The issue of 'pay equality' has surfaced in the news the last few days. The Obama administration is touting the 'Pay Equality Act' in Congress, while Republicans won't vote for the bill, stating, as Mitt Romney's campaign does, that while they are in favor of gender pay equality in general, they do not support this particular remedy. As usual, the figure of 77% is thrown out there, which tries to show that women in general make only 77% of what men do across the board in employment.
Frankly, I doubt that 77% figure very much, or rather, that it has any relevance at all these days. In fact, it seems to me to be a red herring, that ends up distracting us all from the real economic issues facing us these days.
Let me use as an example my line of work. If you added up all the pastoral salaries of the women in my Methodist annual conference, you would indeed probably see that the women in general make less in average salary. But why is that? Because there are fewer women serving as pastors in churches in general, and because they are not as represented in the biggest churches, where the biggest salaries are paid. They still tend to be in the smaller churches which pay lower salaries.
Now, is this because there is persistent and pervasive gender discrimination across the board in my Annual Conference? Well, yes and no. It is true that there remains in some congregations a reluctance to accept a female pastor. There are all kinds of reasons for this, including religious ones. But slowly this is changing, as more women serve as pastors and more congregations experience the gifts and abilities that women bring to ministry. So slowly but surely the problem of women being accepted as pastors (and therefore getting to the larger churches) is being resolved, and as this is resolved, the 'pay equity' issue is also resolved. Furthermore, there is no wage discrimination in the conference bureaucracy, where a number of women serve. So what this shows me is that there is no further legal remedy necessary here, just a continuing evolution in social and religious thinking about the role of women. Legal remedies as applied to the church would be a disaster, in fact, and perhaps a violation of the separation of church and state.
Likewise with my wife as a teacher. It would be impossible for most school districts across America to discriminate against women teachers. My wife makes the same as any man in the system, given their number of years of service and levels of certification. Now, perhaps my wife doesn't make as a teacher what she should, given the importance of education to society. But it is what it is, and the Pay Equality Act would not make any difference in this whatsoever.
Likewise with my children in their various lines of work. There has never been any sense that they are getting paid less or more depending on whether they are male or female. Likewise with my niece and nephews in the military. And on and on. It appears that we have reached the point in America where virtually everyone agrees that there should be no discrimination between men and women when it comes to compensation, and anyone who was prejudice enough to think so would be shunned by the rest of society.
Anyone who knows me will know that I am basically a feminist, in that I believe that women should be treated as the equals of men in every area of life, including marriage, employment, church, military, and so on. And there certainly was a time back in the 30, 40 and 50 years ago when pay equity was an issue. But I believe it has been addressed in our society in various laws already placed on the books (and continues to be address in the nooks and crannies of our society where it still exists in some form), and should no longer be a political issue to beat each other over the head. It's a done deal.
Now, about female health care and birth control, that's a completely different issue....