Open forum: The wage gap

Posted: October 3, 2012

Regarding the editorial titled “Dispelling the myth of the wage gap” (Oct. 1), first of all, let’s make one thing clear. The fact that there is a wage gap is no myth. As you even pointed out in your editorial, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women, on average, earn 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. Fact.

Secondly, I find it absurd that you are explaining this 23 percent gap by stating that of the workers who log 35 hours a week or more almost 55 percent are men. So you’re saying that this less than 5 percent difference between men who work full-time and women is what causes a 23 percent wage gap?

What’s more, hours are a tricky thing on which to base your point of view, given that workers who are salaried are not paid by the number of hours they work. In fact, if you look at the BLS report and view jobs that are typically salaried, such as management, legislators, teachers, etc., you can go down the list and see that in every one of these cases men are earning a higher average than women.

As an example, let’s look at teachers. In 2011 there were 63 percent more female educators, and yet they still made, on average, 21 percent less than male educators.

I think the one point you made in your editorial that actually has some validity is that part of the problem causing pay discrepancy is that women are more likely to leave the workforce to care for children or even elderly parents, and this impacts their earning potential. This is indicative of a bigger problem we have in our country where absences from the workforce, even for something as important as raising a family, are viewed negatively by hiring managers and company recruiters.

And this isn’t only a challenge for women. Both my husband and I took turns leaving the workforce for two years to stay at home with our children. When I re-entered, after two years’ leave, I was able to come back at a slightly higher salary than what I had when I left. But when my husband tried to re-enter he had a hard time finding anyone to even give him an interview, despite his 10 years of experience as an IT professional. When he finally did get a job in his field, he had to take $10,000 less than what he was making before choosing to stay home with our children.

The only difference in our two situations is that while I was “staying at home” I continued to do part-time work for my former company to make sure I didn’t have a gap on my resume. I have no doubt that if I had cut all ties with my professional life for those two years I would have had just as much difficulty as my husband.

There are many socioeconomic issues at play here that could be argued: Why does our society put such little value on the time women (and some men) spend to raise their children? Why aren’t more men staying at home to raise children? Why don’t we have policies in place to protect mothers and fathers wanting to re-enter the workforce after time away to care for children, such as they have in Sweden?

But whatever your opinion or stance on the above, one thing is clear: The wage gap is no myth, and I find your headline and opinion piece to be both misleading and a reckless representation of the data.

Jelise Ballon is a resident of Cross Junction.