by Jay Johansen | Apr 17, 2014
We've been hearing a lot lately that women make only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. They routinely add "for the exact same work".
Is this true? We could get into an argument about statistics. Many have.
But if you believe that this 77 cents statistic is true, let me suggest an easy way that you can help to solve the problem and help yourself at the same time: Start a business. Hire only women. Pay them 85% of what you would pay a man to do the same job.
You'd be paying these women over 10% more than they could get anywhere else. You should easily be able to hire the most skilled and experienced women out there. So you'd have the most skilled people out there AND you'd be giving them all a nice pay raise. Morale and productivity should be sky high. But you'd still be paying 15% less than any company that foolishly hires men. Your labor costs would be significantly less than the competition.
So you'd have higher productivity and lower costs. You'd have a big advantage over the competition. You'd be fighting discrimination against women while making a nice profit for yourself.
Actually, why isn't anyone doing this? Okay, maybe the male business owners are all too sexist to even think of it. There are 8 million businesses in the U.S. owned by women -- over 28% of all businesses. Why haven't some of them tried this?
While mostly I offer this suggestion rhetorically, I think it illustrates the difference between government solutions and free market solutions. The people making a lot of noise about this statistic are mostly pushing for new laws. But what if, as many economists claim, the statistic is misleading? Such a law could force companies to be unfair to men. Or they could create a situation where companies can't afford to hire women because of arbitrarily inflated salaries.
At the very least any such law would surely add a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy. Just for starters, the government would have to define "equal work". Does that mean any two people with the same job title must be paid the same?
But what if one has 20 years experience and the other has only 2? They'd have to factor in experience. How much more should someone with 20 years experience get than someone with 2 years experience? Who decides how much more money each year of experience is worth, and how do they come up with that number?
And that's an easy one. What if one employee is an acknowledged expert who has written textbooks on the subject while the other has no particular credentials? What if one is more pleasant and easier to get along with? Should that be irrelevant? But surely the boss and co-workers would prefer to work with a pleasant person that a rude person. What if one person is just better at the job than another? How could a law begin to define how to measure how good someone is at doing his or her job? Oh, for some jobs you might be able to attach a number to it. Like you could rate a salesman by dollar sales. But I'm hard-pressed to think of objective measures for the performance of a chemist, or a customer service person, or a bus driver, etc.
A suggestion like mine requires no laws and no bureaucracy. If you think women are underpaid, you can try it. If you don't think women are underpaid, you don't have to. The amount you pay each employee is up to you. If a particular woman doesn't think you're paying enough, she can go somewhere else. If you're right, you'll make money. If you're wrong, you'll lose money. But you're putting your own money on the line. You're not demanding that someone else pay to test your theories.
That's what we used to call "freedom".