The Unsolvable Equation of Equal Pay for Equal Work

Now that we’ve passed what is referred to as Equal Pay Day – for which I once again failed to receive so much as a single Hallmark card – and in an election year to boot, Democrats across the land are busily engaged in their now biannual ritual of declaring that Republicans hate women. Favorite among their numerous points of so-called proof of the war on all things female is the stubborn refusal of many conservatives to buy into a variety of legislative adventures into social correction regarding wages earned by each gender. The preferred phrase which is shouted from rooftops near and far is, “equal pay for equal work.”

There are quite a few toppings on this particular stinkburger, some of which have already been covered by critical thinkers from across the ideological spectrum. And while I feel there is a more fundamental problem with this progressive argument – which I’ll return to shortly – there are two which are worth revisiting here.

First, at the highest level, it has already been discovered that the much ballyhooed meme of women making 77 cents on the dollar as compared to their male counterparts is not the result of evil bosses attempting to keep the womenfolk pregnant in the kitchen sans shoes. Less excitable observers have already noted that of the ten most financially lucrative degree programs in colleges, nine of them attract a majority of boys. Conversely, in the ten areas of study leading to the lowest average financial remuneration, 90% are favored more heavily by girls. Assuming you bothered to take even the most rudimentary math classes in school, you should be able to suss out how the wage cookie crumbles given those starting parameters.

The second is an argument which was already made admirably by Katie Packer Gage. Even if you boil down employees in any discipline to nothing more than the sum of the items on their individual resumes, coming up with a definition of “equal” is a virtual impossibility. If a company seeks to hire some set number of engineers, accounts, attorneys or architects, should the males be paid more than the females for each opening filled? Obviously not. But should they all be paid the same amount? The answer, again, is no. What if one has more years of experience than another? Holds more patents? Arrives with a list of loyal clients they will bring to the firm?  The very idea of “equality” in this setting is entirely fictional.

But neither of these entirely valid points gets to what I personally view as the deeper problem with the rallying cry of Equal Pay for Equal work. Excuse me for making a rather boorish observation, but it’s my solemn duty to inform some of you that this entire enterprise is constructed on a flawed foundation. In the real world, where those earning or providing paychecks must exist, the concept of equal pay for equal work is battered by the reality that, above the level of minimum wage labor, both the quality and quantity of work is rarely equal. And attempts by Care Bear government nannies to forcibly level this particular playing field are not only patently unfair, but toxic to the entire concept of labor and enterprise.