Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Letter to the Editor: Women don’t actually make less money than men

By Jonathan Gully,

"Say something often enough and eventually it will become true," is a saying that we used to hear by talking heads in regard to a certain phenomenon that occurs in politics. Typically this accusation is levied against progressives. However I won't be accusing anyone of this crime today because I don't think that Madeline Laplante-Dube actually wants women to earn less money than men for the same job.

But Laplante-Dube, in her article "What Every Man Should Know About HeForShe Campaign," repeats a falsehood that we've been hearing for decades: Women make less money than men for the same job. She even goes one step further and (incorrectly) specifies that women who attend Miami University's Business School will get paid less for the same job upon graduation. This is particularly interesting because this is one of the few demographics where women earn more than men. Multiple studies show that college-educated childless women in their 20s make between 5 and 8 percent more income than childless college-educated men during their 20s. Another interesting fact is that never-married women over 40 years old who have bachelor's degrees earn an average of 40 percent more than never-married men over 40 years of age who have bachelor's degrees. It has been well-documented that when one compares apples to apples in the income category, men and women earn about the same, except for a few groups like these two. Why Laplante-Dube chose to pick one of the few cases where women earn more while repeating this falsehood is difficult to understand because, again, why would someone writing a pro-feminism piece want women to earn less money?

I suppose it's possible that supporters of the women's movement think it might be empowering for people to think that women are being shortchanged in the workplace, but it isn't. In fact, a pervasive myth that men earn more than women could actually make women earn less. Warren Farrell, a former board member of the National Organization for Women, describes this phenomenon with the following example: A young and capable woman named Ann gets married to an equally capable man named John and after a few years they have a baby. Ann would like to continue working but because she thinks that John will ultimately earn more money, she chooses to stay home with the child rather than John. When Ann re-enters the workforce years later, she has lost momentum and years of job training so she earns less money. The myth that men earn more for the same work sometimes causes men to earn more, albeit not for the same work.

A more productive approach to helping women earn more would be to tell them exactly what they can do make that happen.

A few examples would be get a degree in the sciences or engineering, work 45 hours per week instead of 40, move to an undesirable location, travel more for work, don't take time out of the workforce, etc. It also couldn't hurt to tell them that they should talk to someone who earns well and ask her how she achieved it.

Laplante-Dube's inaccurate data point is a bit of silliness in an otherwise productive article (How many times will a person say that women earn 78 percent of what men earn before asking "If I could pay a woman less for the same job, why would anyone hire a man.").

But silliness isn't the harmful part. The harmful part is that this falsehood could cause some women to make decisions that will ultimately leave them less fulfilled, which is a sad outcome to those of us who want women to control their own destinies.