Moneyball for Equity

New Zealand, not surprisingly, is moving the needle faster than the U.S. on gender equity by changing the criteria that is actually used to measure pay equity.  The New York Times had a great piece yesterday that explains this further.  It’s all about the standards that we use.  Think Moneyball for equity.    Our traditional argument is that women should receive on equal pay for equal work.  Instead, we need to insist on equal pay for work of equal value.  That simple change can start to fix the problem of occupation segregation and really get at another underlying, often hidden, reason for pay inequity.  If we start to value things in this way, then the women who watch our children and parents will actually get paid more than the men who watch our cars as parking attendants. (This appalling statistic is courtesy of the U.S. Dept of Labor Statistics, 2018)
In New Zealand,
Instead of “equal pay for equal work,” supporters of pay equity call for “equal pay for work of equal value,” or “comparable worth.” They ask us to consider whether a female-dominated occupation such as nursing home aide, for instance, is really so different from a male-dominated one, such as corrections officer, when both are physically exhausting, emotionally demanding, and stressful — and if not, why is the nursing home aide paid so much less? In the words of New Zealand’s law, the pay scale for women should be “determined by reference to what men would be paid to do the same work abstracting from skills, responsibility, conditions and degrees of effort.”…

There are important efforts now underway — the push for a higher minimum wage, say, or more visibility for domestic workers — but they fail to address a deeper problem: The thing that so many of today’s most underpaid and essential workers have in common is simply that they are women. In America, where state support for gender equality has never been less robust, pay equity’s financial obligation will likely fall on individuals. Are we willing to pay more, say, at the grocery store, or to the home health aides who look after our elderly? Are we willing to re-examine the assumptions embedded in what we have been told are “free markets” for labor?

And that’s the question that we will be watching for as we see New Zealand forge ahead with real change.  Who knows that the Covid crisis here–and a change in administration–might bring to the U.S.

3 thoughts on “Moneyball for Equity”

  1. Very insightful blog post. At first, it appeared to me that “equal pay for equal work” and “equal pay for work of equal value”/”comparable worth” is essentially the same call to action. But, after reading the post and excerpt from the article, considering the value of the work tilts the understanding of equity-based pay. It transforms my initial narrow understanding to a much broader question that we as a society should be asking — how valuable is this particular profession to society. I believe asking this question goes much further, and will have greater effects, towards equalizing pay for men and women.

    Instead of merely mandating that men and women in a certain position start at X, the search to understand the value of position X has the chance to close the income gap in a much faster way as we determine, as a society, that X position is of greater value so we should be paying them more. There were excellent examples of this above (nursing home aid versus correctional officer). Instead of a blanket mandate that women should be paid more, by looking at particular occupations there is likely a greater chance to raise the pay. Not necessarily as a women’s right issue, but as a societal recognition that these particular occupations are worth more than we are currently paying for. Additionally, it may be more politically viable to take this approach. Instead of saying women who work as nursing home aids need to be paid more, the argument is simply that nursing home aids need to be paid more which has a disproportionate affect on women.

  2. We will see what happens with the new administration. I strongly agree that our way of thinking about equal pay must change. Jobs have evolved and so has the expectation of jobs based on gender. Now it is more normal to see the woman be the breadwinner in a family, and that is great. Unfortunately, society has refused to change its view about equal pay for the longest time. Hopefully, now with the change in gender roles, society is more willing to alter our perspective and realize that value of our work should be what we look at, not the actual job we are preforming in order to get at equal pay.

  3. I think this is an excellent point. I have always thought that thinking women should be paid as much as men is way too broad of a view of the problem because as mentioned in this post, it doesn’t consider the occupational differences. I completely agree that there is an obvious valuation problems regarding jobs that are done more by women or more by men. By stepping back and valuing those jobs differently, I think that could really help the pay gap and help deal with this problem in a more effective manner.

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