The Paycheck Fairness Act Is A Waste Of Time And Resources


Allyson Werner
Staff Writer
Illustration by Amanda Excell, Staff Illustrator

In a valiant effort to ensure that men and women earn equal pay for equal work, President Obama adamantly promotes the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will amend the portion of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) known as the Equal Pay Act. The amendment will allegedly allow for further enforcement of equal pay through numerous new measures, including prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their compensation and requiring federal contractors to submit compensation data by sex and race to the Department of Labor.

While I support equal pay (as I would hope everyone does), the Paycheck Fairness Act is nothing short of redundant and unnecessary. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 firmly establishes that “no employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate…between employees on the basis of sex.” Although revolutionary at the time, the declaration that men and women are created equal, and therefore deserve equal pay, has been accepted by all. Yet somehow the equal pay debate rages on.

Obama’s administration affirms that the dated legislation does not allow for proper enforcement of the generally accepted standard, but this is simply not the case. The Equal Pay Act allows government officials to “investigate and gather data regarding the wages, hours, and other conditions and practices of employment in any industry subject to this chapter, and may enter and inspect such places and such records (and make such transcriptions thereof), question such employees, and investigate such facts, conditions, practices, or matters as he may deem necessary or appropriate.” Not only does the original Equal Pay Act of 1963 allow for appropriate enforcement of equal pay, but in 2010, the president also created the National Equal Pay Task Force to crack down on violations of equal pay laws.

With all these measures already in place, it seems to me that a lack of legislation is not the problem. I can’t help but feel (against my usual sentiment might I add) that Republicans are on point when they say that this new piece of legislation is a political ploy used by Democrats to gain the female vote. The Senate GOP tweeted (the Senate tweets?), “Today the Senate will vote in relation to the so-called Paycheck Fairness Act, the latest ploy in the Democrats’ election-year playbook.” It could be. Neither party is a stranger to elaborate political ploys.

Although the proposed legislation could increase transparency and expose violations of equal pay, I remain unconvinced that major violations will surface. Democrats in favor of the new legislation continuously cite the Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey, which states that women’s median earnings were only 77.9 percent of men’s earnings. This discrepancy is significant, but it is a stretch to say that it is the result of equal pay violations. Rather, this discrepancy indicates that the proportion of women in highly paid executive and professional positions is low relative to the proportion of women in the labor force.

So what does cause the unfortunate pay gap? For one, women typically have more disjointed career paths than men do because of childbirth. In addition, an increasing number of academic studies point to inherent female nature as a reason for inequality in the workplace. For example, a study by the National Bureau of Academic Research confirms that women are inherently less competitive than men are, meaning women are less likely to be successful in obtaining promotions, lucrative jobs, and pay increases. For this reason, men make up the majority of high-paid positions. Along the same lines, a disgruntled woman would be less likely to march into her employer’s office and demand a raise or address concerns regarding pay inequality.

Personally, I think that the characterization of women as less competitive than men is no stretch. From early ages, boys demonstrate an urge for competition that is lacking in women. Young boys are more inclined toward playground spats, and big boys are generally more inclined toward fights and property destruction. This is certainly apparent in Isla Vista, where fights regularly break out at parties and mailbox smashing is a regular activity. So perhaps, ladies, rather than relying on the government to come to our rescue, we should band together and fight our way to the top. That’s what the boys do.