In a jaw-dropping segment on Sunday’s Meet The Press, GOP strategist Alex Castellanos dismissed the notion of a gender wage gap.
When Rachel Maddow asked, “Do women make less than men for doing the same work,” she was understandably incredulous when Castellanos replied, “No” and then attempted to explain away any pay disparities.
To argue against the statistic that women make just 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, Castellanos rehashed the old arguments that women work fewer hours than men and that women go into lower paying fields. And then there was the classic “then every greedy businessmen in America would hire only women, save 25% and be hugely profitable.”
Let’s be clear: the gender wage gap is real and can not merely be dismissed, as Castellanos tried to do on Meet The Press.
According to AAUW’s 2012 report The Simple Truth About The Gender Pay Gap, in 2010, women working full time earned just 77 percent, on average, of what men earned ($36,931 versus $47,715), a gap of 23 percent. This is based on comparing the median yearly wages of full time year round working men and women across all occupations. As Ariane Hegewisch of the Institute For Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) makes clear, “gender wage gaps are not about women choosing to work less than men–the analysis is comparing apples to apples, men and women who all work full time–and we see that across these 40 common occupations.”
While it’s true that, as Castellanos notes, women tend to be employed in lower paying fields, the point Castellanos was making is clearly contradicted by the facts. IWPR’s 2012 report The Gender Wage Gap By Occupation found that even among the 20 most common occupations for women, in 19 of them, a pay gap persists including financial managers (wage gap is 35%), retail sales (24.8%) and nursing/psychiatric/home health aides (11.2%.)
In addition, AAUW acknowledges that differing life choices between men and women–including college major, occupation, hours worked, workplace flexibility and number of children–do have an impact on the 23% wage gap figure but cites a study that found that even when these factors are taken into account, a 12% wage gap remains between full time working men and women 10 years after graduating from college.
Instead of condescendingly trying to explain away gender-based pay disparities, it would do political strategists like Castellanos good to acknowledge the reality of the wage gap and help find real world solutions that will begin to close that gap once and for all. As Rachel said on Meet The Press, it should be first and foremost about policy.
But acknowledging the existence of the pay gap is inconvenient for many in Congress who, when given the opportunity to vote to begin to rectify wage disparities through the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, voted against that bill. And with a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act looming in the U.S. Senate, you can expect the drumbeat dismissing the existence of the pay gap to get louder and louder. Because if those in Congress against such legislation acknowledge the pay gap exists, then they’ll have to explain to America’s women why they vote time and time again against policies that would work to close that gap and make pay equity a reality.