“It is inconceivable that in 2023, women in Pennsylvania still earn less than their male colleagues for the same work.”
That claim, from state Sen. Steven Santarsiero (D-Bucks), echoes decades of arguments from feminists and other left-wing activists who have alleged that women are paid considerably less than their male colleagues for doing the same jobs.
Santarsiero last week introduced a bill meant to help remedy the “pay gap” allegedly suffered by women in Pennsylvania. The proposal, co-sponsored by Sen. Maria Collett (D-Montgomery), is meant to update the state’s existing equal pay laws to help “reinvigorate Pennsylvania’s economy, and lift women and children out of poverty,” as Santarsiero said in a press release.
“Pennsylvania women still earn even less on the dollar than women in other states,” Collett said in the release, arguing the “disparity is even more pronounced for women of color.”
Santarsiero’s office did not respond to a request for more information on the senator’s claims about wage gaps. Bailey Landis, a spokeswoman for Collett’s office, indicated her claims about pay gaps were drawn from data gathered by the American Association of University Women.
“There are certainly many contributing factors to the gender pay gap, as the senators mention in their bill memo,” Landis told the Delaware Valley Journal. “This bill would specifically update Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Law to make needed improvements and prevent wage discrimination.”
Activists regularly claim the gap is due in no small part to anti-woman discrimination by employers. Yet after years of advocacy and research, the evidence for a major artificial gap between men’s and women’s pay rates remains elusive, with experts claiming that a variety of factors affect the difference between male and female salaries, of which outright discrimination is only one small possibility.
Metropolitan State University at Denver Professor Christina Huber told DVJ that “much of the gender pay gap reflects the fact that women continue to be overrepresented in underpaying jobs.”
Huber, a professor of economics, said that on average “men and women choose different types of occupations.”
“If we compare men and women within the same occupation, then nearly one-third of the gender pay gap disappears,” she said.
“Much of the rest of the gap reflects that even within the same occupations, women choose different types of careers,” Huber continued.
She cited a hypothetical in which a man and woman both begin at a law firm after graduating from law school, where both will make the same salary.
“However, over the next several years as the woman starts a family, she is more likely to move from the demanding, high-powered law firm to a more family-friendly firm, that allows flexible working hours and perhaps remote work at home,” she continued.
Rakesh Kochhar, a senior researcher at Pew Research, said that “the vast literature on the gender pay gap has identified a multitude of factors, some linked more closely to issues at the workplace (e.g., pay levels) and others more closely linked to issues outside of the workplace,” like parenthood.
“[A]s far as I am aware, consensus on the precise contribution of each of these factors is lacking,” Kochhar continued. “In other words, I couldn’t say that X percent of the pay gap is due to this factor, Y percent is due to that factor, and so on.”
The compensation and data firm Payscale said in an analysis this year that when controlled for extraneous factors, the gender pay gap is $0.01, or one penny.
“Although .99 cents may seem very close to $1, small differences in earnings on the dollar can compound over the course of a lifetime career,” the firm argued.
Huber argued that, though the small pay gap after controlling for factors is “likely to reflect discrimination,” though she said existing laws have already done well to reduce that aspect of the gap.
“Our nation’s discrimination laws have worked very well at eliminating pay discrimination among men and women, but there is likely some small aspect remaining,” she said.