“I think I should be paid more.”
I made that statement when I was 26 years old to the male president of one of the most politically conservative groups in Washington.
I’m far from the only woman who has realized she deserves a higher salary. “Paycheck fairness” is a key theme in The Shriver Report by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress and Maria Shriver released this week. The report includes an essay by Beyoncé, who writes, “We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet.” Democrats are also planning to highlight the issue. Politico reported this week that Democrats are plotting to play the gender card this election year by bringing up so-called “paycheck fairness” and other workplace issues.
No doubt many women will be listening to – and participating in – this discussion. An October 2013 Pew Research Center study found that “in spite of the dramatic gains women have made in educational attainment and labor force participation in recent decades, young women view this as a man’s world.” That may be why so many seem to accept at face value this statistic that Beyoncé included in her piece: “Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes.”
But look more closely at the facts, and you’ll realize that in reality, women don’t have a wage gap problem.
The problem with the 77 percent statistic, calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau, is that it doesn’t compare the salaries of women and men in the same profession. Instead, it lumps all professions together. So, if high school teachers make less than congressmen (talk about something that ought to be fixed!), and there are more women who are teachers and more men in the U.S. Congress, then yes, the numbers will show that men make more than women. But if you compare the salary of a congresswoman to a congressman, guess what? They make the same. And the reality is that plays out not just on Capitol Hill but across professions and across the country.
When you compare women and men doing the same job, with similar education levels and experience, working the same amount of hours, the wage gap all but disappears.
And what about the many Millennial women entering the workforce? Well, childless women in their 20s living in metropolitan areas now earn 8 percent more on average than their male counterparts.
Education level has much to do with one’s career and earning opportunities. And according to Department of Education estimates, women in the class of 2013 were projected to earn the majority of associate, bachelor, master and doctorate degrees, meaning that for every 100 men who got a degree in 2013, 140 women did.
This is all good news we should be celebrating, not hiding from women. Sadly, due to the fact most “women’s” groups would rather keep fighting the battles of the 1960s than claim victory, and the left’s continuous playing of the gender card via the “War on Women” and “Julia” campaigns, many young women, the very women who voted for President Obama in droves, lack confidence.
That confidence deficit has real consequences: According to the Pew Research Center study, women are still less likely than their male counterparts to ask for a raise or promotion. It took confidence for me to address my personal “wage gap” problem when I was 26. But the era of women needing a white knight – even Uncle Sam – is over. It’s time for women to take their own initiative. My hope is that they’ll have the same happy ending I did at 26: getting paid what I knew I was worth.