RENEE ORDWAY

Don’t be so quick to blame businesses for wage gap between men, women

Posted June 08, 2012, at 7:07 p.m.
Renee Ordway
Renee Ordway

I don’t remember the exact moment in 1988 when my boyfriend, now husband, discovered that my weekly paycheck was bigger than his.

He does.

“I think I called my mother and father to tell them,” he recalled earlier this week. “I was very happy.”

I’m not sure just how much the size of my paycheck had to do with the eventual marriage proposal, but he did propose.

Of course, being young and in love, he probably never stopped to consider that my career as a print journalist had somewhat limited growth potential in Bangor, Maine.

He’s a banker. There are a few more banks in the area than newspapers.

His salary grew a bit, while mine stayed about the same, though sufficient.

Six months after we were married, his bank was taken over by another bank and he was a banker without a bank for a couple of months. Once again, he was very grateful for my paycheck and my job security.

We were a team and we stayed a team as his career turned in different directions and I continued to fall more in love with mine and there was a house to buy and babies to raise and tragedies to overcome and eventually choices to be made.

While he remembers the day he found out I made more money than he did, I remember the evening I realized that perhaps time was more important than money.

After another long day at work, tending to two overtired children, making dinner and helping a frustrated first-grader trying to learn to read, I was drying the last dish and thinking of the laundry list of things that still needed to be done before bed.

Standing at the sink with a dish towel in my hand, I started to weep. Please understand, I am not a weeper.

I remember my exact, desperate words.

“This is not any fun. Our lives are not any fun. Our life is too hectic and tiring and no one is enjoying themselves.”

This is when we had the first conversation about the possibility of my reducing my hours at work.

This is when the gap between his salary and mine widened exponentially — never to recover.

This week equal pay for women has been a topic for discussion. The U.S. Senate shot down a Democratic attempt to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was based on statistics purporting to indicate that women performing the same jobs as men earn only 77 percent of the pay.

The bill failed, with not one Republican voting in favor, providing Democrats an opportunity to wave their finger and caution that the vote further confirms that Republicans are anti-women.

There are already three laws preventing wage discrimination and the statistics behind the bill are being seriously questioned.

In fact, there doesn’t appear to be any decent and reliable source that produces clear data on the wage differential between men and women.

Overall, there is a gap. Overall, men still earn more than women, though some argue that numbers show that trend is changing with the younger generation.

But before pushing forth more legislation that could serve to unwittingly cause unnecessary burdens for already cash-strapped and overregulated small businesses, the powers that be should work on establishing some hard, reliable numbers with which to prove that businesses are actually in violation of the laws already on the books.

There are too many variables involved to say for sure why the wage gap exists.

In his controversial book “Why Men Earn More,” Dr. Warren Farrell suggests that unequal pay for women based on discrimination is a myth and that women earning less money than men has more to do with their career choices.

Of course, discrimination sometimes plays a part. Sadly, it does to some degree in nearly every facet of our lives — whether we are male, female, short, overweight or unattractive.

And Farrell, well he’s a bit over the top on a lot of things, but he makes some remarkably valid points in his book. For family’s sake, for example, women may opt for jobs with shorter commutes or more flexibility, or a job that offers better hours but less pay. And women also are still more likely to opt for at least a period of part-time employment.

Those are choices that women and their families make and they should not be tossed into a pile of statistics suggesting that companies are still blatantly underpaying women because of their gender.

It’s not good data, and when the data aren’t good, the laws that result won’t be, either.

When my husband and I made the decision that I would work part time — well, to be truthful, I decided, but with his support — I wanted to be the one to stay home.

More than ever dads are choosing to stay home. That’s fabulous. That’s a couple’s decision.

In our case, I was tired and I wanted to be able to attend more schoolday events and sit on the stoop waiting for the schoolbus. I had chased big stories for a lot of years. I wanted to chase a couple of toddlers for a while.

In his book, Farrell writes, “Women are intelligent enough to say, ‘I need more time.’ Men should be learning from women.”

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