NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Myths Behind "Equal Pay Day"

May 9, 2000

Wednesday, May 10, is Equal Pay Day, the day on which self-described women's advocacy groups promote the myth that women earn only 76 cents on the male dollar. They depict women as suffering from a "wage gap," prevented from rising to positions of importance by a "glass ceiling," and funneled into lower-paying jobs in a "pink ghetto."

These are myths supported by selected statistics and anecdotes, says the Independent Women's Forum. To the contrary, says the IWF, women have made considerable gains in wages, professional status, education, entrepreneurship and electoral politics. For example:

Myth: Women are educationally disadvantaged because elementary and secondary curricula, classroom teachers and guidance counselors favor boys.

Fact: Today, the majority of associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees are awarded to women, as well as 40 percent of doctorates.

Myth: Women earn only 76 cents on the male dollar.

Fact: When key variables, such as age, education, occupation and experience are factored in, women earn as much as men, according to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

Myth: Women are funneled into low-paying, low-prestige careers by a sexist society.

Fact: In 1970 only 12 percent of pharmacists were women; by 1998, the percentage had jumped to forty-four. Between 1970 and 1998 women's representation increased from 5 to 29 percent of lawyers, from 27 to 66 percent of public relations specialists, and from 39 to 62 percent of psychologists.

Myth: Women are kept from fully participating in electoral politics as elected officials because of the refusal of the male-dominated power structure to support them.

Fact: Studies show that women's chances of winning electoral office are equal to men's; in 1998 the top five government officials elected to office in Arizona were female, and the number of women in the U.S. Congress was at a record high.

Source: Diana Furchtgott-Roth (American Enterprise Institute) and Christine Stolba, "Women's Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economic Progress of Women in America," Independent Women's Forum, P.O. Box 3058, Arlington, Virginia 22203, (800) 224-6000.


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