EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

April 12, 2014

Column: Despite the hoopla, pay equity is a tough sell

Women! Relax! Former President Jimmy Carter is on your side!

That and 23 cents will get you the same dollar for your work as your male colleagues.

In his never-subtle way, Carter said he is disappointed with what President Obama has done to equalize pay in the work force, where women still lag, earning 77 cents for every dollar men earn, according to the Census Bureau.

Carter noted that women make up 57 percent of university graduates but still get 23 percent less pay than men. And, he said, only 21 of the leaders of the top 500 companies are women, earning 42 percent less pay than the men. Carter said pay inequity is abuse akin to racial discrimination.

Carter’s broadside came after Obama signed a mostly symbolic executive order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees for telling co-workers how much they’re paid.

Speaking in the White House East Room, filled with cheering women, Obama said, “I don’t know why you (Republicans) would resist the idea that women should be paid the same as men, and then deny that that’s not always happening out there.”

Obama likes to note the first bill he signed as president was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, extending the time period for employees to file for wages lost as a result of discrimination.

This has all come to the fore because Democrats are eager to get more women to the polls in November to try to hold on to control of the Senate; the House is certain to stay dominated by Republicans. Democrats are focusing on pay equity because Republicans generally oppose any new mandates on employers.

All this attention! And we thought concern about women’s wages and equality in the workforce was as passe as Windows XP.

So let’s consider the arguments. Democrats insist it’s unfair to pay women less. They cite many cases of women training men and getting less pay than their trainees. The Paycheck Fairness Act would prevent retaliation for sharing paycheck information and would require employers to prove pay disparity is not based on gender.

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