Four reasons to raise women’s pay that should make men happy

March 5, 2015
To match feature USA-IMMIGRATION/AMERICANAPPAREL

Martha from Mexico works at a sewing machine at the American Apparel factory in downtown Los Angeles, California, October 17, 2008. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Equal pay for women doing the same work as men should be a no brainer because it’s a matter of fairness. But this isn’t just about sisters getting what they deserve or even a convenient political talking point. Equal pay helps everyone, and ever more Americans are voicing their concern about continued disparities.

According to an Ipsos poll conducted for ThomsonReuters from Feb. 27 to Mar. 2, 66 percent of respondents said that women are not paid the same as men for equal work, with 61 percent of Republicans, 77 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents sharing that view. Nearly half of those surveyed viewed the issue as “very important.”

The fact is, equal pay benefits men and women, young and old, Democrat and Republican, and everybody in between. Here are four reasons why anyone who wants to see a thriving America should get on board the equal-pay train right away.

Economic growth: When a woman takes home a smaller paycheck, it puts a crimp in her spending power. It’s time politicians in Washington recognized what marketers in America have been clear on for some time: Women are the main consumers in their homes. A whopping 85 percent of purchasing decisions are made by women. They decide on most everyday items, like groceries and clothing, as well as on half of all automobiles, home-improvement products and consumer electronics purchased in the United States. Over the next decade, women are expected to control two-thirds of consumer spending, according to a 2012 study by strategic communications firm FleishmanHillard and Hearst Magazines.

A worker mixes caramel popcorn, known as Moose Munch, at the Harry & David factory in Medford

A worker mixes caramel popcorn at the Harry & David factory in Medford, Oregon, May 16, 2008. REUTERS/Adam Tanner

If women made more, the additional money flowing toward goods and services would act as a much-needed stimulus to a U.S. economy struggling to gain momentum. Just how much? In an interview with the Huffington Post, economist Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, calculated it would be enough to expand the economy by at least 3 to 4 percentage points — an effect even greater when you take into account the fact that pay hikes would entice more women to join the workforce.

Strengthening the middle class: Want to help the incredible shrinking American middle class? Paying women fairly would go a long way toward that goal. Smaller paychecks, according to economist Evelyn Murphy, founder of The WAGE Project, cost the average full-time U.S. woman worker between $700,000 and $2 million over the course of her work life. With record numbers of women contributing to household incomes, the lack of equal pay for women hurts all middle-class families, including the men and children who rely on their contributions.

In 2010, economist Heather Boushey testified before Congress that the typical American wife brings home around a third of her family’s total income. Boushey further noted that the trend in recent decades has been increased upward mobility for families in which the wife works. This additional income has made the key difference between families who are able to pull ahead economically and those who fall behind. Pay women their fair share, and more families can join the middle class and have a shot at economic security.

Attacking Big Poverty: Research from the Brookings Institution paints a disturbing picture of U.S. poverty stuck at record levels, with the number of poor Americans growing by 5 million between 2008 and 2012. Data collected by Maria Shriver in her annual Shriver Report shows that a third of American women either live in poverty or are just on the brink.

Why do women experience an unequal burden of poverty? As economist Hartmann and her colleagues have observed, continued pay inequality is part of the answer.

To match Analysis USA-AUTOS/ECONOMY

A worker installs parts for the new Chevrolet Cruze car as it moves along the assembly line at the General Motors Cruze assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, July 22, 2011. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

Just paying women fairly, according to a regression analysis of federal data by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, would cut the poverty rate for working women in half. Women of color are particularly hurt by pay disparities; African-American women earn only 64 cents to a white man’s dollar, and Latinas take home a mere 54 cents.

The wage gap puts a terrible burden on families with only one female earner, which particularly hits African-American and Latino communities, where women are likely to support families on their own. The wage gap also increases the likelihood that women of retirement age will slip into poverty because their pensions and Social Security checks are shrunken by years of lower pay.

Global competitiveness: Pay inequality is a serious challenge to U.S. competitiveness; it keeps women out of the workforce and renders them less likely to contribute the full benefit of their skills and talents to the economy. A 2014 report by the World Economic Forum, however, shows that the United States ranks 65th in wage equality out of 142 countries studied. The International Labor Organization’s Global Wage Report 2014/15 shows that the United States was at the very bottom of the rankings on wage inequality out of 38 countries surveyed, behind places you might guess — Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Germany — but also behind Bulgaria, Greece and Slovakia.

Clearly, something has gone wrong with U.S. policy. One reason countries that rank high on pay equality got there is that they don’t just enact a piece of legislation and call it a day. They are constantly coming up with new policies, amending existing laws and promoting initiatives that attack this persistent problem.

Worker Maria Robles sews clothes at Karen Kane clothing company in Los Angeles

Worker Maria Robles sews clothes at the Karen Kane clothing company in Los Angeles, California, June 30, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Denmark, for example, passed the Act on Equal Pay for Men and Women in 1976. But it didn’t stop there — the act has been amended several times, most recently in 2008. Every third year, the minister of labor and the minister of gender equality put out a report on measures that guarantee equal pay. Denmark stays on the case. Washington could take a lesson there.

Republicans have blocked legislation that would help ensure that a woman is paid as much as a man for doing the same work. Democrats have seized the issue as one that will appeal to their base as 2016 approaches.

But if ever there were an issue that ought to be bipartisan, this is it. The idea of pay equality is about dollars and cents as much as about common sense. America can’t afford to lag behind.

11 comments

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Number one reason is just so they’ll stop bitching and whining all day, man.

Posted by LetBalanceCome | Report as abusive

Number one reason is just so they’ll stop bitching and whining all day, man.

Posted by LetBalanceCome | Report as abusive

It is naive to think that the difference between salaries of men and women is solely caused by sexism. There are many factors at play. None of us are paid what we are worth, we are paid what we negotiate. One of the biggest factors is priorities.

Posted by wilsonbj | Report as abusive

I want my 25 percent, the women at my job in my position get paid the same thing I do.

Posted by thebriang | Report as abusive

For most Western economies,the “gender pay gap” is an urban myth – men and women are paid the same for the same work and there is usually statutory legislation and procedures to enforce this.

Men EARN more than women on average and there are obvious reasons for this, like men don’t have babies and like a tiny proportion of male fat cats earn far more than any average male, never mind female.

Why Reuters should want to publish blather like this article I don’t know.

What I do know is that windy nonsense about “gender pay gaps” is a wonderful distraction from the really importnant pay gap between the fantastic earnings of the 1 % and everybody else!

Posted by alcuin | Report as abusive

PS: Denmark is little more than a small back water town compared to the majority of all municipalities in the USA. Don’t compare one tiny little place to 50 places that make up the USA or to ALL of the European Union. Sheesh! Denmark is squat!

Posted by SixthRomeo | Report as abusive

60% of marriages end in divorce. Either your ex-wife’s employer pays her more money, or YOU pay her more money when you divorce. Either in the form of alimony or child support or both. Wouldn’t you rather have her employer just pay her more, so you don’t have to?

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Alkaline State, have you seen the study regarding the morons who will take zero in payment just so some else won’t get slightly more?

Posted by Heyoka | Report as abusive

Alkaline State, have you seen the study regarding the morons who will take zero in payment just so some else won’t get slightly more?

Posted by Heyoka | Report as abusive

Today’s woman needs to marry a man of means so that she can make a home, volunteer, and raise the children once the finances are in order.

Posted by EdwardMax | Report as abusive

Economic growth is a hoax, or at least an impossibility. It cannot be sustained without the complete annihilation of mankind. No one, especially not women care about the middle class. The destruction of the middle class is a function of the destruction of family units and a generally selfish voting tendency by both liberals and conservatives. So, on this point you are trying to find support from no one that exists. No one, especially not women care about poverty. A great amount of poverty is created by lack of families which are largely destroyed to promote feminist agendas, which are actually rather crazy and not based on rational thought. No one, especially not women care about global competitiveness. Global domination by US corporations using our military to weaken and destabilize other countries we do care about. Fear of bad things makes many vote for the fascist leaders we have, but rational thought would have our leaders addressing many other issues rather than terrorism or any other fake fear maker. So, we don’t care and especially women don’t care about the middle class, about poverty, about economic growth and about competitiveness. This is just a bunch of silly GovSpeak. The typical American and not excluding women are seeking favoritism rather than justice. So, only the less than intelligent would buy this attempt at justifying favoritism. If you want justice then you need to give men justice in divorces, which are known to be methods of wealth extraction by women.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive