A Grain of Charen Salt When It Comes to Wage Equality

Today I’m going to cherry-pick the highly conservative liberal hater, Mona Charen’s recent column headed, “Feminists hate that many women embrace life’s trade-offs.” How Charen could possibly speak for ‘many women’ is beyond me. She’s silver spoon all the way. Barnard (one of the 7 sister colleges) undergrad; George Washington law degree; lawyer husband, Robert P. Parker who just left the prestigious law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrision for up and coming Washington D.C. International Law emerging powerhouse, Baker & McKenzie; as a partner no less. Parker is a big deal in his field.

The guy was past president of the International Trade Commission Trial Lawyers Association and served as counsel to the Commission of the ITC. He’s both litigated and investigated for numerous federal agencies and has appeared before many federal courts. The Intellectual Property arena is huge in international commerce and industry and Parker’s got it covered. Charen & Parker are definitive 1 percenters, earning, I’m sure, well into the millions per year.

How handy that Parker is married to a lady who can spew whatever propaganda the power boys need to spew in over 200 newspapers nationwide.

But enough Parkering. I’m here to write about the recent Charen ‘feminist’ column. Charen is actually critical of an Atlantic article written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, entitled, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” I’m not here to dispute whatever points Ms. Charen was trying to make with the Princeton Political and International Affairs prof; I’m just here to point out a few venial (bordering on mortal) sins of journalism and objectivity by Charen.

To make a point about working women with children under 17 and younger, she refers to a 5-year old PEW survey that found that 79% of those questioned said they would prefer part-time or zero work outside the home. First, a side point. If republicans hadn’t repressed wages for all workers, men and women, and if republicans had allowed unions to thrive instead of descend into impotence (Wisconsin comes to mind), maybe these reluctant workers wouldn’t be forced to work simply to make household ends meet.

Those points are reinforced in a Washington Post Internet Opinion piece by E.J. Dionne Jr. who quotes some 2012 numbers released in a study by the Center for American Progress that Charen apparently missed or ignored, preferring a 5-year old study in its stead. Charen reduces the ‘to work or not to work, that is the question’ to needing or wanting to go HOME. Nothing about needing to WORK. But the CAP study puts it in a more practical perspective. Among families with children, nearly half featured both mom and dad working. It was about the economic necessity, as Charen surely knows but neglected to mention.

She goes on to maintain that “the idea that women earn less than men for the same work is fiction.” Charen knows damn well of one profession that compensates men considerably more than it does women for doing the SAME WORK! She knows because it’s the profession for which she was educated and which is practiced by her husband…the law. Let’s get personal here, Mona. It’s also the profession practiced by my daughter. Roughly 15% of law firm partners are women and that’s where the money is. Women lawyers in fact make 75% of what male lawyers make. The source? Forbes Magazine. In another high-paying profession, male doctors pad their pockets by an annual average of $12,000 more dollars a year than female doctors. But don’t despair ladies, female teaching assistants actually outearn male TA’s. The yearly numbers; a female rakes in $24,648 annually, while the poor male has to make do with $23,536.

Medicine and law aside (and thousands of other professions), she justifies her assertion by finding a demographic of single women without children who allegedly earn just as much as their similarly situated male counterparts. Sometimes MORE!

True, as far as it goes. I mean Time Magazine, where she got that info couldn’t possibly be wrong could it? But Charen has to move around a lot of pieces to make this point relevant. You have to go mostly urban and you have to have an earnings equality cutoff date. Because after about a decade or so, the gentlemen catch up and blow by the ladies, oft-times to the point of earning 40% more for the same labors. Hundreds of studies over recent years agree on one thing. Men’s wages are higher than women’s wages over all industrial sectors.

However optimistic Time might be for women’s earning’s in future generations, the glass ceiling also lives. Take the crème de la crème Fortune 500 companies. Why, dadgummit, 18 are headed by women (3.6% if you’re math oriented). There was great celebrating for that record number in the business press even though that still leaves 482 major corporations (96.4%) that aren’t led by a female CEO. And since women make up 57% of the entire workforce, it would be interesting to know what percentage of those women are employed by Fortune 500 companies. If it approaches half, then somebody is getting the short end of the stick.

The real numbers. Let’s take the universe of male and female workers. The American Association of University Women and most research studies put the differential in pay at around 77%. Women make 77% of what men earn. AAUW gets its figures from the Census Bureau, the Department of Education and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

God knows the Democrats have tried to carve out fair compensation for women. From John Kennedy’s Equal Pay Act to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that expanded the statute of limitations for bringing an equal-pay lawsuit. The republicans crushed similar legislation in a 2008 vote. It passed a democratic controlled congress in early 2009 with but 3 republican votes in the house. The latest democratic effort, the enormously popular Paycheck Fairness Act didn’t make the cut. Even though a majority of Senators voted for it…it wasn’t enough of a majority to overcome a threatened republican filibuster.

Note to women: if you vote for a single republican, please make your way to the nearest examiner of heads.

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