After almost 50 years, the gender gap in pay still resonates

Monday, September 20, 2010

Valerie Jarrett continues to propound the myth that women are underpaid [Washington Forum, Sept. 17]. Yes, government data show that women working full time earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn. But women choose different jobs, and full-time women in general work fewer hours. So this is not proof of bias.

Labor Department data show that comparing wages of men and women who work 40 hours weekly yields a wage ratio of 86 percent. Marriage and children explain some of the wage gap, because many mothers value flexible schedules. In 2009 single women working full time earned 95 percent of men's earnings, but married women earned 76 percent, even before accounting for differences in education, jobs and experience. Many studies show that when women work the same jobs as men, with the same work experience, they earn essentially the same.

The Paycheck Fairness Act, advocated by Ms. Jarrett, would require the government to collect and analyze pay data on the sex, race and national origin of employees. The bill would disallow differences in pay between men and women based on education, training and experience unless justified by business necessity, and it would automatically sign up workers for class-action lawsuits.

This legislation would spawn a tidal wave of lawsuits, enmesh employers in endless paperwork and litigation, and slow U.S. employment growth.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Chevy Chase

The writer is director of the Center for Employment Policy at the Hudson Institute.


Since 1963, there has been very little progress on equal pay for women. In the 1980s, women were carrying red pocketbooks to signify support for equal pay. Except for union workers and government employees, women still earn less than men.

Wages and salaries are set mostly by the men who run corporations and companies. Congress's support of the Paycheck Fairness Act deserves widespread backing. But female relatives of corporate titans can do more by just telling their husbands, uncles, brothers, etc., to stop shortchanging women.

Helen Dodson, Olney

© 2010 The Washington Post Company