual stories dramatizing the inequalities of pay between genders. Of particular interest was this little map:
Cute map. I’m sure glad they did it in a pink scale – you know, so we wouldn’t be confused this map was about girls. Anyway, the opening line of the article attached to this map says, “It’s 2015 and, on average, women still make 78 cents to a man’s dollar.” In other words there’s, allegedly, a 22 cent on-the-dollar raise just for having man parts.
This number didn’t sit quite right with me, and so I went and looked at the research article cited by Huffington Post. Ever wonder how they got that 22 cent gap? Where they got that number? Here’s where it came from:
Specifically, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) took the national median income for women, and divided it by the national median income for men. That’s it. That banner number of the tragic pay inequality is nothing more complicated than that.
It should be.
This number takes all careers from all fields and compares them by gender, with no discretion between jobs. A male psychologist is compared to a female hairstylist, drive-thru employees are stacked up against rocket scientists. This number doesn’t take into consideration age, education, experience, job choices, variations in pay state by state or really any other important factors.
I’m not the first one to say this either – ironically, Huffington Post (the ones who shared that pretty pink map up there) came out with this article almost 3 years ago. They’re careful not to make mention of it in their “Shame On You, America!” map article though.
Essentially the post explains that women are probably a lot closer to equal pay than we are often misled to believe. In fact this 2012 article pegs the disparity in pay (after controlling for significant factors) to be “only 6.6 cents .” and when asked how much of THAT number came from discrimination, Lisa Maatz – spokeswoman for the AAUW – said, “We’re still trying to figure that out.”
Now to address the two largest thoughts I’m guessing are crossing your mind right now:
First – “This article is 3 years old, the data may have changed since then! Hence why it wasn’t mentioned in the more current posting.” I thought so too, but the current research referenced by HuffPo states that after controlling for significant factors there remains a 7 cent gap only. So the data has remained fairly constant.
Which leads me to the second thought I’m sure is just itching to fly out of your fingertips into the comment section: “Okay, great – so it’s 7 cents instead of 22! Yeah that’s certainly an improvement but for goodness sake when it comes to gender there should be ZERO inequality!”
So before you grab your pitchforks please understand I’m in no way supporting gender discrimination. My beef here lies with the fact that the most popular statistic surrounding this issue is horrendously inaccurate. Misleading to the point of being a lie.
It’s a useful lie though – a flashy one. Makes for nice headlines, wonderful clickbait and a lot of shares on Facebook. But a lie nonetheless.
The issue of wages in America is much murkier than just this one statistic or any one study, but if we’re to ever have hope of progress in any discussion it HAS to come from open, honest dialogue on the subject.