SOTU Follow-Up: Women's Wages

Friday, January 31, 2014

President Obama delivers the 2014 State of the Union speech. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI AFP/Getty)

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama referred to "workplace policies that belong in a 'Mad Men' episode." Betsy Reed, executive editor of The Nation, discusses his appeal for women's wage equity and what policy proposals come next.

Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.

-- President Obama from the 2014 State of the Union


Betsy Reed

Comments [27]

Eric from Albany CA

The notion that there is widespread, systematic gender-bias in labor compensation has been effectively debunked by economist June O'Neill using rigorous statistical methods. I wish Brian would interview Ms. O'Neill for an alternative perspective on this issue.

Jan. 31 2014 03:12 PM

I came across this today at the Billfold web site. A little Batman (don't worry copyright folks, it is put out by the government):

Jan. 31 2014 02:27 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ RUCB_Alum

Never? Really? What field are you in? ... LAW.

You've never seen a woman regarded as a 'bitch' ... YES, I HAVE.

For displaying the same behavior that gets the man a pat on the back and a raise? ... NO, I HAVE NOT.

If you're a jerk/b*tch for no reason and causing trouble, creating problems for the heck of it you're probably toast whether you know it or not, man or woman. As for going your own way and maybe making some enemies in the process I know plenty of "b*tches" who made partner in record time, plenty of jerks too. Maybe this sort of discrimination of more prevalent in blue collar jobs but in the professional world most everybody in upper management is there precisely because they have no problem being a b*tch or jerk when and as required.

I think that a lot of this has to do with psychology. Men, in my experience, do not take things as personally as women do and even if they do harbor a slight they can put it aside in order to get ahead. That might not be "true" in the eternal sense but it has been in my experience.

Jan. 31 2014 12:00 PM

@Mr Bad -

"If there is a problem with women not knowing how to ask to be paid what their worth how is that some sort of "patriarchal scheme"?"

Never? Really? What field are you in? You've never seen a woman regarded as a 'bitch' (or worse the c-word) for displaying the same behavior that gets the man a pat on the back and a raise?

"I used to work as a recruiter so I should know. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, ladies."

Best advice you've ever delivered, imo. If you don't ask, you don't get.

Jan. 31 2014 11:44 AM

@Joyce from NYC

"What are the MEN ONLY schools?"

Every college up to and including the service academies from the founding of the republic until about 30 years ago. Every fraternal organizations...Many still.

Obama want a government agency to ESTABLISH THE WAGE FOR EVERY JOB. That is, further government control of every aspect of our lives."

This is the fever dream. You have no evidence for your bomb-throwing. You are just making sh*t up to scare yourself.

Jan. 31 2014 11:37 AM
kaili from brooklyn

One of the callers made me wonder something about NPR/WNYC. Brian said that he's certain male and female reporters at wnyc are paid the same. First, can we confirm that? More importantly, let's look at management and those with their own show. Of my npr/wnyc favorites, the majority have male hosts (Brian, Leonard, Wait Wait, Freakeconomics, Radiolab. Is the gender pay disparity alive and well at npr/wnyc?? I think we should explore this.

Jan. 31 2014 11:34 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Also, who the **** cares if people think you're a b*tch for asking for more $? Why do you care? Most people hate the jobs they have and most of the people they work for - some even hate people they work with. Work isn't some social club, I do it for $. If you don't care about $ be happy you get paid at all for what you do.

Jan. 31 2014 11:30 AM
BK from Hoboken

The NLRB should absolutely get in involved when cases of pay discrimination are discovered in which same job but different pay for men and women. But the guest wants to "integrate" different fields of work?! Are you going to force women into manual labor construction jobs and force men into health care jobs?! If women tend to work in lower paid fields there is nothing that government can or should do about that. Lastly, as for the pregnancy comment she made, do we force employers to give a mother annual pay raises that she didn't earn because she was out of the workforce for a few years? Makes no sense. And by the way, before the haters get on me, my wife makes 6 times what I make and I have two young daughters so I am not an old crotchety misanthrope, just someone who doesn't believe in thIs level of social engineering.

Jan. 31 2014 11:26 AM
Amy from Manhattan

It also has to do w/how work is structured. What happened to on-site day care & flexibility of working hours? There's a *little* more of the latter, wsome places offering telecommuting, but not enough yet.

Jan. 31 2014 11:25 AM
john from office

So I guess shelly is paid less then a man??

Jan. 31 2014 11:24 AM
Joyce from NYC

blacksocialist from BKbaby writes: joyce - youre a mor0n…

Is this a black socialist thing, to attack people personally rather than address the issue?

Jan. 31 2014 11:23 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

I wish all these dopey broads would stop speaking for all women. My wife has asked for and received a raise every year at every job she's held for the last 10 years. She has also never had a problem getting a higher salary when changing jobs. If there is a problem with women not knowing how to ask to be paid what their worth how is that some sort of "patriarchal scheme"? I've seen lots and lots of age and and racial discrimination in the workplace in my time and have never, ever seen or heard of a woman being paid less than a man based on sexism. I used to work as a recruiter so I should know. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, ladies

Jan. 31 2014 11:21 AM
Joyce from NYC

MichaelB from Morningside Heights writes, "There are no secret, men-only schools that teach this."

I am aware of a few WOMEN ONLY schools -- Barnard, etc.

What are the MEN ONLY schools?

Jan. 31 2014 11:21 AM
Meg from CT

As former HR Director at huge financial firms I can attest to the fact this happens ALL THE TIME and when mostly males are making the decisions, mostly males get the better salaries, bonuses. And it happens despite performance and qualifications - better performing women make less than less qualified males. My own HR boss told me I didn't deserve pay equity with colleague because he 'had a mortgage and a wife' and I did not.

Jan. 31 2014 11:20 AM
TM from queens

it happens, just found out it is happening to me currently, am searching for a new job. the secrecy behind pay is problematic, keeps people from understanding their place and i think now after being underpaid for many years that because it is not polite to talk about it is wrong and i regret not bringing it up with my peers earlier.

Jan. 31 2014 11:20 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The Lillie Ledbetter Act is an improvement, but it limits the time a woman has to file a complaint based on the time after the discrimination occurs, not the time after it's discovered--& it doesn't give them that much longer (18 months, I think). So if the women in a workplace have been paid less than the men doing the same job in the same workplace for years before they find out about it, they can only recoup the difference for the most recent 18 months at the time they file.

Jan. 31 2014 11:19 AM
Joyce from NYC

Wow, you can tell that RUCB_Alum is a liberal, but, Wow again, an honest one.

First they attack me personally: "@Joyce, You are suffering from a fever dream."

Then they admit that I am factually correct.

I guess is is not the facts, but the correctness -- I am not politically correct enough to be a WNYC listener

Jan. 31 2014 11:18 AM

How do I find out how much my male colleagues make?

Jan. 31 2014 11:18 AM
Leopold B

Joyce = MC = troll

Jan. 31 2014 11:17 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Men aren't "taught" to ask for more money. There are no secret, men-only schools that teach this. There's no conspiracy.

That's not to say that men don't ask for more or women are reluctant to. But that's different than implying that women are being deprived of some sort of "secret sauce."

Jan. 31 2014 11:16 AM

Last I heard an R.N. in nursing was a six figure job! There *are* many, many not as well remunerated jobs in healthcare. Home health aide, drivers, orderlies...Those, too, are held mostly by women.

Jan. 31 2014 11:15 AM
Boomer from Manhattan

Do men who earn less than other people want to know what everyone is being paid? Or is that crybabyism reserved for prickly feminists?

Jan. 31 2014 11:13 AM


You are suffering from a fever dream. Some of the disparity is structural - men (are overall) more experienced and better educated - though not for long as you point out; women have stepped off to 'raise a family, etc. but SOME of it is due to discrimination. (People hire and promote people they like.) We can and should fix one today...The other should fix itself as the old barriers to access die.

Jan. 31 2014 11:11 AM
Brewer from Manhattan

Wouldn't it be much easier and faster to just force men to work, say, four days per week or leave the office before 7pm. Then their pay could be reduced and some of that money could be given to women and poof, instant 'equality'

Jan. 31 2014 11:10 AM
blacksocialist from BKbaby

joyce - youre a mor0n...

Jan. 31 2014 11:08 AM
Joyce from NYC

Here is what it is really all about:

In some cases women as a group and individual women suffer lower pay.

But in many cases that is due to women not being in for the grueling slog -- for example, architects put in 70 hour weeks when a project is at its most intense, and women care more about their families than do men.

But there are many statistics that show women earning MORE than men -- not surprising, given that women now make up 60+ of college goers. But those statistic are NOT REPORTED.

Obama want a government agency to ESTABLISH THE WAGE FOR EVERY JOB. That is, further government control of every aspect of our lives.

Jan. 31 2014 10:59 AM
oscar from ny

..I remember reading a parable about an employer hiring a man in the morning to work..later on that day the employer went and hired another man to the man who got hired later worked only half as the first man..when they were getting played at the end of the day both of them got the same pay..the one who worked longer complained and demanded more money..but the employer told him that it was his money and he can administrate his money as he wills..and that if he didn't want to work for that wage he didn't have to..

Jan. 31 2014 10:43 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.