Patricia Arquette’s Academy Award acceptance speech last Sunday, calling for ecological sanitation in the third world and equal pay for women, came off sounding a bit like a woman who has a few too many bumper stickers on her Prius.There's another important discussion that warrants a mention. When Arquette said this backstage:
But her closing comments on pay inequality achieved her apparent goal of starting a conversation — setting off criticism from commentators on the the right who said equal pay for equal work has been the law since 1963 and from those on the left who said equal pay is mainly an issue for wealthy white women.
And it's time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we've all fought for to fight for us now.A completely separate discussion on the intersectionality between connected "feminisms" was started.
For example this one at RHRealitycheck. Or this one at Slate where Amanda Marcotte points out:
Arquette's comments...erased the major contributions made by women of color and lesbians to the feminist movement, as if they haven't been fighting all this time.For those unfamiliar with the term, "intersectionality" by the way was coined by legal scholar Kimberely Crenshaw. In an interview in 2004, she gave a summary of the concept:
It grew out of trying to conceptualize the way the law responded to issues where both race and gender discrimination were involved. What happened was like an accident, a collision. Intersectionality simply came from the idea that if you’re standing in the path of multiple forms of exclusion, you are likely to get hit by both. These women are injured, but when the race ambulance and the gender ambulance arrive at the scene, they see these women of color lying in the intersection and they say, “Well, we can’t figure out if this was just race or just sex discrimination. And unless they can show us which one it was, we can’t help them.”But that's not what we're here for.
While Ann Belser doesn't say anything factually incorrect, she has left out a few very important things in her article on the Wage Gap. She begins with this:
While the Equal Pay Act was indeed passed a half-century ago, studies show that women are still paid less than men in the U.S. in nearly every occupation.And while the Institute for Women's Policy Research does say that, they've also issued this report looking to explain (at least in part) the gap. The report begins with this:
“During 2013, median wage earnings for female full-time workers were $706, compared with $860 per week for men — a gender wage ratio of 82.1 percent,” according to a report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based policy group.
The 1963 report of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women states: “The difference in occupational distribution of men and women is largely responsible for the fact that in 1961, the earnings of women working full time averaged only about 60 percent of those of men working full time.”And then tracks the changes in what it calls "Occupational Segregation" since 1961. The report continues with some of the changes:
Colleges and universities are no longer permitted to artificially restrict women’s entry to educational programs, Black women are as entitled to access to education and jobs as White women, and the days when employers were able to openly advertise a job just for women, or just for men, are a distant memory. Women are astronauts, Supreme Court justices, wind turbine engineers, four-star generals, university presidents, and a female economist is Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve System, the first central bank in an OECD country to be headed by a woman. Almost every second worker is a woman. Yet even though women have undoubtedly advanced toward economic equality during the last fifty years, women’s median annual earnings for full-time work are still only 76.5 percent of men’s, and marked differences in the occupational distribution of men and women continue to characterize the labor market. [Emphasis added.]Indeed a few pages later we read:
Research suggests that occupational segregation is a major contributor to the gender wage gap (see for example Blau and Kahn 2007; England, Hermsen, and Cotter 2000; Jacobs and Steinberg 1990; Treimann and Hartmann 1981). Concomitantly, the decline in occupational segregation was a major contributing factor to women’s increased real earnings during the last decades. [Emphasis added.]So between occupations, gender segregation is a major contributor to the gap. But to the extent we're talking occupational segregation, the issue of "equal pay for equal work" is proportionally diminished.
How much? The Institute doesn't say.
How about within occupations? Is there any explanation for, say, this statistic from Belser's article:
A survey by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that 94.7 percent of secretaries and administrative assistants are women, yet women in those jobs make just 87.1 percent of the wages paid to men.The numbers can be found in this document, by the way. The clear implication is that it's sexism. Of course, if it is, it's already illegal and it's a moral imperative to stop those employers from committing this crime.
But the Institute doesn't offer any thing else.
When I wrote about this in 2011, I pointed out how another organization, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) did offer up some explanations as to why, perhaps, there'd be a pay gap within occupations. Among the explanations were these (and these were the AAUW's own headings in that report):
- Men report working more hours than women report working.
- Women are more likely than men to take time off to care for children.
- Men report working more hours than women report working.
- Women are more likely to use family leave, work part time, or leave the labor force for some period.
On the other hand, we've moved far far away from any discussion of "equal pay for equal work."