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Editorial: For women, equal pay is just one challenge

Much attention has been focused this week on the persistent wage gap between men and women in the American workplace. But as recent news in New Hampshire makes clear, wages are not the only problem for working women, even here in the 21st century.

Yesterday was Equal Pay Day, marking the number of extra days into 2014 the average woman has to work to earn as much as her male counterpart did in 2013 – not exactly a holiday worth baking a cake for. Among full-time, year-round workers, widely cited studies say women make on average just 77 percent of what men are paid. Others show a slightly smaller gap – but nothing like parity.

Democrats in Congress, along with President Obama, are pushing smart legislation called the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would make it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who inquire about or disclose their wages or the wages of another employee in a complaint or investigation. It also makes employers liable to civil actions. And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would be required to collect pay information from employers. A similar bill is pending in the New Hampshire Legislature where, after bipartisan approval in the state Senate, it seems more likely to pass than in Washington.

But beyond the political wrangling, we were struck – and discouraged – this week by not one but two news stories that illustrated what women are still up against in the workplace.

First was a story about Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams, who was suspended by the attorney general amid a long investigation. Reams’s fight to be reinstated continued this week; among the accusations against him are that he engaged in gender discrimination and sexual harassment – not just once but over the course of his entire career, according to the state. His behavior so offended his female employees that he earned the nickname “Creepy Uncle Jim.” This from a man elected to prosecute others’ misbehavior.

In the same day’s newspaper was a report about retired superior court judge John Lewis who was put on paid leave after lawyers complained about comments they believed disparaged female attorneys. The judge ultimately retired but was then reprimanded by the state Judicial Conduct Committee. According to those present at a meeting where Lewis spoke, the judge cautioned that the legal profession risked losing public respect because so many women were becoming lawyers. He argued that people respect leaders in the business world because it is largely male-dominated. He said the Russian medical profession has lost respect because it is female-dominated, and he saw the same thing happening with the legal profession in the United States. And he said an influx of new female lawyers was negatively affecting the teaching profession because women are becoming lawyers rather than teachers.

Lewis told the conduct committee he was trying to make a point about the persistence of sexism and discrimination, not engaging in sexism himself. His audience heard otherwise.

For working women, gender parity on wages is important indeed. So is the current effort to increase the minimum wage, considering that two-thirds of those earning minimum wage are female. Those are difficult political fights, for sure. But apparently equally difficult is rooting out inappropriate and discriminatory behavior among men in positions of power, problems that can’t be legislated away. The attorney general and the judiciary are right to take such accusations seriously.

Legacy Comments7

For those that apparently miss the point of the policy it's equal pay for equal jobs. It's not about whether a women would make a good firefighter, it's not about jobs requiring travel, it's also not about jobs with risks or lower paying ones. It's about doing the same job and being paid equally. Who cares if it is $.81 or $.77 - why not $1.00? As for the rather sophomoric David Burge quote, the answer is, because that's how it's always been. There is one drawback. The one big thing that really stands in the way of equality is pregnancy. It's just that no one actually comes out and mentions it. I guarantee that this is the reason, I know as a former business owner that thought always popped into the back of mind when hiring. So don't tap dance around with excuses.

The policy is not just about equal pay for equal jobs in my opinion GCarson. If that were the case, I would be fine with it. We already have an Equal Pay Act from 1963. Any women who feels she is being unfairly compensated for her work can sue the employer. This Act will make it impossible for an employer to base employee wages on work quality, experience and productivity. The reality is that some workers do a better job. Women take more time off than men in regards to family. Women usually avoid jobs that require them to travel, work longer hours, etc. They want more flexibility. That is why they select jobs that give that flexibility to them. Those jobs usually pay less period. That is not discrimination, that is a woman making a career choice that allows here to be flexible. The winners here will be the lawyers. If I do a better job than you, take less time off, and work more hours, I expect to be paid more than you. That is why I am not in a union. Equal Pay for Equal Work, Yes. Equal Pay for Less Work, No. Ask a great teacher if he or she appreciates the fact that a lousy teacher earns the same pay.

You are correct GWTW. If a woman wants to be a firefighter, we hear complaints that the physical requirements for that job need to be changed. She is incapable of lifting the same weight I guess. Women also tend to take jobs that do not require travel. Lots of differences between men and women. Women do some things better than men and the opposite is also true. That is reality. I guess the left believes they can sell anything to women to get their votes. Basically, they believe women are stupid.

Well, at least we know now what the platform will be for the next election cycle. The Dems will be extending the myth that women are not being treated equally in the workplace. The pay gap between men and women has been disputed time and again. Women tend to have careers in fields that pay less period. They tend to work less overtime, and also tend to take more time off than men. There is no equality in the workplace. Your wage is based on your performance. You are reviewed, and your pay scale is based on that review. We all do not have the same work effort or dedication to our jobs. Ask a great teacher if he or she believes that a lousy teacher deserves the same pay. If women get paid less than men, how come employers have not stopped hiring men, but instead just hire women? Women should be outraged that the Dem party treats them like they are incapable of anything. They are incapable of getting birth control, and obviously are incapable of managing their careers. Seems as though women need help with everything from the government because they cannot manage anything on their own. At least that is what the Dems want you to believe.

"If women make less than men for doing the same job, why would a capitalist ever hire a man?"...David Burge.

WHITE HOUSE MANSPLAINS MISLEADING GENDER PAY STATS..... female White House staffers make an average of 88 cents for every dollar male staffers earn. More phony baloney democrat politics like the WAR on WOMEN. If you believe women get paid 77% of men you are sorely misinformed by the media you read.

for F/Y 2011 the BLS shows 93% of fatal occupational injuries were men...that tells me women are not taking the higher risk..and higher paying jobs.

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