77 Cents and the Myth of the Glass Ceiling

Posted: Sep 17, 2012 9:15 AM

Editors' note: this post is authored by Townhall intern Cortney O'Brien.

“By many metrics, women are doing better than men.” At Friday’s Conservative Women’s Network luncheon, economist Diana Furchtgott-Rott analyzed and exposed the common belief that women make only 77 cents for every dollar men make.


Furchtgott-Roth, author of Women's Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economics of Women in America, spoke on Friday at the CWN luncheon held at the Heritage Foundation, hosted by Heritage and the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute. The economic expert pulled points from her book to debunk several falsehoods regarding the wage gap.


When all full-time working men and women and their salaries are compared side-by-side, a gap is indeed apparent. But, certain factors, Furchtgott-Roth explained, significantly narrow this divide. For example, more women major in fields such as English, whereas more men tend to study in the fields of math and physics – areas which typically have higher paying jobs. Also, female employees work on average 10 percent fewer hours than their male counterparts. ‘Full-time’ is considered anything over 35 hours a week. The Labor Department counts no difference, for instance, between a man working 50 hours a week and a woman working 40 hours a week.


Women, Furchtgott-Roth further noted, also opt for more flexible work schedules and safer jobs, whereas men tend to have more inflexible schedules and work in more dangerous positions such as scaffolding. All of these factors can help explain why women are paid less.


Yet, today’s feminists continue to complain about discrimination in the workplace and demand policies that will end the imagined wage gap. Policies to appease these concerns include affirmative action for women and the Obama Administration’s proposed Paycheck Fairness Act. Had it not failed in the Senate, this Act would have required companies to provide the government with lists of their employees’ salaries and raises in order to compare male and female wages. Furchtgott-Roth stated these kinds of programs are harmful to today’s economy.


“They [affirmative action policies] would force women to be considered not just for themselves, but as quotas” she said. “The Paycheck Fairness Act would add to the employment burden. That would mean employers would want to employ fewer people, including fewer women.”


Furchtgott-Roth is a Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow, former chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor and former chief of staff of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers. Criticizing the objectives of today’s feminists in the job market, the author summed up their ideology.


“They’re not content with equality of opportunity,” she stated. “They want equality of outcome…These feminists don’t want to be irrelevant, so they are continually moving the goal post.”

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