What determines a woman’s worth within an organization? Is it her experience, ability and performance or is it her “lady parts”? Are all women created with equal talents and abilities? Are all contributions to an organization to be considered equally important, but women’s contributions are considered more worthy? If a woman is the CEO of a company, is that company better than a company with a male CEO? The notion of equal pay for equal work has an insidious evil lurking just beneath the surface of a nice sounding phrase. Equality in the workplace cannot be assessed because it cannot be defined and thus, it is evil in its outcome of reducing everyone to measurable features, such as biological makeup.
#EqualPay is the latest push from the Obama Administration. They suggest, based on false conclusions, that women are consistently paid less for performing the same work tasks as a man and that this inequality of pay is based on being discriminated against due to their sex alone. At the moment, most everyone, excepting those whose wages include tips, is paid at least $7.25 per hour of work they perform. There are many factors that contribute to how much a person is paid to perform work. Obviously, there is this minimum wage, which I despise and will address in another post. Other factors include experience, job complexity, hazardous risks associated with doing the work, attitude and performance. The question is, how is equality determined, who will determine it and who will measure it?
There are some jobs that, on the surface, appear easy to quantify. Assembly lines are a good example. Every person who is tasked with the same job, in theory, should get paid the same. Except, it doesn’t work that way, does it? There are the new workers who make more mistakes. There are the sloppy ones who also make mistakes, just not as many as the newbies. There are the “do the job” workers, who rarely make mistakes and get their job – and only their job – done as expected. And then, there are the super workers. These workers rarely make mistakes, get their jobs done as expected and typically, mentor/train the newbies and correct the mistakes of the sloppy workers.
The Obama Administration would say that all of these workers should get paid exactly the same. What would be the outcome of that, in the long run? The logical outcome is that the newbies will grow up to be sloppy, “do the job” or super workers. The sloppy ones and the “do your job” workers will plug along and the super workers will either burn out and drop down to just doing their job or they will quit altogether because their talents weren’t rewarded. Mediocrity becomes the cultural norm of the assembly line and the factory performance slowly degrades over time.
The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal. – Aristotle
In many jobs, the notion of equal work is mysterious. What exactly determines equal work, who gets to determine it and who measures it? Is equal work determined by number of hours worked each day? Meeting minimum standards of work output? Performing to a minimum level of expectation? And then, who determines these minimum levels? The workers? The employer? Human Resources? Regulatory agencies within the field of work of the company? God forbid – the state or federal government? And then, who decides if the minimum standards were met? Again, is it the workers? The employer? HR? The government?
A woman’s worth in the workplace should be based on the experience she brings, the work output that she achieves, the performance standards that she meets and the immeasurable yet acknowledgeable contributions that she provides to the organization. Her worth should not be determined by her biological features. A woman’s wages should be determined by an agreement between herself and her potential (or current) employer. Both parties have something to gain and something to lose in this agreement and it is only between those two parties that a winnable and workable outcome can be determined. Equal pay for equal work will always be to the detriment of a hard working woman. It should be left to every woman to be able to determine for herself what is acceptable pay for acceptable work. This is true empowerment for women.