Epic Mansplainer Wonders Why Women Can't Just Shut Up About the Gender Wage Gap Already

Newsflash, ladies: you need to stop jabbering on about this so-called "gender wage gap" thingamajig. You're not being discriminated against; the totally inconsequential pay difference is, if anything, your fault for working less hours and being kinda flakey! Are you on your period or something? Calm down!

That's the TL;DR version of National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru's Bloomberg op-ed on how the gender wage gap (which he calls an "obsession" of feminist groups) is NBD. "Here's the truth you won't hear," Ponnuru writes. "The pay gap is exaggerated, discrimination doesn't drive it and it's not clear that government can eliminate it — or should even try." Tell us more about how it's cool that we get paid less than our male peers, oh wise one!

Ponnuru's regurgitated talking points are nothing new: he says the gender wage gap is a result of how women choose to work fewer hours than men — "choices made by women concerning the amount of time and energy to devote to a career," because when they're off work they're probably just painting their nails and watching Real Housewives — and how they're more likely to "have gaps in their employment history and to enter lower-paying fields."

The studies Ponnuru cite show that women would still be making less than men if these "issues" didn't exist, but the gap is "reasonable" because women don't work as hard. So what's the solution? Nothing!

"There is very little that individual employers can do about any of these issues," Ponnuru writes. "They can't make men do more housework, or pick majors for women. Nor can they reasonably be asked to adjust their salary schedules to make up for those choices." And here's the kicker: "We shouldn't expect that 77 percent figure ever to rise to 100 — or even want it to."

(Note: we don't recommend checking out Ponnuru's columnist bio after finishing his piece, because you might attempt to smack his smug face off your computer screen, and you probably don't make enough money at your job to buy yourself a new laptop.)

The real reason Ponnuru doesn't mind the gender wage gap is because it's a result of our economic structure, which still operates on the assumption that men can "have it all" — family and career — by working hard while their wives take care of the household. Let's put the sexist aspects of that mindset aside for a second: that's simply not how it works anymore. A mother is the primary or co-breadwinner in six out of ten U.S. families, yet working women are paid more than $10,000 less per year than men — as the National Partnership for Women and Families notes, that's the equivalent of 92 weeks of groceries or 13 months of rent. The wage gap costs a U.S. women and her family (if you don't care about the ladies; Ponnuru, we're looking at you) more than $430,000 in lost income over a lifetime. If families have less money to spend, that's bad for the economy, too. No one wins!

Study after study has found that the wage gap is NOT about personal choice. "Even when all relevant education, career and family attributes are taken into account, there is still a significant, unexplained gap between the wages paid to women and men in the United States," the National Partnership says. Here are only a few relevant statistics from their study on how the wage gap hurts women and families:

  • Even when women choose "non-traditional," higher-paid majors, a wage gap exists. Women in science, technology, engineering and math are paid 86 percent of what their male counterparts are paid.
  • As soon as one year after graduation, women working full time are paid only 80 percent as much as their male colleagues, even when controlling for field of study and age.
  • Among all workers 25 years of age and older with some high school education, women's median weekly wages total $388 compared to a total of $486 for men.
  • The wage gap exists across a wide spectrum of occupations: Women in the service industry are paid only about 75 percent of the mean weekly wages paid to men in equivalent positions. In 2008 the average starting salary of a new female physician was $16,819 less than her male counterpart after controlling for observable characteristics such as specialty type and hours worked. A newly minted female MBA graduate is paid, on average, $4,600 less at her first job than a new male MBA graduate.
  • Even when women make the same career choices as men, they are paid less: A 2003 GAO study concluded that even after accounting for "choices" such as work patterns and education, women are paid an average of 80 cents for every dollar paid to men.
  • A 2010 GAO study on women in management found that female managers are paid only 81 percent as much as male managers.
  • Even when childless women and men are compared, full-time working women are paid only 82 percent as much as full-time working men.
  • Women are penalized for caregiving while men are not; the 2003 GAO study found that women with children are paid about 2.5 percent less than women without children, while men with children enjoy an earnings boost of 2.1 percent, compared with men without children. In other words, working mothers pay a penalty while working fathers receive a bonus.
  • Contrary to Ponnuru's claims, legislators and employers can help equalize the gap. They can pass legislation like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, promote mentoring initiatives that encourage women to ask for promotions, and offer daycare programs and child care benefits. But there's one simple step that comes before all of that: let's stop pretending that the gender wage gap is a mythical fringe feminist issue without widespread ramifications.


    Don't Blame Discrimination for Gender Wage Gap [Bloomberg]

    Image via Robert KneschkeShutterstock.