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Guest Host: Maria Hinojosa
Women on average in the United States earn 79 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to U.S. census data. Two years ago, the Obama administration sought to close this gap by requiring all federal contractors to submit salary data by gender and race. The White House is now proposing collecting similar information from all companies with at least 100 employees. State legislators nationwide have also introduced new pay-equity legislation. Some business leaders and economists say this will be a burden to companies and won’t fix the pay gap. Guest host Maria Hinojosa and a panel of guests discuss new efforts to close the gender pay gap.
- Jenny Yang chair, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Janet Adamy news editor, Wall Street Journal
- Emily Martin vice president and general counsel, National Women's Law Center
- Mark Perry scholar, American Enterprise Institute; professor of economics and finance, University of Michigan, Flint campus
MS. MARIA HINOJOSAThanks for joining us. I'm Maria Hinojosa, executive producer and host of NPR's Latino USA and I'm sitting in for Diane Rehm. And what an honor, great Monday morning to everyone. So federal law has prohibited discrimination in pay based on gender since 1963, but women, on average, earn only 79 cents for every dollar paid to men, says the White House. Let's say that again. Only 79 cents for every dollar paid to men.
MS. MARIA HINOJOSAThe gap widens if you take race into account. Black women earning 60 cents and Latinas earning 55 cents for every dollar a white man earns. With me in the studio to talk about new efforts to close the pay gap is Jenny Yang. She's chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Hello, Chair Yang.
MS. JENNY YANGHello.
HINOJOSAAnd Janet Adamy, she's with The Wall Street Journal. Hey, Janet.
MS. JANET ADAMYGood morning, Maria.
HINOJOSAAnd Emily Martin, who's with the National Women's Law Center. Emily.
MS. EMILY MARTINGood morning.
HINOJOSAAnd we have Mark Perry with us from Flint, Michigan. He's with the American Enterprise Institute.
MR. MARK PERRYHello, Maria.
HINOJOSAAnd hey, hey, Mark. So we'll be taking your calls during our show. You can get us with your comments or questions at 800-433-8850. You can also email us at email@example.com. And you can also check us out on Facebook or on Twitter. Okay. So Chair Yang, let's start with you. Some not so good news that right now, according to government data, women, on average, are earning 79 cents for every dollar paid to men, which doesn't sound so good, but there has been a little bit of improvement. So bring us up to date. Where do things stand now?
YANGWell, 50 years after pay discrimination became illegal, we still see a persistent problem with the pay gap. It's been a challenge because often people have no idea that they're being paid less than others doing the same job. So without that information, they're not able to come to the EOC to report it. And what we did as a result is announce a new proposal to collect pay information from employers with at least 100 employees.
YANGWe announced it on Friday with the president in a celebration of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It's the seventh anniversary of the act. And that act was made...
HINOJOSAAnd it's important to say that that was the first piece of legislation that the president signed.
YANGExactly, Maria. It was the president's first piece of legislation and it was named after a woman named Lily Ledbetter who worked for years as a manager and did not know she was being paid less, actually 15 percent less than the lowest paid male in that position, until she got an anonymous note telling her about it. So after she got that, she was able to come into the EOC and to report that discrimination. But all too often, we see that happening to people in all different kinds of jobs.
YANGAnd sometimes, it's a misdirected email from an HR person that tips them off to the salaries of other people doing the same job. Sometimes it's a piece of paper left on the copier or a casual comment made in a conversation that gives people the information they need to come forward, but all too often, people don't have it. So that's why we're moving forward on collecting pay.
HINOJOSAAnd essentially what you're doing now is that any company that's larger than 100 or more employees has to answer information on data in terms of pay and gender.
YANGCorrect. We already, for 50 years, have collected information from employers with at least 100 employees on total demographic information of their current employees so they report out by job category, the race, ethnicity and gender of their employees. All we're asking to do now is for them to break down the pay ranges that they pay their workers by these demographic categories. So we're gonna use an existing form to do that.
HINOJOSAOkay. So Janet, you -- when I started reading into this, and this is a subject, actually, that I've been looking at for a while as a journalist, the numbers get pretty scary when you add the issue -- the element of race. African American women earning only 60 cents per dollar, Latinas earning only 55 cents per dollar. Talk to us a little bit about what's happening when you include the issue of race and what that means in terms of more economic loss.
ADAMYSure. Well, there's two issues when you compare blacks and Latinos to white men. That's where you get the kind of big gaps that you're talking about, Maria. But interestingly enough, you find the opposite when you compare -- do a more apples to apples comparison of Latino women to Latino men, black women to black men. They actually have a narrower gender pay gap than do white women and white men, Asian women and Asian men.
ADAMYAnd what you're finding is that across the board, white men continue to remain atop the economic ladder and so when they're compared to white women, that's where you do find the biggest gap among the Latinos and blacks. The gap just isn't as big because the black and Latino men aren't as high up on the economic ladder. I mean, you talked about what the gap is and there are a lot of numbers that people hear about this, you know, the across the board figure is the 79 cents.
ADAMYWomen are making 79 cents on the dollar that men are making. What's interesting, I think, is, you know, the Obama administration has put a lot of emphasis on this, but it's really only moved about 2 cents since Obama...
HINOJOSARight. So when he started, it was at 77.
ADAMYIt was at 77 cents, yeah. So we've seen a lot of progress in terms of a lot of discussion about this. You're hearing a lot about this on the campaign trail. Hillary Clinton has made a big deal out of this issue. But there has not been as much movement on this effort as, I think, the administration would like.
HINOJOSAAll right. So Emily, talk a little bit about the causes, right, and give us a bigger sense because we're going to hear a lot in this hour about what some people say why women are earning less and almost, like, it's their problem. But talk a little bit about what the general issue is here.
MARTINWell, the wage gap measures a lot of different kinds of inequality and a lot of different barriers that women face at work. So one of the things the wage gap measures is women being paid less for doing the same job. That's part of what makes up that 79 cents number. And when we look at different occupations, when we do very close studies that match for qualifications and for hours worked, we consistently see a wage gap with men earning more than women across occupations, no matter how tightly you make that comparison.
MARTINAnother thing that the wage gap measures, though, is that women are really overrepresented in the lowest paid jobs. So about two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Work that women do tends to be paid less, in part, because people undervalue women's work. So that's another driver of the pay gap, the fact that women are overrepresented in minimum wage jobs and are underrepresented in a lot of the highest paid jobs in our economy, whether it's executives or whether it's skilled trades, that there are still a lot of places where you don't see as many women and those jobs tend to pay more.
HINOJOSAAnd what do you say when people bring that up as an issue to explain the pay gap?
MARTINWell, I think that too often people bring it up to say we don't need to worry about the pay gap because people are just doing different jobs when, I think, it's exactly why we need to worry. If women are concentrated in the lowest-paying work, that's a problem, not an explanation of why we don't have to be concerned at all about this number.
HINOJOSARight. So Mark Perry, you are with the American Enterprise institute. Just jump in here. What's your reaction to our first three guests and what they're saying about the gender wage gap?
PERRYWell, I think kind of the flaw here is that we start with a true statistic that women make 21 percent less men, according to Obama. Although, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it's more like 17 percent. So we take an unadjusted, raw gender pay gap, an aggregate median earnings and then falsely extrapolate from there to generalize and assume the women working right next to men are making 23 or 21 percent less or 17 percent less.
PERRYSo as the Department of Labor, in a report they put out in 2009, they said that the raw wage gap should not be used as a basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct after we account for all the differences that could account for differences in pay. And I'd like to point out that at the Obama White House on an analysis I did last July when they reported their earnings, women at the Obama White House make 16 percent less than men on average and that's four times greater than the average 4 percent pay gap in the D.C. area.
PERRYSo if we were to apply the standard that any disparity in pay proves discrimination, then we would have to assume either that there's discrimination going on at the White House and women are paid $12,000 less than men or average or that there's other reasons that account for those pay gaps that have nothing to do with discrimination.
HINOJOSAChair Yang, you want to respond to that?
YANGSure. What our effort will do is shine a light on where problems exist. Data helps us better understand how to focus our resources. When we actually conduct an investigation, we are looking at more detailed information about that particular workplace. We are looking at people in the same job category performing the same work. So we are not, by any means, saying that a disparity equals discrimination, but we are hoping that employers will take more of an initiative to examine their pay data, to look at disparities to then examine if those disparities can be explained.
YANGAnd where there are problems, to take action to correct those systems, to put fair pay systems into play. So this is one piece of information that we will rely on, among other pieces of information, to more effectively identify discrimination where it exists because we can't let equality be left to chance.
HINOJOSASo we're going to be taking your calls. The number here is 800-433-8850 on this gorgeous day in Washington, D.C. It is gorgeous here. And we'll be right back on our conversation about the pay gap right now in just a few seconds. We'll be right back. So let me ask you about this news, Chair Yang, regarding -- this was a big announcement that was made just on Friday. Why now?
YANGWell, it's about time. We know equal pay is long overdue and we need better information so that we can all get down to solving what the problems are. We know that a fair pay system that pays employees according to their value benefits all employees and it benefits employers as well. So having this information will allow us to identify patterns that we're seeing in wage gaps.
HINOJOSAOkay. We are joined in the studios by Chair Jenny Yang, Janet Adamy, Emily Martin and on the phone, with Mark Perry. And we'll be right back after a short break.
HINOJOSAWelcome back. I'm Maria Hinojosa, executive producer and host of NPR's Latina USA and I am sitting in for the amazing Diane Rehm. It's my pleasure to be here. We're talking about the wage gap. So we just heard from Mark Perry in Michigan with the American Enterprise Institute and actually Janet, you are a news editor with The Wall Street Journal. You wanted to jump in, so.
ADAMYYeah. So Mark really gets at the heart of the question here, which is how much of this wage gap can be attributed to women's choices and how much of it may be due to something like discrimination. There's been a lot of research on this topic. Discrimination, of course, is very hard to quantify, but I think the person that I have looked to for a better understanding of this is a women named Francine Blau. She's an economics professor at Cornell University and she's been studying this for decades.
ADAMYAnd her most recent research finds that a little more than half of this pay gap can be explained by women -- the industries that women choose and the occupations within that industry. So there is some evidence that women do, in some circumstances, gravitate toward lower-paying jobs and lower-paying industries. But that would account, based on her research, for really only about half of this gap. About 14 percent is attributed to a lag in women's experience so basically women just not having as much experience in the workplace.
ADAMYAnd then, roughly 38 percent, she estimates, is attributable to other unexplained factors. So what are those? One of them is the fact that women do not -- research shows that women do not negotiate as much for their pay as men do and that when they do try to negotiate, they aren't as successful as men. It doesn't some as naturally to them. There's a huge bucket of intangible forces. And what her research has found is that discrimination is one of them. She thinks it's diminished over the last couple of decades. You don't have these sort of "Mad Men" era bosses who are overtly discriminating against their workers.
ADAMYBut it has evolved in ways to be more subtle. So, for instance, maybe a man is looking at employees for a promotion and he ends up thinking, well, I think he just fits in a little bit better so I'm going to pick him. So they're really kind of overt. I think Mark is right that the 21 cents figure, the gap of 21 cents, that's not all discrimination. But to suggest that there's no discrimination in the workplace that contributes to that, I think the research would suggest otherwise.
YANGAnd I think it's also important to complicate the idea of women's choices driving some part of that.
HINOJOSAThat's exactly what I -- I had just put here, women's decisions, women's choices, do we have -- are we really -- okay, get existential here, free to make any choice that we want?
ADAMYThere are definitely constraints, right? So one of the things that the wage gap reflects is that women are more likely to take time out of work for some period of time to raise children or to care for family members and that depresses their wages when they come back. And some of that is just because women really want to do it. Some of that, though, is because an inability to do both because paid maternity leave isn't available and the data is really clear that when you don't have paid maternity leave, you're much more likely to leave the workplace then when you do because there aren't the kind of flexible or predictable schedules that allow somebody to arrange for childcare and continue to work.
ADAMYThere are a lot of factors also when women are choosing what job to do. If you're looking at a field where you're going to be looked at as an outsider a lot, like maybe if you're entering STEM field, versus a field that's a little more welcoming, yeah, you might choose the more welcoming, slightly lower paid field, but to suggest that there's not a problem there, because it's just a women's choice, I think is a mistake.
YANGAnd I'd like to add to that...
HINOJOSASure, Yang is...
YANG...because at the EOC, we have seen that in our cases. We have many cases where women are trying to enter nontraditional fields, construction, trucking, mining, women have these prior experience and they're having trouble getting in so they're not getting hired or even when they are hired, they often face barriers. Sometimes, they'll have policies. Only men can train men and women can train women. But you know what, if you don't have many women there, you aren't gonna get the training that you need.
YANGSo we've seen those kind of discriminatory policies. We've also seen harassment on the job. So often women, because they are the minority, they are preyed upon in that workplace. There's an interesting study that showed that for women scientists, half leave by mid-career, which is double the rate of men and of those women who leave, 40 percent cite a macho or hostile male culture as the reason that they're leaving.
YANGSo we also need to examine these very closely related issues that impact women's pay.
HINOJOSAHow can government even begin to look at that issue, for example?
YANGWell, we are looking at that issue in a variety of ways. This pay data effort will help us identify where there are larger problems. We're also looking at this issue by race and ethnicity. Sometimes what we'll see, for example, is in one workplace only -- African Americans can only be hired in the entry level jobs. They are not able to get promoted. They're not able to be hired in the higher paying jobs and that is a problem that involves promotion as well as hire in these higher paying jobs.
YANGSo this will also give us a window into where you have occupational segregation that impacts pay. The Department of Labor is partnering with us in this effort because they have jurisdiction over federal contractors and they're very concerned also that federal contractors have model pay practices in place.
HINOJOSASo Mark, I want to give you a chance to jump in before we go into a break. You know, there is -- I just want to, before we go to you, Mark, an email that I want to read from Amanda. "Where does the burden of proof lay when there is a claim of unequal pay? How does a woman prove she's being paid less because she's a woman?" Mark, jump in there.
PERRYYeah, well, that's what I'm wondering. Okay. Let's say we take the Target Corporation as an example. They have 350,000 full-time employees so they submit data to the EEOC based on salaries and gender and race and then how would it be possible then to determine whether or not a woman is being paid less than a man unless there was a huge amount of additional data provided, included the annual reviews of all employees, the age, the experience that they've had working at Target, the experience at other retailers or other employers, their number of continuous work experience, the number of children they have, the amount that they've traveled, their marital status?
PERRYIt just seems like that would be an overwhelming task to take 350,000 pay records from Target, which is a corporation whose HR department is headed by a woman and then determine that some people are being paid less than -- women are paid less than men or men paid less than women based on discrimination. I just don't see how that's going to be effective.
ADAMYWell, one thing that I think is important to note is that nobody's suggesting that this new pay data reporting is going to lead directly to employers being found liable for pay discrimination. No employer is going to lose in a court of law based solely on this pay data. What the pay data does is a few things. First, Chair Yang has described, it is an important window, an important set of information for enforcement agencies to be focusing their investigations, that the actors where there's the most suspicious gaps.
ADAMYBut what it will also do that's really important is it incentivizes employers to take a look at these wage gaps and to think about what's causing them and whether there are disparities that really can't be justified that have crept into their pay systems. So one of the things that I've heard said just over the weekend, as people have been discussion this plan, which I think is absolutely right is that if it's not measured, it's not managed. And once employers realize that they have to be measuring this from year to year and reporting it to enforcement agencies, it really will lead employers to think about can we really justify these disparities?
ADAMYAre there arbitrary gaps that have crept into our compensation systems that we really need to fix because they aren't reflecting valid criteria?
PERRYBut then there could be disincentives to hire women in the first place if employers knew that they might be investigated at a later point and so I'm just wondering if that could backfire and there be a disincentive to hire women and minorities because then, they might come under scrutiny at a later date even if the company had done nothing wrong.
ADAMYI think to what Mark's speaking about, I mean, the backfiring -- the backfiring tends to come more when the policies supporting women in the workplace are much more robust. So oftentimes women talk about the very generous maternity leave policies that you see in Europe where some women have a whole year off paid. I mean, that's a dream for women in the U.S. We're having to rush back to the workplace. The flipside of that is there is some evidence that employers may have a disincentive to hiring women in their childbearing years knowing that they could have to have that woman, you know, pay her for a year and not be in the workplace.
ADAMYBut the kind of thing that this EEOC proposal, it's hard for me to see that that would be, in any way, a disincentive for companies to hire women. It's just -- it does not impose enough of a burden on the employer.
HINOJOSAChair Yang, when you hear that there might be a disincentive in the year 2016 to hire women, your reaction to that?
YANGWe do not believe that's the case. We know employers want the best talent out there and women and people color provide some of that best talent so they know they can't succeed without utilizing the full talent available in our workforce. We also analyze the current EO one data we have. We released a report last July for our 50th anniversary called "American Experiences Versus American Expectations." And we analyzed the EO-1 data we have and we showed patterns of occupational segregation so we're also looking -- one of our national priorities is looking at hiring discriminations.
YANGThat's an important part of the picture. Another national priority is looking at pay discrimination. So we're going to be analyzing both pieces of those data to get a better picture of what's going on. I did want to mention a point earlier about the negotiation, right? There has been a lot of attention to, you know, women's role in negotiating and whether that contributes to pay. There have been studies demonstrating that women actually face a penalty for negotiating because they may be viewed as technically a competent, but socially incompetent because for a woman to raise pay, it looks like, oh, well, she may be difficult in the workplace. She doesn't know her place.
HINOJOSASo for example, in the first negotiation in the interview, if the woman says, I want to negotiate my pay, that somehow the employer might say, hmm, she's not going to be a, you know, fall in line kind of employee.
YANGRight. And that isn't the same for men and there's research showing that and I've seen it in case after case where actually managers are saying things like, well, he needed to be paid more to support the family. So there is more social acceptance for men to raise pay issues. So what we've seen, for example, we filed a friend of the court brief in a case where an employer hired two people for the same position. One was a man, one was a woman. The employer's own compensation committee said they should start at the same pay.
YANGBut instead, they paid the man $10,000 more and they said the reason was because he negotiated. But when we went back and looked at the evidence, the woman had also tried to negotiate and she was denied. They said, sorry, you can't negotiate your pay.
ADAMYSo I think what's interesting about what she's saying is cities and states are taking notice of this. In Boston, just this October, they started offering free two-hour workshops on salary negotiating to any woman in the city with the idea that let's teach women how to do this, give them the tools to do it better.
HINOJOSAFascinating. Okay. I'm Maria Hinojosa, executive producer and host of NPR's Latina USA and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And if you'd like to join us, call 1-800-433-8850 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can find us on Facebook or tweet us. And let's just go to a call. Let's see. I'm going to go to Amy from San Antonio, Texas. Hi, Amy.
AMYHi there. Thank you for taking my call.
AMYI have an experience in my early 20s where I was hired for a large corporation in Virginia and I rose to the level of manager from a sales position. Excuse me. I was managing five employees, three were women, and I realized that the women were making less money, even though they had higher satisfaction in employment ratings and better attendance than the males I was managing. And I took it to HR and even though the HR department was comprised mostly of women, I was told that there wasn't anything I could do about it.
AMYAnd then, I realized I was being paid less than my male counterpart in another city with less responsibility as well. And I took it to the EOC. They told me there wasn't much I could do because the corporation had such deep pockets it would be a very hard case to prove. And my question is this, when these situations come up, why is it that the HR department is mostly comprised of women, but the women who are seeking support aren't really getting the responses that they need from the HR department?
HINOJOSAThank you, Amy. Thank you. Thank you, Amy. Go ahead, Chair Yang.
YANGAmy, thanks for sharing your story. It, unfortunately, is one we've heard all too often and the EOC. Since we have worked across the government with the Equal Pay Taskforce the president started in 2010, we've seen tens of thousands of charges of pay discrimination and we've recovered over $85 million just on sex-based wage discrimination. What we're hoping is that when employers see the data and they need to look at these disparities, they will be forced to confront the problem. We know that often there are implicit biases that affect decisions. There are studies showing that even on resumes with the exact same experience all you do is change the name, women are paid less than men and they are hired at lower rates.
ADAMYAnd one of the really horrifying things about that study is that it shows that women supervisors are also doing it. It's not just men supervisors who are making these decisions when you have these studies where you match the resumes and then you ask the reviewers, so who looks more competent? What starting salary would you recommend? Both women and men are rating men more highly, which I think really goes to the issue of implicit bias and how very difficult it is sometimes for people to recognize that they're relying on these stereotypes and discriminating, which is why it's really important to create the incentives for employers to self audit and to ask themselves the hard questions.
HINOJOSASo Chair Yang, before you leave, 'cause we know you have another event, some reaction from business have been positive. The CEO of SalesForce.com spoke in favor of the new rules. Mark Benioff the CEO SalesForce.com said we're never going to solve this issues of pay inequality if CEOs, like myself and others, continue to turn a blind eye to what's happening in their own corporations. He continued, he, quote, "never intended to pay women less than men" and discovered that his company was doing so only after two female employees approached him about it.
HINOJOSAThis is somebody -- and we asked the representative from SalesForce to join us today, but declined, citing scheduling conflicts. So this is somebody who is saying, I applaud these new rules. I'm glad that they're there. And he didn't even realize that he had a problem in his company where he thought he was doing a great job. Chair Yang.
YANGThat's an excellent example of the efforts employers are already taking to look at their practices and to fix problems. Because if you're not willing to look and acknowledge you have a problem, then there is no way to go about fixing it. We've designed this pay data collection to minimize the burden on employers. The Department of Labor had an earlier proposal to collect data just from federal contractors. Now, we've combined efforts to just have one data collection that will collect from private employers with at least 100 employees, including federal contractors.
YANGSo that will minimize the burden. Employers have this data available to them. It's in their computer systems. We're simply asking them to add in and update to their computer systems to provide that information to us.
HINOJOSAOkay. And we are going to be right back. Coming up, your calls and your questions. Please stay tuned.
HINOJOSAWelcome back. I'm Maria Hinojosa, Executive Producer and Host of NPR's Latino USA, and I am sitting in for Diane Rehm. So, we're going to continue our conversation. Chair Yang of -- you wanted to talk to us a little bit more before you leave.
YANGThank you, Maria. I wanted to emphasize that the pay data collection will protect the confidentiality of this information, both for employees and for employers. Employers will not be reporting specific salary information for individuals, but they will be reporting a summary of information. And we will be publishing information about aggregate pay data across industries and geographic area. But we will not be reporting it by individual employer, so we'll protect the privacy interests of the employer as well.
YANGBy releasing to the public information about aggregate pay trends, both employers as well as members of the public will have better information about pay gaps in particular industries and job categories. So I think there will be important public benefit to collecting this data as well.
HINOJOSAWhich brings up the issue of confidentiality and let's talk about that before we go there. Someone emailed us, Eddie, asking was there outreach to the US Chamber of Commerce and in fact there was. We asked them to come onto our show, but they declined this invitation, citing scheduling conflicts. Janet, talk to us a little bit about the US Chamber of conflict that criticized these rules.
ADAMYYeah, the Chamber of Commerce in general, the Chamber is, does not support proposals that create more rules and regulations for businesses. So they're primary concern is that this is one more thing that an employer will have to submit. Now, as Chairman Yang points out, the forms that employers would submit, they're already giving these forms to the federal government. They just have to fill out a little bit more information on the race, gender and ethnicity and pay part of it. So, my understanding is that it's not -- I've spoken to some employment law experts about this.
ADAMYIt's not the actual submitting of the additional information that they're concerned about. Employers are primarily concerned about if the EEOC sees a pattern and they question the employer, how much of a burden is that process going to be? That because the data is so general, it is, you know, it's within these wide bands. It does not break it down, you know, job for job. That they -- that the EEOC could see a general pattern and cause the employer to answer a lot of questions about it.
ADAMYAnd I think that's really what employers are more concerned about and not the initial submitting of the information.
HINOJOSAAll right, so I want to read a couple of tweets and then we're gonna go to a call from Norman, Oklahoma. A tweet from Robert, do some women choose better benefits rather than pay when negotiating? That's interesting. A tweet from Stefan. Isn't negotiating a huge factor contributing to pay disparity between men and women, historically? Men have had more leverage and we did discuss that. And I want to now hear from Trevor in Norman, Oklahoma. Trevor.
HINOJOSASo you say that you grew up in a family where the women were taught more of becoming homemakers and less about becoming ambitious. So, what's your question?
TREVORRight. Yeah, that's right. I grew up in a family and the women were more pressed to become homemakers. And they weren't really talked about professional aspirations as much. So, I was -- knowing that that kind of thinking is going away, but women are still growing up in families like that, I was wondering if a learned lack of professional confidence is more of an issue than actual sexism in the workforce. And also, what steps can be taken to un-teach women who learned this growing up to become more ambitious later in life.
HINOJOSAAnd just so we know who's in the studio with us, Jenny Yang is Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Janet Adamy is a News Editor with the Wall Street Journal and Emily Martin is with the National Women's Law Center and I bet you wanted to answer that question, Emily.
MARTINSure. So, it is true that data shows us that women are more likely to underestimate their own confidence, that there is sometimes a lack of confidence, which could affect negotiations or what women feel -- what jobs they feel that they can get. I do think, as you say, the gap between women's aspirations and men's aspirations is much smaller than it was a generation ago. That young women today have grown up with the really clear message that they can be whatever they want to be.
MARTINI think that one of the primary things that it falls to us as a country to do now is to make sure that that's true. And that the barriers to various sorts of high paying and fulfilling careers, that still exist for women, are removed. So to address issues like harassment in the workplace. To address the steering that still goes on, that leaves women out of stem fields, science technology, engineering and math. That leads women out of skilled trades like construction.
MARTINThat those barriers we now need to break down so that we can make real the promise that we say to our daughters that they can do anything that they want to do.
HINOJOSASo, a lot of women have, and men, have talked about the effort to keep the issue of equal pay alive on a kind of national, grass roots based. You know, women just not giving up with their local governments. And so there are, of course, many state initiatives. California just approved one, Massachusetts just approved legislation. Mark, I want to bring you in with -- you're with the American Enterprise Institute. What do you think of these various state proposals that are basically pushing here to keep this alive, also on the state level?
PERRYWell yeah, I mean, I guess my main criticism is that they still start from the unadjusted raw wage gap and then imply that that is 100 percent due to discrimination and then that motivates this corrective action and I would also like to point out that we're up against some biological factors here that men and women are just wired differently biologically. So, in terms of their role in the family, men can't get pregnant or breastfeed. And in terms of risk tolerance, if you look at 90 percent of fatal motorcycle accidents are men. 90 percent of federal prisons are men.
PERRYSo, I think men gravitate toward higher risk occupations and we know that 92 percent of workplace fatalities are men. And so, it might just be because of biology that men gravitate toward higher risk occupations, higher risk behavior in general. And some of those occupations are then, you know, predominantly male occupations because they gravitate towards those higher risk and higher paid occupations. Partly just because of biology, I would argue.
HINOJOSAJanet, you're with the Wall Street Journal. Jump in.
ADAMYYeah, I think it's such an interesting time to look at this. I mean, what we've seen recently, you had last year the US military has now opened up all combat jobs to women for the first time in history. You have, those are jobs where women are killed. You have the fact that women have always been concentrated more heavily in jobs inside schools, which were long considered a safe place to work. And yet, over the last couple of decades, you've seen of most horrific violence in our country take place in the schools. So I think the notion that somehow women aren't willing to do dangerous work is antiquated.
HINOJOSAAll right. I want to bring in Steve from Fort Meyers. Steve.
STEVEYes. I have a question. I guess, myself, being a white male, and I have two Masters Degrees. I put myself through school, undergraduate on up. And I sacrificed a lot to do that, and delayed a lot of gratification. Myself, I guess it's -- I'm just not aware, personally, and the more you talk, the more I can see that I'm not aware, of my white privilege, as far as being a white male.
HINOJOSASo I think your question was that you wanted to ask how you can actually educate and get help others get equal pay.
HINOJOSASo, you want to know how you can do a better job to advocate for women.
STEVERight. And my white maleness, I think, gets in the way of that.
HINOJOSAThank you. Thank you.
YANGWell actually, I think having white male allies is really important in the fight for equal pay. So I think having these conversations is a critical first step, because a lot of bias is implicit. A lot of times, we're making assumptions about who's the most confident, who's going to be the risk taker and the go getter. Who's going to be deserving of high pay. There are assumptions going on that we don't even know that we're making about who the ideal worker is. About the person who looks most like us and whether that person will be most successful.
YANGAnd so, I think just having the conversation about how these gaps are so persistent across almost every occupation in 2016 and looking at the data, which now, as a result of this EEOC initiative, we're really going to have, in a new way, new detail for the first time, it's critical for all of us to understand that this is an ongoing problem. This isn't just a Mad Men issue from 1963, that this is a problem that we still need to wrestle with today.
HINOJOSAOkay. I want to bring in, really quickly, Nicholas in Concord, New Hampshire. Nicholas, real quick.
NICHOLASHi, yeah, Concord, New Hampshire.
HINOJOSACon -- okay. Well, they spelled it wrong. Concord, of course.
NICHOLASYeah. Yeah, yeah, I just want to say I find it kind of ironic that President Obama raises this issue during an election cycle, which seems kind of perfectly catered toward the Hillary campaign and neither of them could do anything about it in the previous eight years. And that's why I just feel, like I'm voting for Bernie, and I just feel we need a bigger change than Hillary.
HINOJOSAThank you so much. We appreciate that, Nicholas.
ADAMYNicholas is apt to make a point about timing here. This is a huge issue of the Clinton campaign. Hillary Clinton has said that if she's elected President, within her first 100 days, that addressing the pay gap between men and women is something she wants to do. One of the things that she has pushed is for the Paycheck Fairness Act that's been around for quite a long time. And it has been stalled in Congress. So you are hearing a lot from her on the campaign trail. Not as much on the Republican side.
ADAMYCarly Fiorina, a former Chief Executive, gets asked about this a lot. Her perspective on what you would do to lift women's pay is -- she says the workplace needs to be more of a meritocracy. That it's policies of unions and government that create a seniority based system. That's what's really holding women back, in her opinion. So, it is true that you're certainly hearing about this on the campaign trail.
YANGIt's interesting, actually, that among union members, there's a much smaller wage gap than among those who are not represented by a union.
ADAMYThat is true. That is true.
HINOJOSASo, Mark, what -- is your sense that with this new ruling from the Obama administration, it's going to create a problem. And you did talk about disincentive, but are you saying we just don't need to be looking at this issue at all?
PERRYWell, I don't know. I might point out too that Hillary Clinton had a gender pay gap on her own Senate staff when she was a US Senator. So, I guess I would argue that, I mean, there's legislation in place already that would address pay disparity or pay discrimination. And so, like along with the Chamber of Commerce, I guess I would just be worried that this just creates another regulatory layer and it's kind of like death by a thousand paper cuts. That it's just -- we have a -- worried about job creation and this might be just an additional regulatory burden that then would slow down job creation.
PERRYIf it creates this huge additional paperwork requirement that then could lead to investigations and litigations. So I guess that would be my concern is just that this could backfire in ways that might not be anticipated at this point.
HINOJOSAAll right. My name is Maria Hinojosa, and you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. And we're going to continue our conversation now. Let's see. How about if we bring in a call from Ray in St. Louis. Ray?
RAYYeah, I'm here. I just wanted to get the panel's -- the few comments about an organized workplace. You just touched on that. I know I'm with a large corporation and a large union and I know exactly how much the guy next to me is making or the woman or, you know, the black or the white. We all make exactly the same and we all know what each other makes.
RAYAnd I just wanted some comments on that.
HINOJOSAThat's fascinating, because you don't usually hear that from a workplace.
MARTINI think it goes to a couple issues. One, as I mentioned quickly, in unionized workplaces, women, both earn more compared to non-represented women. Women who aren't represented by a union. But they also have more equal wages. They don't just earn more, they have a smaller wage gap. And I think that one reason is exactly what you point to, the greater pay transparency that often comes with collectively bargained wages and benefits. One of the reasons that pay discrimination can continue and flourish is that it's really hard to figure out, often, that you're being paid less than the man down the hall.
MARTINUsually, we don't converse that casually about the details of how much we make. And so, it can be very difficult to figure out that you're being paid less, especially because often, in the private work force, employers have rules saying employees shouldn't be discussing how much they're making. There are pay secrecy rules in a lot of workplaces which add a further layer which makes it really difficult to uncover pay discrimination.
ADAMYAnd I think, Emily, in addition to the rules, there's also just the culture around asking somebody...
HINOJOSAThat's what I was thinking.
ADAMY...who sits next to you, how much money do you make?
HINOJOSAIn my family, you just didn't even -- I mean, we're an immigrant family. We did not talk about money and how much people were making. It's not something you did.
ADAMYI think the culture is the more powerful thing than any rules in the workplace that would hinder abilities, hinder workers' ability to talk this. Interestingly enough, you know, in Washington D.C, Congressional salaries are made public. You have a lot of public airing of people who have government jobs, those salaries are on much more set scales. And, you know, in a lot of cases, you can just Google somebody who works in a Congressional office and figure out what their salary is. And interestingly enough, when you look at states, states and the District of Columbia, which states have the highest gender wage gaps and verses the lowest.
ADAMYAmong the lowest of the 50 states and D.C. is actually Washington, D.C. The pay gap within Washington, D.C. is among the lowest in the country.
HINOJOSASteve, Mark, I'm sorry. You want to jump in? We have just a few minutes before we wrap up? From Flint, Michigan and with the American Enterprise Institute. Where would you -- where do you recommend we go with this conversation? What's the smartest thing to do at this point, from your perspective, Mark?
PERRYWell, I think it's just important for Obama and other proponents of, you know, gender parody to stop saying that women are being paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men. And that's unfair and that hurts families. So, I think that really discredits this whole effort for equal pay when we keep talking about the unadjusted raw wage gap and then assuming that that implies that men and women are working right next to each other in the same job and the woman's getting paid 23 percent less than men.
PERRYI think, to be honest, we should say there's a small amount of unexplained variation in salaries by gender that could be discrimination or could be something else. But it's not 16 percent or 18 percent or 21 percent. That just kind of exaggerates and it's kind of a statistical fraud, I think, to keep perpetuating that myth.
HINOJOSAEmily. Thank you. Thank you, Mark.
MARTINSo, again, I think that there are a lot of different problems that lie behind that number. Some deal with occupational segregation, some deal with pay discrimination, some deal with the caregiving penalty that women face. Another set of interesting studies that we haven't talked about is if you send in resumes and get employers to talk about who's more competent, who's worth more. Mothers face a real barrier in the workplace. Employers rate mothers as less competent, as less good workers, just based on these matched resumes. So that's another thing driving this number.
HINOJOSAJanet, we've just got one more minute, so I want to give you the last word.
ADAMYI think the place to watch is the state level. We haven't talked about California's Equal Pay Law, but that has some real teeth. I think where you're going to see the action on this over the next year or so is on proposals moving through the states, and that's where things are going to change, both for employers and for employees.
HINOJOSAAll right, well thanks so much for joining us on this conversation. Mark Perry joined us from Flint, Michigan. He's with the American Enterprise Institute. We were joined by Jenny Yang, the Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Janet Adamy is News Editor with the Wall Street Journal. Welcome back to work after having a baby. And Emily Martin is with the National Women's Law Center. I'm Maria Hinojosa, Executive Producer and Host of NPR's Latino USA sitting in for Diane Rehm. And thank you all for listening.
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