Women need a 65% pay increase to reach men. In 2009, average personal income was $25,370 for women and $41,750 for men.
$25,370 is a very low income. It's barely over the poverty line for a family of four.
It would cost $2 trillion per year to fix this problem. That's a lot of money. For example, we spent $4.8 trillion in four years on the financial sector bailout.
The simplest explanation for why women are paid less than men is that it would cost a lot of money to pay them the same.
But, if we make the far more rational assumption that women are just as capable as men and they want to earn as much as men, then we must conclude that the markets are not wise, and something else is going on. Indeed, all the evidence tells us the markets are anything but perfect, and that the cause of male/female pay disparity has nothing to do with capabilities or preferences, and everything to do with our values.
Take the Supreme Court's recent Wal-Mart decision. The following facts were uncontested: women fill 70% of the lower-paying hourly jobs, but only 33% of the higher-paying management jobs. If the Court valued fair pay, it would have ruled that Wal-Mart was obviously discriminating against women. But ever since Eisenhower's two and Nixon's four conservative appointments, the Supreme Court took a decisive turn in favor of corporate interests, and has rarely looked back.
We must ask ourselves: Do institutions like the Supreme Court and corporations value the same things we do? Certainly this can't be true. Otherwise, what kind of society are we –– one that values women less than men? And, if these institutions are not in alignment with our values, what are we going to do about it?