We’ll Wager on Dialogue

By Larry Huang, Brittany Zhang, Brendan Rooney, Jake Glass, and David Yellen of GUCD’s Economic Policy Team.

There is a wage gap in America. Companies are more likely to hire and promote men than women. They are more likely to pay men better. Looking beyond the gender-based disparity, Asian Americans are paid better than Caucasian Americans, than African Americans, than Hispanic Americans. In fact, Pew data on the Median Hourly Income shows that compared to white men, each demographic makes:

White women: $0.82, white men: $1

Asian women: $0.87, Asian men: $1.17

African American women: $0.65, African American men: $0.73

Hispanic women: $0.58, Hispanic men: $0.69

There is a wage gap in America. This indisputable and undeniable fact was the simple motivation for our GUCD Wage Gap Bake Sale on October 18, 2016.

Credit: Robert Neubecker via NYT

We held the bake sale based on the principle of “pay what you earn.” Customers could choose to pay lower prices for our home made goodies if they wanted to self-identify. We had a fantastic reception, and genuine conversation with informed and engaged Hoyas from all across the political spectrum. But not everybody got our message. Some people maintain that the wage gap is illogical, our bake sale was illegal, and we missed the point…

But THEY missed the point. The aim of our bake sale was to start a discussion and spark interest in our community. Dialogue is a two-way street, so clearing up the facts is important to us. We make no claims about the link between discrimination and the wage gap. It may play a major role; but employers do not necessarily consciously choose to pay women less. There are a variety of societal factors that contribute to this gap, ranging from education, stereotypes that affect choice of field, myths about “model minorities,” and societal pressures that affect individual choices. Each of these components must be studied and fixed within themselves, but also as a combination of factors that contribute to societal discrimination. The wage gap does exist, though! Instead of misconstruing our arguments, conservatives should put forward their solutions to this problem. We want to listen.

We should be able to come together on reasonable, centrist, and effective solutions to this problem—solutions like amending the Fair Labor Standards Act and Equal Pay Act to allow employees to discuss their wages with protection from the threat of termination, or instituting paid family leave and sick days for both men and women. These are policies that virtually every other developed country has instituted to their benefit. They should be uncontroversial, and they will only be more important in a Trump presidency. There are policies that should have bipartisan support (i.e. opposing a Muslim registry and stopping the appointment of a climate change denier to the EPA), but if we insist on attacking each other without listening or communicating, nothing will be achieved. These common sense solutions will never become law. The wage gap will persist and unfortunately the communication gap will widen. Neither is acceptable, and it’s time to fix that.

Georgetown Progressive