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LETTER: America's wage gap really is embarrassing

Published: Monday, February 24, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 24, 2014 23:02

To the editor:

I was outraged by the “Obama is wrong about gender gap” editorial published in last week’s Statesman. It was written as a response to President Obama’s comment that “(Women) make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns,” and that “in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.” Its author claims that, in proposing wage equality, President Obama demeans the value of motherhood because “women of today didn’t plan on a lifetime of work” because they were planning on becoming mothers. He further writes that “As women prepared to become mothers, they took different paths than men” and that “gaps in (choices of) employment explain much of the wage gap.”

Just in case anybody read this editorial and found it convincing, I hope to set the record straight.

First of all, not only are there more women than men pursuing degrees at every level of higher education — around 60 percent of bachelor's degrees and 50.4 percent of Ph.D.s, according to the National Center for Education Statistics — but there are no significant differences in the types of degrees that women are seeking from those that men are seeking. The top-three most popular college majors for women, according to the U.S. Department of Education, are: business (men's No. 1), health and clinical professions and social sciences/history (men's No. 2). The latest American freshman survey found that undergraduates' highest goal is to be financially well-off. Forbes Magazine writes, “for this new crop of college students (of which 60 percent are women), attaining wealth ranks higher than raising a family.” American women are preparing for careers at least as much as men are.

Secondly, the U.S. Census Bureau's research that led to the widely cited statistic of women making 77 cents on the man's dollar statistically adjusted that wage gap to make sure working mothers' wages were not compared alongside those of full-time professionals. In 2007, the average American male working full time earned $45,113, whereas the average American woman working full time earned $35,102. That's a .77-to-one ratio. Mothers and those aspiring to become homemakers were in no way considered in this study? It compares working men with working women and has consistently found a sexist wage gap.

Misunderstandings like those cited in last week's editorial can be extremely harmful by providing excuses to duck issues, ignore problems and support inequality. The women's 77-cents-on-the-dollar wage gap is a reality. And I, along with President Obama, am embarrassed by it.

Grant Holyoak 

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