Vol. 14 No. 07: July 6, 2010
By Sally C. Pipes, President and CEO, Pacific Research Institute
Some 2010 Census results are in, and Contrarian readers will be pleased to know that feminist organizations are already hard at work massaging the data to fit their tired narrative. This is a difficult task, however, as the Census heralds mostly good news for women.
American women are outpacing men in every level of education, and more women than men are earning bachelors and advanced degrees for the first time ever. As the Great Recession rolls on, women continue to fare better economically, too. The unemployment rate reached 10.7 percent for men, compared to the 8.6 for women in April. The economic downturn has disproportionately affected male-dominated industries like construction and manufacturing, while sectors with majority female workforces such as medical, education, and government are either expanding or holding steady.
These days, however, good news for the nation’s women is bad news for our friends at the National Organization of Women. NOW President Terry O’Neill’s recent comment provides a good case in point: “I don’t know if we can be heartened by the educational gains, because it is persistent wage discrimination that is driving women to get a higher education,” Ms. O’Neill fretted. “As more women enter the workplace, I think they will realize the unfairness of the situation they’re experiencing and demand change.”
It is tempting to laugh this off as an obvious spin by an organization desperate for relevance, and call it a day. As usual no evidence is cited to back up this claim. But why should O’Neill bother to ground her statement in reality, when she has the full support of an unquestioning media?
We have disarmed the phony “persistent wage discrimination” argument time and again in this column. Comparing the average female wage with the average male wage does not take into account the very different choices that men and women make in their work lives. As Warren Farrell argued in his book Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap—and What Women Can Do About It, men are far more likely to accept extensive travel, long hours and commutes, inflexible schedules, and safety hazards in exchange for more pay. Women are not as likely to trade these sacrifices for bigger salaries. In addition, women are much more likely to transition in and out of their careers as their personal life dictates.
The folks at NOW realize this fact, and have begun to argue for equal pay despite these differences. The argument goes that women in our society are unfairly saddled with family and home responsibilities, so they should receive equal pay regardless of circumstances, and taxpayers and business owners should help pick up the slack by providing flexible schedules, paid leave, and on-site childcare.
The main goal for feminist and left-wing organizations in general is to make individuals feel as though they only have value in the context of the larger group. That is why people like Terry O’Neill read male oppression into every female success story. NOW must convince women that they are disenfranchised and powerless on their own in order to make the feminist movement relevant, especially to younger generations of women. Yet the reality is different.
Very few 18-year-old girls cite “persistent wage disparity” as their main motivation for going to college. Increased earning potential is undoubtedly one of a myriad of reasons why a woman would choose to make such an important investment in herself. This is the beauty of a free society. Individuals do not need well-funded political machines like NOW to motivate them to improve their lot in life. Women do not consider themselves merely foot soldiers in the global war to end male oppression. They have their own reasons for pursuing higher education. They make their own decisions.
Statistically, college education makes women much more likely to tie the knot and enjoy happy, successful marriages. Half of them will choose to work part time or not at all once they have children. And they will be in the market for a feminism that celebrates their choices. That is tough news indeed for the gals at NOW.