Op-Ed: Birdsell & Sanborn: It’s a job gap, not a wage gap

By Representative Regina Birdsell (R – Hampstead) & Representative Laurie Sanborn (R – Bedford)

As women and as Human Resources professionals, we believe the national and state-wide Democrat agenda surrounding Paycheck Equity is unnecessary and misleading.

It is against the law to pay women differently than men based on their gender.  This law has been in effect for over 50 years, under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and also under New Hampshire’s own Equal Pay legislation going back to 1947.

We would know personally, because we have over 40 years of combined experience overseeing Human Resources, recruitment and compensation activities in New Hampshire companies.  We take these laws very seriously and have not seen wage discrimination in our professional careers.  Employers know – not only is it against the law, but it also is bad policy when you are trying to attract and retain the very best employees for an organization.

We have learned there have been very little complaints in New Hampshire.  In fact, there have been no charges under our state Equal Pay statute over the last 20 years.  The NH Labor Department knows of only three investigations, all of which were dismissed when employers showed legitimate reasons for disparity in pay between employees.  The Attorney General’s office and the Human Rights Commission haven’t tracked complaints or violations under the law, but knew of only two cases ever being opened when asked.

Bills such as HB1188 and SB207, currently in the state legislature, do little to fix a real problem or help women; instead they advance the notion that the workplace is hostile to women and reinforce the idea that women are in need of protection.

The Democrat talking point – as heard from President Obama, Governor Hassan, Speaker Norelli and Senate Minority Leader Larsen – is that women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.  These statistics represent an average of ALL men and women in ALL full-time jobs across the country. Making such a broad brush statement without understanding the basis behind it shows how some don’t want to discuss the facts and instead are looking to create a false hysteria.

There have been countless reports and studies to prove this position.  For example, according to a survey done by Payscale in May 2013, the survey find the so-called wage gap nearly evaporates when you control for occupation and experience.  It finds “women are not starting off behind their male counterparts, so much as they’re choosing different jobs.”  It also finds that women are more likely to negotiate, so the popular belief that women don’t know how to ask for a raise is false.  When they compare men and women who have the same education, the same management responsibilities, and similar employers with similar number of employees, the wage gap disappears.  They found the gap isn’t between men and women doing the same job so much as the different choices people make in their career paths.

Women have earned the majority of bachelor degrees for the last few years.  They are well positioned to benefit from a growing professional service economy, and working moms are already the breadwinners in 40% of households with kids.  However, if women continue to go into healthcare rather than manufacturing, human resources rather than engineering, we will continue to see the job gap, not the wage gap.  It is a personal decision women make for themselves.

Fabricating a crisis in order to enact additional laws and regulations on our state’s employers is not solving any problems.  Instead, doing so continues to make our state less friendly, especially to the small businesses that make up our state, and who are overwhelmingly already complying with existing law.