A recent 60 Minutes special shared the story of the US Women’s National Soccer Team, whose players recently voiced a desire to be paid as much as the men’s team. But unlike other recent fights over the “wage gap,” these ladies have legitimate complaints, considering that their team grosses more revenue.
This case is certainly atypical for a discussion of the wage gap, most obviously because it is the realm of professional sports. The women’s team hasn’t always grossed so much, and didn’t at the time the players signed their contracts. However, the ladies are now worth more in terms of monetary value, and deserve to be compensated accordingly.
This principle, that of monetary and skill value, ought to guide all of our discussions on this issue. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
In September, The Institute for Women’s Policy Research released its findings on the gender wage gap from FY 2015. IWPR concluded that women’s median annual earnings, for full-time and year-round workers, were about 79.6 percent of men’s earnings. It also found that women’s median weekly earnings for full-time work were about 81.1 percent.
These numbers might appear shocking, but only to those who don’t recognize workplace dynamics. The numbers tell us what the wage gap is, but say nothing about why it exists.
Of the highest paying professions, women make up only a small portion. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 35% of all professionals involved in securities, commodities, funds, trusts, and other financial investments. They make up only 25% of those involved in architecture, engineering, and computer systems design.
The wage gap largely arises from this fact. IWPR fails to consider these labor dynamics, including only information about race and wage–not occupational breakdowns.
Vanessa Brown Calder of the Cato Institute summarizes the findings of a Glassdoor study, along with other studies, as follows:
Women are making 95 cents for every dollar men are making, once you compare men and women with similar educational, experiential, and professional characteristics.
The problem isn’t that IWPR’s numbers, or even those of BLS, are wrong. The problem is that they simply don’t indicate what wage gappers want them to indicate.
IWPR and other wage gappers want people to believe that a female worker–one with the same level of education, same skill set, and same level of revenue-earning value as a male worker–earns significantly less, simply because she is a woman. It’s a simple analysis that fits a progressive worldview. However, the numbers don’t support that hypothesis across the board.
Except, perhaps, in the case of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. But that’s why the soccer team is so important: it’s the exception, not the rule.