Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Apparently she missed that memo

On my public radio station KAMU this morning, I hear a segment on Marketplace called "The Senate looks at a bill to update the Equal Pay Act of 1963" in which the U.S. Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, makes the following statement regarding the upcoming Senate Bill called the Paycheck Fairness Act:
What's really important to understand here is that women still earn only $.70 on the dollar compared to men. And for African American women, it's $.69, for Latinas it is $.60.
Now before you go calling me a woman hater, chauvinist pig, or - God forbid - a Republican, you gotta remember I am a scientist (or at least I try to be one, plus I stay at Holiday Inn Express a lot).  I use data to help me decide what to 'believe' about something.

Those numbers just did not sound right to me.  They sounded too 1970's.  Plus, to my way of thinking, there were other factors involved that could contribute to this disparity.  I am here now writing this Blog because I looked it up.

Seems that difference, $0.70  on the dollar gets passed around a bit.  I found it similarly quoted here, and - nicely I might add - they quoted the source.  Seems this data is obtained from a document with the easy to say title of:
NWLC calculations from U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2009 Annual Social and Economic Supplement, Table PINC-05: Work Experience in 2008—People 15 Years Old and Over by Total Money Earnings in 2008, Age, Race, Hispanic Origin, and Sex,
Now before you say "it's from the Government so it has to be true" or "it's from the Government you can't trust it" - let me state: that does not make the use of the data correct or incorrect.  Assuming it is correct, accurate and precise, the use of this data to determine a wage disparity is wrong.

What this data looks at is the total wages of one group and compares it to the total wages of another group.  It looks at the whole without taking in relevant and real factors that affect it but have nothing to do with discrimination.  What they are doing is comparing apples with oranges using data from Florida and Washington.  Is Florida anti apples because more of their citizens eat oranges?  No.

Now when I heard her use those figures I was pretty sure there was more to the story than that.  But that 'sureness' was based on a feeling - that - because I hate woman - may have biased my thinking.  Do woman make that much less then men?  Yes - her numbers are correct based on census data.

Do we need a Paycheck Fairness Act?  Maybe...but not based of this idea that their is a disparity in pay because employers treat woman differently.  Do some of them?  Yes - probably - most likely.  Companies are run by humans and we humans have very strange belief systems on what is right and what is fair.

But is the pay difference a result of unfair policies and attitudes of business that must be addressed by a new law?  No.  And Ms. Solis should know that.  But, for reasons that are either due to an agenda, ignorance, or lack of intellectual curiosity, she supports this Law on the premise that the work place is still unfair to woman:
So what we're looking at here is really trying to create a level playing field, and actually having the government help provide support -- data collection -- so that we could really look across the board to see where these inequities exist.
What is disappointing about this - which if I know it, she should too - is that  when she was confirmed as the Labor Secretary on January 9th 2009, a report titled:
An Analysis of Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women
...had been prepared for the Department of Labor dated January 12, 2009.

In the report's forward, Charles E. James, Sr. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Federal Contract Compliance with the U.S. Department of Labor, summarizes the findings as follows:
Although additional research in this area is clearly needed, this study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers. 
That's kind of what I was thinking, but you gotta go where the data takes you.  Apparently Ms. Solis was never given this report?  More likely, though, and disappointingly so, she knows of its findings and instead choose to go with the numbers that best fit her agenda.

Do we need a Paycheck Fairness law?  Maybe...maybe not.  What I do know - or at least feel comfortable in stating - is that we do not need it because woman make $0.70 on the dollar when compared to men due to workplace discrimination.

What part of "unambiguous" did she not comprehend?

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