Stirred. That’s the best word I can use to describe how I feel after seeing the very recent findings from the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) about the gender wage gap. I’m even more . . . stirred . . . by IWF’s Carrie Lukas’ Op-Ed, “There Is No Male-Female Wage Gap” in the Wall Street Journal.
Boy, is she going to get some hate mail!
Carrie and her group draw some unexpected conclusions. They say the sorts of things women aren’t supposed to say about the wage gap. They go so far as to challenge the wage gap altogether. I watched Lukas on Fox News yesterday. There she said that the oft quoted statistic of women earning .77 on the dollar when compared to men isn’t comparing apples to proverbial apples.
Why? Because this doesn’t compare people working the same jobs, at the same hours, with the same education. Instead, it compares full time working women to full time working men, and men and women often have different jobs. She even said that women tend to spend less time on the job than men do. (Not all women, of course. We know who we are.)
She wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The Department of Labor’s Time Use survey shows that full-time working women spend an average of 8.01 hours per day on the job, compared to 8.75 hours for full-time working men. One would expect that someone who works 9% more would also earn more. This one fact alone accounts for more than a third of the wage gap.”
Here’s another stunner. To paraphrase, Lukas said this of women comprising only 3% of CEO positions: for many women, maximizing their income is not at the tippy top of their priority list. Their priorities are more likely to be centered on their family, so they’re much more inclined than men to try and be home when the kids get home, reduce travel, and otherwise sacrifice their careers for the people they love.
Lukas drew some other verboten conclusions that women aren’t allowed to make. Pay disparity is less about an institution out to get women, and more about the diversity of women’s priorities, she said.
I am especially shocked because these conclusions, especially the rationale for so few women running Fortune 500s, are the kinds of things I’ve said. And while I’ve not received hate mail (yet), I’ve received some near-violent disagreement.
In fact, Lukas’ point that maximizing income isn’t the be all, end all for women, is a premise of Sun Tzu for Women: The Art of War for Winning in Business. We each have to work and live–or live and work, if you prefer–in accordance with our priorities and values. Granted, I represent a (still youngish) segment of women who have never viewed their careers through the lenses of gender bias. I’ve been fortunate enough to live in a country and in an economy where I’ve had options. Lots of options. Those options include working in environments where I was able to do my absolute best. And when those circumstances changed, I had the option of moving on to a place where my contributions would be valued.
I realize that the beliefs of women like Lukas and me aren’t shared by all. Too many times I’ve seen women allow themselves to be held back and compromised. Sure, they may work in predatory environments where a dictatorial culture limits their growth and even dehumanizes them. But they choose to work there and stay there.
So what do you think? Is the gender pay divide a myth? Or are Lukas and the IWF ignoring institutional barriers and other factors?