Monday, August 5, 2013

Gender Gap?

A recent front-page article in the Connecticut Post, Bridgeport Connecticut’s local newspaper, highlighted the so-called gender gap in wages between men and women in prosperous Fairfield County. The article featured two columns of statistics indicating the different wages of men and women in various towns in the county. The article was based on a report by the American Association of University women that used figures from the US Census bureau.

Interestingly, the article did not list even one incident of wage discrimination and even quoted a spokesman for the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities who said, “the number of women who complain about not getting as much as their male counterparts is small.” Moreover, the article did mention that the figures did not actually compare salaries of full time employees working the same job. The report just used averages based on the salaries of men and women “across companies, industries and job titles.” Nevertheless, as a headline proclaimed, “Wage Gap still exists in region.”

The report’s statistics could lead to some laughable conclusions. It would seem that the best place for a woman to work would be Bridgeport, a city where the average woman makes $35932 per year or about 90% of what the average man makes. Compare that to her poor sister in nearby Westport whose average pay of $82052 is only about 50% of what a Westport man earns.

There is an old saying: “Statistics don’t lie, but liars use statistics.” I would venture to guess that there is little wage discrimination in Connecticut and that the disparities in income are largely based on choices that people choose to make. All government employees, for example, work on gender-neutral pay scales. Teachers, police officers, firefighters, mail carriers, all get the same pay for the same work. Even the high priced occupations that the article and accompanying editorial mentioned as going mainly to men are no longer the exclusive male bastions of the past. The medical and financial professions have become increasingly open to women and will become more so since the majority of college graduates today are women. No modern company would dare to have differing wage scales for men and women.

Why did the editorial complain about the disparity in incomes in well-to-do communities like New Canaan and Darien? Obviously, talented well-educated woman choose to live there because of the beautiful homes, excellent school systems, and crime free streets. To hold the city of Bridgeport up as a kind of gender paradigm is ludicrous. It is one of the murder capitols of the state, and its school system is in shambles. Politicians in Bridgeport should be looking at New Canaan and Darien and ask themselves what they can do to emulate them.

One of the statistics noted that in both New Canaan and Darien the number of married women in the work force is only about 40% compared to a national average of about 60%. While one of the “experts” quoted in the article referred to the “nostalgic idea of what the family is supposed to look like,” and called it a “romantic notion,” it still seems to be working very well in New Canaan and Darien. Compare that romantic notion with the one espoused years ago by Murphy Brown and see the devastation that single motherhood has brought to the lives of so many single mothers and their children in cities like Bridgeport.

Finally, the editorial in the Connecticut Post commenting on the article could be considered a little hypocritical. Five of the six chief employees listed on the paper's masthead are men.


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