What Fresh Hell Is This?

October 3, 2014

WQED, The YWCA and Closing The Gap

Last night my local PBS station (WQED-Pittsburgh) broadcast "Closing The Gap" a program the station described as:
Closing the Gap: 50 Years Seeking Equal Pay is a one-hour talk show special taped live before a studio audience. It is produced by WQED Multimedia in partnership with YWCA-Greater Pittsburgh.

The program explores ways to identify and overcome barriers to equal pay; consider pathways to improved public policies and more innovative workplace practices; and arm women with the information and skills they need to earn fair pay at all points on the career continuum and work towards a financially secure retirement. [Bolding in Original]
I'd written a few times about the Wage Gap (most recently, fact-checking HBO's John Oliver) and, after having seen the program I have to say I found it educating and valuable.  If you haven't seen it and if QED rebroadcasts, it would be a good idea to check it out.

Most notably absent during the hour long discussion was the phrase "equal pay for equal work." Indeed, from the beginning, the panel acknowledged that while the "$.77 on the dollar" is accurate, it doesn't take into account any of the reasons (education choice, career choice, child care, etc) for the gap.  Once those reasons are taken into account, the gap shrinks to 7%.  This was stated early on in the program.

As I've written before, any such gap is unacceptable but I have to add that 7 percent is also a far cry from 23 percent.

The program spent a large chunk of time addressing those reasons and calling for a number of solutions to deal with them; greater access to child care, greater paycheck transparency and so on.

On the issue of educational choice, they panel seemed to take the position that women are somehow pushed into lower paying educational/career choices,  However much this is in place in our society, it's wrong.  Simply and immorally wrong.  On the other hand, if a woman chooses to study a field that she knows will bring her less money as a career, then that can't be a point of criticism regarding the less money she brings in pursuing that career.

That's a separate argument from whether those careers are adequately valued in our society.  If it's the case (and I think it is) that, say, elementary education is mostly populated by women and that those jobs pay less than other, similar, male-dominated jobs, then the society needs to address that situation.  If those jobs are valued less because "they're women's jobs" (regardless of who actually does them - a man or a woman) then that's just as wrong as paying a woman the mythological $.77 on the dollar for every dollar a man makes - for the same work.

Glad I spent the hour watching the program.


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