Whether it is income inequality or the gap between men’s and women’s wages, we have a President who single-handedly wants to kill that difference. And while it is impossible to argue on moral grounds that it is a good thing for people to be discriminated against, it seems the President is missing some real fundamentals in his quest.
Think of all the cases of differences we mostly accept. Some guys and gals get really tall and become successful basketball centers…and millionaires. Danny DeVito was a tiny man who became a successful actor. Napoleon was pretty tiny too. These guys never would have played center on any basketball team. We say men are from Mars and women from Venus. We celebrate these differences. On a lot of Saturday nights we dance, go to movies, have debates, and otherwise enjoy being with the opposite sex. Vive la difference.
Already some of you are fuming. Larry – it just isn’t fair for a man and woman to have the same job and be paid differently. But that just isn't the case. Before you explode, keep reading.
What we all want is fair treatment when it comes to pay. But let’s face it – fair is not equal. I was a prof for 30 something years. I saw some pretty horrible profs who neither prepared for class nor did any research. It would have been unfair to pay those jerks the same as others. I also saw award winning profs who were incredible teachers.
They got better pay raises than most of us and deserved them.
Think about every job you ever had. There were people who came in early, took short breaks, and went home late. Others were not so wedded to their jobs and couldn’t wait to bust out of the building so they could watch their kids play soccer or otherwise enjoy their non-business lives. While you don’t want to stop people from having balanced lives, it also does not seem fair or right to penalize those people who made disproportionate contributions to the organizations’ successes.
And then there is the path to the job. You and I might have the same job and work the same hours – but let’s suppose you grew up in a low income family and were very motivated to exit that status. You worked very hard at school and took the courses that would prepare you for a high income career. Me, on the other hand, born with a golden spoon in my mouth, spent more time playing cards than attending classes and majored in any field that provided a quick path to graduation. Uncle George helped me get my job and I demand to be paid the same as you. Yet I am not not the sharpest tool in the shed and don’t come close to your productivity. Somehow, it doesn’t seem fair to pay us equally.
I could go on and on but the point is made. What someone gets paid ought to have something to do with their contribution to the company or organization. It shouldn’t matter how tall they are, what race they are, their sex, or their parentage. We have laws in this country to prevent discrimination and they should be used and enforced.
What about the 77% stat (or other similar ones) that shows women make less than men for similar jobs? These figures are provocative but not rich enough to support the conclusions. Already there is a competition of stats that show the true number lies somewhere between 77% and 98%. But the truth is that all these numbers fail for pretty much the same reason – they do not bring in all the relevant facts to make comparisons. And they don’t even bring in the most relevant fact of all – how productive are these workers.
One does not have to be a crank to point out that really short people do not excel as basketball centers. Or that music majors often make poor astrophysicists. It is possible that these comparisons work against women for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with misogyny or discrimination. Recall the women are from Venus thing? Women historically and still often play the larger role at home and/or with the children. Women have often been called the second income earner as a choice to promote family stability. Women often need flexible work schedules which sometimes put them at jobs that pay less or which work fewer hours. I haven’t kept up with the latest on women’s schooling or with women’s occupations. But surely women are different from men and these differences imply statistical gaps that have nothing to do with discrimination.
So why does all this really matter? It matters when it comes to every woman in the marketplace who earns a wage. Every woman who works for an organization should be paid according to her productivity. While productivity is no simple thing to measure, every co-worker, every supervisor, every VP, and everyone somewhere close to that woman’s work knows what her productivity is. I have never worked for any organization where productivity was a secret. I was an Airman in the Air Force and worked in an office with about 10 guys. We all knew who the slouches were – and we all knew the guys who made the difference. Let the companies make the decisions. And then let discrimination laws take care of any discrimination that results.