Chamber of Commerce to Women: Don't Worry, Be Happy about Pay Gap

Wednesday’s post over at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blog (yes, even the Chamber has a blog these days) opines that the income disparity between women and men has an easy solution. All a woman has to do is make the right choices: pick the “right place to work” and the “right partner.” With a rich hubby, your low pay won’t matter!

Women working full-time earn 23 percent less than men, a gap that’s been slowly decreasing.

The Chamber’s blogger Brad Peck relies heavily on excerpts from other conservative columnists, including a quote from a blogger named Dan Boudreaux who says “obsession with income equality also reflects a Scrooge-like fetish for money.” Hmmm. So when a corporate CEO makes $27 million per year, that’s OK, but for a woman to want equality—how unattractive!

Boudreaux says protesting unequal pay is like a lazy man expressing jealousy of a work-out nut’s well-toned abs. Attempts at correcting that imbalance would be akin to “the government forcing gym-man to share his beautiful babes with couch-potato man.”

Humbug, I say.

A New York Times columnist implies all women need to do is a few extra laps to get up the corporate ladder. A recent study found that women who graduated from business school could close the gap, but only if they were childless. Leonhardt reminds us that three recent female Supreme Court nominees, Elena Kagan, Harriet Miers, and Sonia Sotomayor, do not have children. Forego the patter of little feet and the income gap is solved, at least for those near the top.



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The Chamber of Commerce’s Peck isn’t interested in closing the gap, though. He argues for “cultural changes” like changing the value we assign to things like promotions. He advises that “giving up a little might gain you a lot.”

In Peck’s world, we gals have choices—either give up being moms and fight like hell for a few spots at the top, or simply decide that what we’ve got is good enough.

Either one would be just fine by the employers that make up the Chamber of Commerce.

Peck’s post set off a wave of protest in the blogosphere. We reprint here his apology:

The above post has been interpreted many different ways, few of which were intended. It is the belief of both the U.S. Chamber and I that women should have equal employment opportunity. In the above I was attempting, rather poorly, to point out that using the wage gap as the only measure of full equality provides an incomplete picture. The post was unclear in its message and I would like to apologize to those for whom it has caused offense. There was no intent to dismiss the challenges women face in the economy or diminish their substantial contributions.

If only it were as easy to get a corporation to pay women equal pay for comparable work as it is to get a bloviating blogger to backtrack.

Tiffany Ten Eyck is a former staff writer and organizer with Labor Notes.