Bill O'Reilly dismissed the significance of the gender wage gap, saying he isn't “buying this inequality business,” and claiming that women can overcome wage inequality simply by working hard. However, O'Reilly ignores the true impact and scope of the gender wage gap, which plagues women at all stages of their careers regardless of education or experience level.
On the February 27 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly criticized President Obama's 2014 State of the Union statements on the importance of closing the gender wage gap. During a conversation with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, O'Reilly initially acknowledged that the wage gap exists even after accounting for career and life choices. However, soon after he resorted to mocking the gap, saying, “I'm not buying this inequality business,” and dismissing pay inequality as a mere political maneuver, “not a reality.” O'Reilly concluded that Bartiromo's successful experience in the stock exchange was sufficient evidence that motivation and hard work can eliminate the gender wage gap, a message O'Reilly says he hopes “gets out to other women that, look, [the gender pay gap is] not perfect but it's good.”
O'REILLY: Alright, we analyzed the 77 cents business, or 77 percent, whatever it is, and it's about 90 percent when you factor in all of the experience levels and all of that. And you say?
BARTIROMO: Well I think it's very difficult to really know the truth, is it 77, 87, 90, but certainly I agree that if we're not talking about equal pay that's an embarrassment in 2014. I mean, pay should be based on performance whether it's a man or a woman.
O'REILLY: Okay but there are many factors such as union membership. In a union, you're guaranteed wages. Many more men than women and you've got to assume that drives the wages up. I'm not buying this inequality business, I'm not. And you know why? Because if you're not being treated equally in a work place you can sue the bajesus out of the business and there is an industry to do that and they do. So employers are fearful of doing anything that might be considered unfair to women. But here's the deal. The Democratic Party is embracing this whole women are not equal concept, and we, the Democrats, are going to fix that. To me it's a political deal, not a reality deal.
O'REILLY: Now you, Maria Bartiromo, everyone, you went into a male-dominated field a while back and were you ever discriminated against because you were down on the floor, the stock exchange floor, did you run into any of these problems?
BARTIROMO: When I first got down to the floor, and that's about 20 years ago, yes, when I first got down to the floor there was a small handful of people who did not want me there and only because it wasn't just because I was a woman but it was also I was the media, because I was the first person to bring a camera down on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. But, I've never played the woman card, you know, I've never had issues beyond that first week when I was on the floor of the New York Stock exchange and no one had ever done it before. For the most part, any time I would run into a challenge, I would say to myself 'okay I have to study, study, study, do my work, make sure I know my stuff, and kill it tomorrow.' And that served me very well actually, just working hard.
O'REILLY: Alright, Maria, and I hope that message gets out to other women that you know, 'look, come on, you compete and it's not perfect, but it's good.'
Many studies maintain that the gender pay gap narrows when “relevant factors are taken into consideration” -- The Daily Beast includes education, employment preferences, and work-family choices among these “relevant factors.” However, despite O'Reilly's dismissal, the gender wage gap is a serious issue that plagues women at all stages of their careers independent of education levels and career and life choices, and gets worse as women's careers progress.
In its 2013 Gender Pay Gap Report, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that women were paid 82 percent of what men were paid just one year out of college, and that lifetime gender wage disparities cannot be explained by personal choice. Furthermore, the Institute for Women's Policy Research explained in a 2012 report that “Women's median earnings are lower than men's in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women.” Think Progress also reported that women earn less than men regardless of their education, industry, job, or location.
The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) reports that not only are education and work experience insufficient in explaining away the existence of the pay gap, but studies that control for these factors don't account for that fact that:
[W]omen are often excluded from higher-paying jobs; women are subtly and not-so-subtly pushed into lower-paying jobs that are often devalued precisely because they are done by women; and social expectations of women to do most of the unpaid caregiving work put together with the lack of paid family leave and other forms of workplace flexibility mean that women still face a wage penalty for not being the ideal, unencumbered worker.