I just read an article in the Los Angeles Daily Journal [“Binders Full of Platitudes” – Oct. 22, 2012, p.5] by Eric Kingsley of Kingsley and Kingsley, noting what a terrible “gaffe” Mitt Romney committed with the stated that he obtained “binders of women” to fill Cabinet positions while governor of Massachusetts. This statement allegedly demonstrated that Mr. Romney is an obstruction if not an outright opponent of equal pay for women. It’s easy enough to see the statement for oneself by going to YouTube. I took the time to view the statement.

It seems to me that partisan fervor incline some people to pounce like tigers upon any imagined “gaffe”. As an employee rights attorney I certainly advocate for equality in the workplace, and particularly equal pay for equal work. Still, I question why an intelligent man like Mr. Kingsley is so bent out of shape. I can’t help but believe that Mr. Kingsley was in search of a gaffe–one that would give him a platform for writing an article like that I found in the Daily Journal. Mr. Kingsley ends his article with the statement: “This issue highlights the GOP’s current ‘war on women.'”

More interesting to me than this partisan diatribe about those bad corporations oppressing women, are the economic realities that lead to disparate pay practices. I don’t love corporations, nor do I hate them. They are simply mechanisms people use to make money. They are neutral while the people who run may or may not be ethical. But economics—now that is more scientific than Mr. Kingsley’s diatribe. Economics produces data.  The young woman posing the question to the candidates in the town hall forum noted in the question that women currently earn 78% of what men earn. Let’s start there.

I just finished reading a book by a liberal author who might take issue with Mr. Kingsley based on a review of the economic data and trends. It seems education and culture are the key drivers toward gender equality, not legislation or individual court decisions. The book is “The Great Divergence—American’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It” by Timothy Noah [Bloomsbury Press, 2012].

Noah makes the following points: 

Single mothers suffer most from income disparity. (Implying that the divorce rate is a major contributor). The reality is that single mothers have less time to devote to extra hours of work and less flexibility in working, and thus earn less. That is, anyone unable to work the necessary hours to build a career or to attend school will earn less. There is a gender problem, but it has more to do with who is the primary caretaker of dependent children. [Between 1970 and 2004 the number of single parent homes in which minor children lived rose from 12% to 26%]

Our earnings gap between the “rich” and the “middle class” is not due to gender inequality in pay, because that gap is closing even as the gap between “rich” and “middle class” increases. See generally “Women in the Labor Force: A Databook, Report  (Washington: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009), 8.

The number of Master’s degrees awarded after 1990 has doubled, and most of those have gone to women. College educated women have seen their incomes increase in tandem with the productivity increases, while college educated men’s incomes have lagged behind productivity increases. More women than men in the U.S. earned doctorates for the first time in 2009, and after.
Part time female workers generally earn more than part time male workers. “The Gender Wage Gap: 2010,” fact sheet (Washington: Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Mar. 2011; updated Apr. 2011). [However, there is an apparent gender bias gap in that women taking first time positions right out of college earn about 16% less than males.]  Women now outnumber men in college and post-graduate education enrollments. [implying the gap will of necessity close in the labor supply-demand dynamic of a high-tech society].

In conclusion, I recognize that gender discrimination exits, against both genders. Are court decisions and verdicts the answer? The conclusion is inescapable: women are helping themselves by advancing their educations, and being more in demand than men for higher paying jobs. Not only that, but the most highly educated women will open doors for other women who work for them and with them.

Both Mr. Kingsley and I make our living representing women and other “protected categories.” Even so, neither he nor I, nor the U.S. Congress will produce the gender equality he and I dream to see happen. It appears the answer has come from an unexpected source: the greater appetite and adaptability women are demonstrating for success in the U.S. educational environment.

“If the pink slip doesn’t fit, get redressed!”
Social Media to see my complete social “pink slip” wardrobe. “Fighting for the Little Guy”