Commentary

Editorial: Professor’s salary betrays her “Paycheck Fairness” rhetoric

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Photo from TUC Library Collections, London Metropolitan University

A column in the Bangor Daily News by Luisa Deprez, a sociology professor at the University of Southern Maine, would have readers believing that our society doesn’t value woman compared to men, and that they basically work for free.

The BDN states that Deprez’s column, “Paycheck Fairness Act would help women and their families,” is part of a series that will “bring greater understanding to social and political debates.”

Deprez decries the disparity between what men and women are paid, using a statistic that is often echoed from the White House as a talking point on the subject. But the White House doesn’t seem to have its numbers straight.

A year ago, in June 2011, President Obama was using a statistic that was flat-out wrong. In a speech promoting his “equal pay” initiatives, Obama said “women still earn just 70 cents for every dollar a man earns.” Not only is that false, it hasn’t been true since at least the late 1980s.

Later the White House updated the President’s incorrect figure to say that women in fact earned “77 cents for every dollar men earn,” the number that Deprez parrots in her BDN column. Further review, however, shows that these numbers were cherry-picked by the White House and then by Deprez to help promote their agenda.

The “77 cents on the dollar” number comes from Census Bureau data that relies on annual wages data. Other reports, some of which use hourly wages as opposed to annual earnings, like a report from the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, peg the rate of women’s earnings to men’s at 86 cents on the dollar.

When accounting for factors such as occupation, industry, hours worked, education level and other lifestyle choices, the gap in gender pay shrinks even further, to as little as 5% according to one study presented to the Department of Labor in 2011.

Deprez also delves into state-specific data, saying that the disparity in Maine is even greater. “Maine women make considerably less: 68 cents” (for every dollar a man earns), Deprez declares in her column.

Says who? She doesn’t cite her source of information for that statistic. In fact, one of the studies, which cited the “77 cents on the dollar” number, found that Maine is above average: women earn 79 percent compared to what men earn. That study ranks Maine as 20th in the nation, better than average.

Another study from the Joint Economic Committee shows Maine has a 19 percent “gender pay gap,” which puts us ahead of many other states in terms of “equal pay” for men and women.

Sadly, left out amidst the clamoring and political noise is the fact that women’s pay, as a percentage of men’s, has climbed dramatically in recent years. According to one of the studies cited by Deprez, as recently as 1980 the “female-to-male earnings ratio” was below 60 percent.

Today, depending on which statistic you choose to believe, it’s anywhere from 77 percent at the worst to 95 percent in some studies. One Department of Labor study determined that for workers with a college degree who are being paid by the hour, there is no gender-pay gap at all. Clearly, there has been major progress in this area.

Deprez herself is a shining example of this progress. In 2010 she was the most highly paid employee in the sociology department at the University of Southern Maine, where she earned more than $159,000 in total compensation, according to MaineOpenGov.org.

Her success is proof of how far we’ve come as a nation in ensuring men and woman have the same opportunities for professional success, and the fact that Maine is in the top 20 is a bright spot we should be excited about.

Unfortunately, Deprez’s cherry-picked data is part of a coordinated effort to allow the government to control pay and force business to pay certain employees whatever the government tells them to. If we let government control that detail of a female’s life, what’s next?

The government control of paychecks is bad for businesses, bad for women and bad for America.

No cherry-picked data can change that.

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson is the former editor of The Maine Wire and currently producer for the Howie Carr Show. Follow him on Twitter @Stevie_Rob or send him an email at Steve@HowieCarrShow.com.

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