Equal Pay Day “symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year,” according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. Despite efforts toward equitable pay in the United States over the past several decades, American women still face a considerable gap in pay when compared to their male counterparts. Rather than acknowledging the overwhelming evidence that American women are still paid less than men for the same work, conservative media have promoted myths and misinformation that obscure the truth about pay disparities.
Right-Wing Media Push Myths, Misinformation To Cloud Debate Over Gender Pay Gap
MYTH: Right-Wing Media Deny Existence Of Gender Pay Gap In U.S.
On Fox, The Blaze's Dana Loesch Labeled The Gender Pay Gap “An Absolute Myth.” On the January 13 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File, Loesch again claimed that pay inequality “is an absolute myth” and attributed the pay disparity “to women’s choices.” [Fox News, The Kelly File, 1/13/16]
Fox's Megyn Kelly Dismissed The Gender Pay Gap As A “Meme.” On the April 4, 2014, edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly dismissed gender pay inequality as just a “meme.” Conservative commentator and The Blaze host Dana Loesch agreed, claiming that the issue was no more than a “myth” that is “based upon a bunk study.” [Fox News, The Kelly File, 4/4/14]
Fox Reporter: Gender Income Equality Is “A Myth That Has Endured For Years.” On the October 17, 2012, edition of Happening Now, Fox News correspondent Doug McKelway used a gender wage gap question from the second 2012 presidential debate to claim that women earning 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn is “a myth that has endured for years.” [Fox News, Happening Now, 10/17/12]
AAUW: In 2014, Working Women Were Paid “Just 79 Percent Of What Men Were Paid.” According to a Spring 2016 report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), working women in the United States earned “just 79 percent of what men were paid” in 2014. According to the AAUW, the median annual earnings in the United States for men and women that year were $50,383 and $39,621, respectively:
[American Association of University Women, Spring 2016]
NWLC: The Gender Pay Gap Could Cost Women More Than $430,000 Over The Course Of Their Career. According to an analysis prepared by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the current gender wage gap would cost an average American woman $430,480 dollars in lost earnings over the course of a 40-year career. The lost career earnings are even greater for African-American women and Latinas:
Based on today’s wage gap, women would lose $430,480 over the course of a 40-year career. For Latinas the career losses mount to $1,007,080, and for African American women the losses are $877,480. If we don’t act to close the wage gap, a woman just starting out today stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of her career, undercutting her ability to provide for herself and her family, as well as her retirement security.
This “lifetime wage gap” exists across the country: in every state, women’s career losses based on today’s wage gap would amount to about one-quarter of a million dollars or more -- and in seven states women’s career losses would amount to more than half a million dollars. [National Women’s Law Center, accessed 4/12/16]
JEC: “Women Of Color Suffer Both Because Of Their Gender And Their Race.” According to an April 2016 report by the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), gender pay disparities are particularly acute for women of color in the United States. African-American women in the United States who work full time earn just 60 percent of what white men earn, while Hispanic women in the same category earn just 55 percent as much:
Women of all races and ethnicities face a pay gap when compared with men of the same race or ethnicity. However, women of color suffer both because of their gender and their race.
African-American women earn only 60 percent of what white men earn, and Hispanic women only 55 percent of what white men earn. Asian women face the smallest gap relative to white men, earning 84 percent of white men's earnings.
[United States Congress, Joint Economic Committee, April 2016]
World Economic Forum: U.S. Ranks Just 74th Of 145 Countries On Wage Equality. According to a November 2015 update to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report, the United States ranks just 74th among 145 countries in terms of wage equality for similar work. The ranking represents a considerable drop from the prior year, when the U.S. ranked 65th in the world for pay equity. [World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2015; CNN Money, 11/18/15]
MYTH: Women Earn Less Than Men Because Of Professional And Life Choices
Las Vegas Review-Journal Pushes Job Choice Myth To Dismiss Gender Pay Gap. A January 29 editorial in the Las Vegas Review-Journal falsely claimed that American women face pay disparities because they “tend to gravitate toward jobs with less travel and greater flexibility” and “are more willing than men to sacrifice salary for a better quality of life.” [Media Matters, 2/1/16]
Hannity Guest Gavin McInnes: Women “Choose To” Earn Less Than Men Because “They're Less Ambitious.” On the May 14 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, guest Gavin McInnes argued that women earn less than men “because they choose to,” adding that women are “less ambitious” than men and “should be at home with the kids":
GAVIN MCINNES: The big picture here is women do earn less in America because they choose too. They would rather go to their daughter’s piano recital than stay all night at work, working on a proposal, so they end up earning less. They’re less ambitious, and I think this is sort of God’s way, this is nature’s way of saying women should be at home with the kids, they’re happier there. [Fox News, Hannity, 5/14/15]
Fox's Eric Bolling: Gender Pay Gap Exists Because “Men Take More Risks.” On the February 23, 2015, edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Eric Bolling explained away the gender pay gap by asserting that it exists because “men take more risks” than women. [Fox News, The Five, 2/23/15]
IWPR: Women Are Paid Less Than Men In Nearly All Occupations. According to an April 2016 report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), which analyzed median weekly earnings data for men and women across 119 separate occupations, women earn less than their male counterparts “in nearly all” professional settings. The study also concluded that professions dominated by women “tend to have lower median earnings than male-dominated occupations.” According to IWPR, in 2015 an average American women who worked full time earned just 81.1 percent as much per week as an average working man (emphasis added):
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.
Altogether there are only four occupations in which women’s median earnings are slightly higher than men’s, but 108 occupations in which women’s median earnings were 95 percent or lower than men’s (that is, a wage gap of at least 5 cents per dollar earned by men). During 2015, the median gender earnings ratio for all full-time weekly workers was 81.1 percent, reflecting median weekly earnings for all female full-time workers of $726, compared with $895 per week for men. [Institute for Women’s Policy Research, April 2016]
EPI: Women’s Hourly Earnings Are Less Than Men “Across The Board.” According to an April 2015 analysis of hourly earnings in 2014 from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), men out-earn women “across the wage distribution.” According to EPI, men and women at the lowest end of the income scale are far closer to pay parity than at higher incomes, a phenomenon for which “the minimum wage is partially responsible” because “it sets a wage floor that applies to everyone”:
[Economic Policy Institute, 4/7/15]
NY Times: “Work Done By Women Simply Isn’t Valued As Highly.” According to a March 18 article in The New York Times, economic research suggests that progress toward erasing the gender pay gap has stalled because “work done by women simply isn’t valued as highly” as work done by men. According to the Times, not only do women tend to work disproportionately in low-paying fields, but aggregate pay in existing industries tends to decline as women join the workforce (emphasis added):
Women, for example, are now better educated than men, have nearly as much work experience and are equally likely to pursue many high-paying careers. No longer can the gap be dismissed with pat observations that women outnumber men in lower-paying jobs like teaching and social work.
A new study from researchers at Cornell University found that the difference between the occupations and industries in which men and women work has recently become the single largest cause of the gender pay gap, accounting for more than half of it. In fact, another study shows, when women enter fields in greater numbers, pay declines -- for the very same jobs that more men were doing before.
Once women start doing a job, “It just doesn’t look like it’s as important to the bottom line or requires as much skill,” said Paula England, a sociology professor at New York University. “Gender bias sneaks into those decisions.”
She is a co-author of one of the most comprehensive studies of the phenomenon, using United States census data from 1950 to 2000, when the share of women increased in many jobs. The study, which she conducted with Asaf Levanon, of the University of Haifa in Israel, and Paul Allison of the University of Pennsylvania, found that when women moved into occupations in large numbers, those jobs began paying less even after controlling for education, work experience, skills, race and geography. [The New York Times, 3/18/16]
Glassdoor: Gender Pay Gap Persists After Accounting For All Known Factors. According to a March 2016 report by Glassdoor analyzing more than half a million salaries for full-time employees in the United States, “men earn 24.1 percent higher base pay than women on average.” Even after researchers accounted for other factors a gender pay gap persisted at 5.4 percent:
[Glassdoor, March 2016]
MYTH: Gender-Based Pay Disparities Were Eliminated By The Equal Pay Act Of 1963
Fox's Stacey Dash Falsely Claimed Gender Pay Gap Was Solved In 1963. On the February 23, 2015, edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, co-host Stacey Dash criticized actress Patricia Arquette for speaking out about pay inequality during her Academy Award acceptance speech. Asserting that it was no longer an issue, Dash said, “Patricia Arquette needs to do her history. In 1963, Kennedy passed an equal pay law. It's still in effect.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 2/23/15]
Fox's Steve Doocy: “Women Have Gotten Equal Pay For Decades.” On the April 7, 2014, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy lamented President Obama's proposed executive order preventing pay discrimination at the workplace by falsely claiming that “women have gotten equal pay for decades.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/7/14]
IWPR: If Current Trends Continue, Women Will Not Achieve Equal Pay Until 2059. According to a September 2015 analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), given the current pace of improvement in gender pay disparities, American women who work full time will not see their earnings match those of their male counterparts until 2059 -- nearly a century after President Kennedy signed equal pay into law:
[Institute for Women’s Policy Research, September 2015]
JEC: The Gender Pay Gap Follows American Women Into Retirement. According to an April 2016 report by the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), the effects of gender pay disparities linger for decades in the lives of American women, reducing their eventual receipts from Social Security, pension plans, and other retirement benefits. The report also noted that women are more likely than men to struggle with poverty “at every age,” but are also “more likely to live longer and have higher medical expenses” resulting in significantly elevated poverty rates for women 65 and older:
In the United States, retirement security is often described as a three-legged stool, supported by Social Security benefits, pension income and private savings. For women, the stool rests most heavily on the Social Security leg.
Despite the relative importance of Social Security for older women, their benefits are typically smaller than men’s. Social Security benefits are calculated based on an individual’s earnings history, but women generally have lower pay during their working years and spend fewer years in the paid labor force than men. As a result, the average monthly Social Security benefit for female retirees is 79 percent of what it is for male retirees. [United States Congress, Joint Economic Committee, April 2016]
IWPR: Equal Pay For Women Could Cut Poverty In Half, Add $482 Billion To Economy. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), if American women received equal pay with men in comparable jobs, the poverty rate for working women would fall “from 8.2 to 4.0 percent,” and “the U.S. economy would have added $482 billion” or roughly 2.8 percent of GDP. [Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Status of Women in the States, accessed 4/12/16]
McKinsey Global Institute: Gender Equality Could Add $4.3 Trillion To U.S. Economy By 2025. According to an April 2016 report by the McKinsey Global Institute, if women “attain full gender equality at work within a decade” in the United States, the American economy could expand by an additional $2.1 trillion to $4.3 trillion by 2025. [McKinsey Global Institute, April 2016]