The 'pay gap' is a manufactured issue politicians use to pander to women

The 'pay gap' is a manufactured issue politicians use to pander to women
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I’ve created a new award, “The Dumbest Tweet of the Week,” on my weekly podcast. A recent winner is Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandWith Senate at stake, Georgia is on all our minds Build trust in vaccines by investing in community workers MSNBC's Ruhle challenges Sanders on push for ,200 stimulus checks MORE (D-N.Y.), an aspiring presidential nominee.

Gillibrand has come under attack from voices ranging from Dr. Alveda King to the Washington Post opinion page for equating historical racism with people’s wanting to protect the life of the unborn. That illogical snap in her synaptic transmission, as ridiculous as it might have been, is not what earned her the award for Twitter lunacy.

Gillibrand’s winning entry was this: “Here’s an idea: If you win 13-0 — the most goals for a single game in World Cup history — you should be paid at least equally to the men’s team.”


Gillibrand likely meant to pander to those in the feminist movement, with all the attention being paid of late to the issue of women’s soccer pay — because of both the World Cup and a lawsuit filed in March in federal court by the team against U.S. Soccer.

Feminists and social activists are using the high profile of successful soccer women to drive home their larger, mostly fictional, contention that a major pay gap exists between men and women and that government intervention is needed to level the playing field, as they say, for soccer and employment in general.

The left has done a masterful job, dating to the 1970s, of taking from an unsupported contention to a generally accepted fact the claim that women earn less than men for doing the same job. The statistic commonly tossed around is that women earn 76 to 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man (although the Institute for Women’s Policy Research has taken what they term a more “nuanced” approach and puts the figure at 49 cents).

Sticking with the more conventionally cited range of 76 to 80 cents, using this number to construct an argument for government action is a bit like using the average annual high temperature in Buffalo, N.Y., of 56 degrees to argue that to live there you do not need a winter jacket. (For the record, Buffalo surpassed 100 inches of snow by mid-February this year.)

The inconvenient truth behind the “pay gap” numbers is that, to the extent any real pay gap might exist between men and women, the factors that account for it seem to relate more to the choices that liberated, self-directed women are free to make in our country than they do to any sort of institutional discrimination. PragerU has produced a well-researched and concise video that makes this point extremely well.


For starters, while the lists do vary to a minor extent, the best-paying college degrees are in fields of study chosen voluntarily by men more often than they are chosen by women. These fields include petroleum engineering, math and computer science, aerospace engineering and chemical engineering. Male graduates dominate these fields.

Conversely, the worst-paying fields of college study show the same kind of percentage dominance by women over men, in terms of graduation. These include counseling, community organizing, social work and early childhood education.  

The truth is, women are more likely to freely choose courses of study in college that do not translate into the higher-paying jobs. They should not be criticized for making that choice. Our central planners have not yet gotten around to determining each citizen’s optimal educational path. Women should be free to choose the field of study and career they prefer. They should not, however, be able to blame men for the result of that choice.

Because of childbearing and child-rearing considerations, women still are more likely to leave the workforce during prime employment promotion years than are men. This interrupts the progression of income levels and, when women do return to the workforce, they are forced to play a game of catchup. This isn’t discrimination; this is the consequence of another voluntary choice.

Interestingly, Forbes reported that women in their 20s without children earn more than men in their peer group. If they keep working in the same job as men, and at the same pace, many actually do better than males.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal for a company to pay employees differently on the basis of sex. Since the law remains on the books, what is it that Gillibrand and other feminists and liberal activists actually want?

The answer is clear. They want to have a manufactured issue to which they can refer for the purpose of dividing Americans. This creates a sense of victimization, which neatly converts into a sense of entitlement, finally allowing the politician (such as Gillibrand) to run on the platform of “vote for me and I will help you get even.”

Gillibrand won the “Dumbest Tweet of the Week” only because there’s no award for the most divisive tweet of the week. Perhaps there should be. Gillibrand is just another entry in the Democratic sweepstakes of candidates trying to get elected by making voters angry with other Americans — in this instance, for no factually supported reason.  

Whether it is income inequality, climate change, illegal immigration or any other issue that spikes a fit of pique in people by engaging their emotion over reason, if we are to survive as a nation we have to start discussing issues in a fact-focused manner. We currently have an oversupply of divisiveness in this country. We don’t need politicians to manufacture more of it.

Charlie Kirk is the founder and president of Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit that aims to educate students on free-market values. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieKirk11.