Eduardo Porter’s article last week in The New York Times, Motherhood Still a Cause of Pay Inequality, has a good discussion of the gender wage gap – it highlights the slowed progress in closing the gap and discusses many of the issues that contribute to women’s lower pay including occupational segregation, caregiving responsibilities, and discrimination.
However, Porter gets it wrong when he says that passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which failed to get a vote in the Senate last week, might actually increase women’s unemployment. As Fatima Goss Graves debunked this myth in our blog:
Porter rightly contends that flexible workplaces, predictable hours, and paid family leave would help close the wage gap. We couldn’t agree more and cheer companies, states, and countries taking these steps.
But there are many causes of the wage gap, including discrimination, all of which need addressing. And, as economist Nancy Folbre argues in Porter’s article, “…equal pay laws are needed anyway because they change the norms of society. Tightening the civil rights-era law to force employers to offer equal pay for equal work by equally qualified workers would encourage them to think twice about their pay practices and temper the tendency to subconsciously discriminate against women.”
Luckily we don’t have to choose – we can have laws that protect women from discrimination AND laws that help workers balance work and family responsibilities. And that’s good – because it’s unacceptable to think that women should tolerate discrimination to have a job.