Fox's Bill O'Reilly downplayed the gravity of the gender pay gap, going so far as to question “the point” of discussing wage disparities between men and women.
On January 9, Maria Shriver and the Center For American Progress released The Shriver Report, a study dedicated to exposing and reducing the gender wage gap by focusing on the drivers of gender-based income inequality. Although women make up approximately half of all workers in the United States, they earn on average only 77 percent of what the average male makes.
On the January 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly questioned whether the Shriver Report was “a big deal,” asking his two female guests what “the point” is to drawing attention to the gender wage gap other than advocating for the government to “guarantee equal wages.” O'Reilly went on to attribute gender wage disparities to differences in education level:
O'Reilly's repeated questions about whether the government should guarantee equal wages ignore the fact that paying a woman less based on her gender is illegal, and entirely different from “guaranteeing equal wages.”
To many American women, children, and families, “the point” of reducing the gender pay gap is clear: According to The Shriver Report, closing the wage gap would not only benefit families but would also grow our economy by increasing women's average earnings by 17.3 percent, from $36,129 to $42,380 annually. The report also showed that if married women who are the primary breadwinners in their families were paid the same wages as their male counterparts, incomes for married couples would increase by 6 percent, increasing family incomes on average by $6,776 a year, or $245.3 billion for families nationwide. Closing the gender pay gap would also strengthen the economy, adding an additional $447.6 billion to the GDP and cutting the poverty rate among women and their families in half, from 8.1 percent to 3.9 percent.
Contrary to O'Reilly's claim that education is entirely responsible for the gender pay gap, studies have shown that personal choice and educational path cannot explain away wage disparities. 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.
O'Reilly's refusal to see the gender pay gap as a real issue continues the right-wing media's longstanding history of downplaying its existence and the real impact that gender wage disparities have on women and families nationwide.