U.S. Chamber: Women Choose to be Paid Less

Gender pay gap is their own fault

This week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce chose the 75th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – which gave women the right to vote – to blame women for the fact that they get paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. In a post titled “Equality, Suffrage, and a Fetish for Money”, Sr. Director of Communications Brad Peck, writing for the Chamber’s official blog, ChamberPost, said:

“Most of the current “pay gap” is the result of individual choice rather than discrimination.”

The Chamber is opposed to federal legislation – The Paycheck Fairness Act – that would address the pay gap by requiring companies to justify pay discrepancies based on only bona fide factors such as education, training, and experience – provided these are related to the job and a business necessity. The Act would prohibit retaliation by employers for people asserting their legal rights and would make businesses that engage in sex discrimination liable in civil court.

But to the Chamber, women can close the pay gap all by themselves if they would just pick higher paying jobs and wealthier husbands:

“It is true that culturally speaking women are more likely to have to make the tough choices about work-life balance. But as we all seek to fit our values into a dynamic 24/7 economy, let’s not overlook the obvious, immediate, power-of-the-individual solution: choosing the right place to work and choosing the right partner at home.”

Doubt won’t close this gap

The Chamber spokesperson used scare quotes around the words pay gap – as if it wasn’t real or to be taken seriously. Not only is women getting paid less than men a reality, it’s true even when they have the same jobs. Zaid Jilani at Think Progress notes:

While it’s true that women sometimes migrate into fields that have lower pay, what Peck ignores is that even within the same occupation, women are paid less. For example, data collected by the Census Bureau in 2007 shows that “female secretaries…earn just 83.4% as much as male ones” and female truck drivers “earn just 76.5% of the weekly pay of their male counterparts.” A report put out this year by the University of Minnesota finds that women in that state are “are paid $11,000 dollars less each year than men with the same jobs.” A 2007 American Association of University Women report compared men and women with similar “hours, occupation, parenthood, and other factors normally associated with pay” and found that “college-educated women still earn less than their male peers earn“; the report concludes that workplace discrimination is the culprit in the wage gap.

It is important to note that this pay inequity is so pervasive that it even affects people who undergo a sex change. In 2008, researchers Kristen Schilt and Matthew Wiswall examined the wages over their lifetimes of people before and after a sex change operation. Even “when controlling for factors like education, men who transitioned to women earned, on average, 32% less after the surgery. Women who became men, on the other hand, earned 1.5% more.”

Fight for equal pay “a Scrooge-like fetish for money”

People fighting for equal pay for equal work, the Chamber says, are consumed by “a Scrooge-like fetish for money.” Essentially, if you’re concerned about the negative effects of women earning 23 cents less than every dollar men earn, you’re just being greedy.

Putting aside the laughable idea that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce should be lecturing anybody about being greedy, it fits with the Chamber’s long history of hating women, says FDL’s Michael Whitney:

In case you were wondering if this was a one-off incident, rest assured: the US Chamber of Commerce really hates women.

  • 1977: US Chamber opposes amendment to Civil Rights Act that would ban discrimination against pregnant women.
  • 1978: US Chamber says pregnancy is a “voluntary” condition in its opposition to Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
  • 1987: Family Medical Leave Act “sets a dangerous precedent,” according to the US Chamber.
  • 1998: US Chamber opposes Equal Pay Act because “work experience does tend to create greater wage gaps.”
  • 2007: US Chamber opposes Lilly Ledbetter’s court case for equal pay because “tear-stained testimony” prejudices against a defendant. Opposed the bill in Congress to right the wrongs against Ledbetter in 2008 and 2009 as well.
  • 2007: Chamber official pledges “all out war” against Family Medical Leave Act, and in 2010 made it a “priority” to fight in Congress.
  • Monday: US Chamber again cites pregnancy as a “voluntary choice.”