In the Land of Woe

by Paul F. Goetz 

It’s getting more and more difficult to pick up a newspaper these days without being confronted with an article about the plight of women. You name it – women are being victimized by it. For instance, women’s groups insisted that changes be made on the SAT tests because school girls were not scoring high enough. But, is there much truth and credibility to most of the articles? And the reasoning advanced in the articles? Back in May of 1996 John Leo wrote “…feminists made domestic violence a political issue….the modern newsroom is supportive of feminism…news stories on domestic violence are carefully crafted, consistently unreliable, and often just wrong.” (U.S. News & World Report, ON SOCIETY, 5-13-96). What Leo said then applies today on a much broader scale. Much of the media reporting, although factual to a degree, carefully omits many other related facts.

Today, on the front page of many U.S. newspapers, nationwide, is an article by New York Times writer, Tamar Lewin, about the recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The headlines of my local paper read: “Unequal pay: Gender gap grows wider.” It goes on to quickly say that the median income of women is apparently $.75 for every $1.00 earned by men, which supposedly dropped by $.02 over the past four years.

The results don’t surprise me in the least. It’s been years since the publication of “The Myth Of Male Power,” in which Dr. Warren Farrell discussed “the thirteen major reasons why women earned less.” Three of the reasons were that, one, most of the dangerous jobs – the “death profession” jobs – are performed almost totally by men; two, that men are more willing than women to accept “less desirable hours”; and three, that men are more willing to relocate to earn more money or advance a career.

Today’s article, however, which included opinions from Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard University, Heidi Hartmann, a labor economist at Cornell University, Francine Blau, director of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, June O’Neill, the Republican-appointed head of the Congressional Budget Office, Jared Bernstein, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute and Marvin Kosters, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, did not mention any of the thirteen reasons Farrell brought to light years ago. The people in the article were mostly “puzzled” and “dismayed” at the gender disparity. And, Hartmann was “troubled by the widening wage gap because it indicates a concentration of women at the low end of the pay scale.”

Even though women receive approximately 55% of all college degrees, (which the article failed to mention) they frequently choose to perform jobs or pursue careers that they know pay less than other choices available. Even those without a college degree make the same sorts of choices. It seems to me anyone with an IQ higher than Forest Gump’s knows that a person jack hammering on a highway, or roofing, or working in a foundry, or risking their life daily, is probably going to earn more money than someone hawking baubles, bangles & beads and other grooming & pampering products in a retail store. But some people apparently think that you readers are so stupid that you will overlook things like that, and buy into their “woe is us” campaign propaganda.

One of the most noticeable aspects of such news articles is that there is no specific job or profession discussed – period. The more vague the implications, and the more the writer and their sources can ramble on and on about all sorts of intangibles, the better the apparent effect of the propaganda. So, there is nothing even remotely resembling a pay comparison of men and women with the same experience and qualifications performing the same job for the same number of hours. That would apparently be far too simple for people of reasonable intelligence to comprehend.

I have a long time friend, Hank, whom I now see only about once a year. We grew up together as kids – three houses apart – and it’s fun to get together and discuss old times, compare our views of the world , see how our children are doing, etc. He’s a school teacher in a city school system, and has been for over 20 years. I asked him if there was any disparity in what men and women earn as teachers, and he said no – it’s based entirely on one’s education and experience – period. I never see anything in the newspaper articles about the thousands or millions of people in the professions such as school teacher in which there is no gender pay disparity for people with comparable experience performing the same job. That always seems to be conveniently avoided.

Hank’s father used to be the head of foundry, and he used to visit his dad at the job once in awhile. He recently told me he remembers seeing workers at the foundry with missing fingers, etc. – then said, “and it wasn’t the secretaries,” going on to say it was something he hadn’t really thought much about at the time.

I’ve been involved in the building trades for 25 years, so I’m well aware that the Worker’s Compensation insurance rates for construction, especially roofing, are just about as high as they come – because it’s dangerous work. The area in which I live had a bad winter last season, and many buildings sustained roof damage. The roofing contractors are extremely busy, and most residential streets seem to have a roofing crew or two working – and this is September. I glance at the roofing crews as I drive by, and I haven’t noticed any women. They have apparently chosen not to do any roofing. At least not this year.

We also have a lot of road construction going on, and I can’t recall seeing any women running the jack hammers or tying reinforcing rods for the concrete pours, etc. I guess the area women have apparently chosen to not do any road construction this year either.

In 25 years working in the building trades, I’ve seen approximately 3 women carpenters, and no electricians or plumbers or tin benders that I can remember. Why? I guess they chose not to live with cut hands, constant slivers (both wood & metal), bruised legs, broken nails, inflamed shoulders, dirty job sites, etc.

I’ve fallen off roofs, done a flip into an open stair while carrying a large timber, snapped an Achilles tendon in half in a fall from a ladder, had surgery on a thumb after cutting the tendon with a utility knife, punctured my wrist with a saw blade (passed out on the bathroom floor from loss of blood & shock). I guess most women have chosen that they would rather not risk those sorts of things.

The other unusual aspect that seems to go unmentioned in articles like today’s is that with women now owning a very large percentage of businesses in the U.S., it’s women who are more and more in control of paying the woman who are allegedly earning less than men. And, if you look at the Executive Masts of many of the major magazines, especially the umpteens being peddled in the grocery stores, you see more women than men. They may not be the owner, but they are in positions of power. But, the writers never seem to get any information from the women business owners and other executives about how much they pay the employees, and if the women earn as much as the men.

Maybe someday a mainstream writer, in conjunction with a Harvard economist, and a government agency will finally understand a few of the 13 reasons why men earn more money than women. But then, some people just never get it. Or, they prefer to peddle propaganda to you.

Women today exercise more political and economic power than ever before…

“Women-owned businesses employ 1 of every 4 workers. Women-owned businesses add $2.3 trillion to the U.S. economy in each year. Women make 80 percent of all consumer decisions. Women are the majority of voters,” said Linda Tarr-Whelan. (Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA) President and CEO)

Copyright © 1997 Paul F. Goetz