THE TRUTH AS WE SEE IT: Are Women Really Paid Less Than Men?

Posted by on September 27, 2012

Editor’s note: This blog is written by Richard Anderson, Business Program Chair, Minnesota School of Business – Shakopee.

A recent study conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families determined that Minnesota women are not as smart as their male counterparts when compared to men in like job positions. This conclusion was based upon the fact that women earned up to 20 percent less than men according to census data. This has to be interpreted that women are 20% dumber than men, right?  Oh, wait a minute, I think their study concluded discrimination – not stupidity – was a main causal factor for lower pay. Excuse me, my mistake. Sometimes I get carried away!

I couldn’t believe the headlines in the Star Tribune this weekend, “In Minnesota, women paid 20 percent less than men”.  Now I must confess, I was watching Ponder score a touchdown for the beloved Vikings at that very moment, so my first reaction was – yeah, of course men are smarter than women and this study proves it. Just look at me!  But then my dog barked to go out, and I fell back to earth and decided to look into this claim of discrimination, sexism, and violation of law to see if this was one more idiotic study being published to prove someone’s point. You know those polls – surveys or research reports that flat out drive me crazy.  In class, we talk about these bogus, poorly designed, and issue- driven reports and polls dealing with health care benefits to killer soda and from political polls telling us elections are all over and there’s no need to vote to everybody needs to come and support an issue. What a lark.

Students, you know I rail against these supposedly intellectual studies. You know the ones! Come up with an idea and then poll or survey to prove your right. Why just a few weeks ago, I surveyed all of my students, just prior to handing out the midterm test, asking if they thought I was a great teacher. The survey results: 99% thought I was. Oh, by the way, 1% flunked the midterms, but I assure you there was no causal result to the survey.  Even some of our textbooks use the most absurd studies to support their hypothesis. What is it I call these, hmmmmmm, what is it, oh yea CRAP!!!!!

So, when I saw the Sunday paper with the headlines screaming out at me, “In Minnesota, women paid 20 percent less than men”, I had to read more. To my shock, it went on to say, “Minnesota women earn 80 cents for every dollar men are paid, according to a new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data that reveals a gender-based wage gap in all eight Minnesota congressional districts. Median yearly pay for women is $10,164 less than the median annual pay for Minnesota men of $50,580, according to the study prepared by the Washington-based National Partnership for Women & Families”.  Shazam, I just had to check out this website and look at their data. Heck, I pay my maid the same wage that I pay my Butler, so I was really interested in seeing who wasn’t following the “equal pay law”.

The National Partnership for Women & Families (NPWF) site leads with this statement of fact, “An unprecedented analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that the gender-based wage gap affects women in nearly every corner of the country.” I agree that it is unprecedented! I have never seen such a bunch of garbage in garbage out study as this one. It does nothing more than look at Census job classifications, comparing the average male weekly wage to that of a female, and walla, men make more across the board.  I also looked at the same data and found that women birth more children than men – wow, whoda thunk that! As a good analyst, I just had to figure out how this could be happening, men making more than women.

I laid out my hypotheses, as any good analyst would: 1) women are not as bright, or 2) women don’t work as hard, or maybe 3) women take more time off, surely (I know, don’t call me Shirley) 4) women are not as creative. You get the picture! How else could this be true? The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. Job content (not job titles) determines whether jobs are substantially equal. Substantial penalties can be levied if a company violates this law. So if the NPWF is aware of this unequal pay, why aren’t we suing the snot out of these companies?

Well, if you look at this data, you begin to see additional data facts like, a) women on average work 13% fewer hours than men (see I told you lazy was a determinant factor), b) women retire earlier than men and live longer (Now I know why social security is broke), and c) men have on average worked 20% more years than women by the time they arrive at the prime earning ages of 40 and above. Given the above, it is no surprise; wages tend to be almost equal at ages below 40. Finally, d) women work part-time twice as often as men.  Any one of these statistics could account for any pay discrepancy for any job classification. We can’t discern from the census data since it aggregates data and fails to ask relevant questions on wage discrepancy. Heck, it was not designed to do this, so any attempt to draw any causal relationship is flat out bogus. I know for a fact, I am paid half what every woman at the University of Minnesota receives, not that it has anything to do with my skills.  Heck no!!!

Do I think there are unequal pay issues?  Yes, not everybody is honorable and abiding by the law which we study and learn about. But let’s use good business analysis techniques and see what the data is really telling us, not what we want it to tell us. Students don’t trust surveys and polling data. Think for yourself and validate the data.

Just great, my maid saw me writing this article and thinks she deserves a raise. I thought it was legal to pay below minimum as long as you receive tips, and I give her one every day like – clean the bathroom or you’re fired. Jeees, everybody thinks they’re underpaid!!!

Thank you for your Interest in Minnesota School of Business.