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Op-ed: ‘War on women’ is built on misleading myths

First Published      Last Updated Sep 15 2016 06:12 pm

Much of our culture is marshaling to combat the so-called "war on women."  In an effort to promote gender equality, there are hundreds of taxpayer-funded women's centers on college and university campuses across the nation. There are women's business centers in banks and chambers of commerce, and there are women legislators' organizations throughout the nation. There is an ongoing outcry for gender pay equality in the workforce. And of course there is at least a 25-year-old Affirmative Action statute requiring preferential treatment of women.

All of these efforts, combined with media collaborators, are organized to advance women in business, education and politics. From all of this, is the unfortunate implication that women cannot achieve on their own because someone is oppressing them. The identified oppressors are stereotypically men. The not-so-hidden agenda is to make villains out of men and victims out of women.




In reality, women are empowered with gifts, talents and opportunities to compete on any level in any venue. But instead, the implication of all the organized efforts on behalf of women suggests they are only accepted into academic programs and can only be advanced in career leadership because of affirmative-action interventions. Women's dependency on affirmative action does not inspire respect for them; it demeans them and their hard-earned achievements.

There is, indeed, a gender gap in higher education. A recent Wall Street Journal article quotes the Department of Education statistics, indicating that for the 11th year in a row, women outnumber their male counterparts in admissions and graduation rates. This year women earned 135 bachelor's degrees for every 100 men. Since 1982, more women have earned bachelors degrees than men. Also this year, for every 139 master's degrees earned, men earned 100. The disparity in doctoral degrees is less, but women still outnumber men.

Efforts on the state and national level to get more women elected to public office are well publicized. Of course, the complaint that there aren't more women in elected positions is an insult to the voters, especially women voters who took the time to study the candidates before they voted. Ironically, more women vote in Utah and in the nation than men! Apparently, women are choosing candidates based on perceived effectiveness and not gender. Voting for qualified candidates rightly promotes qualifications over quotas.

The gender pay gap is also a distorted argument. The company that offers men more pay based on gender does not seem to exist. There is no question that gender pay gap existed in the past; it has its roots in pre-industrial Europe when companies offered men more pay than women for their work, with the hope that it would be less profitable for women and children to work in the mines. The increase pay for men was intended to help a man support a family and allow children to go to school and women to pursue more efforts of hearth and home.  

These pay discrepancies have long since been equalized. The gender-pay gap propaganda continues to be promulgated by those who compare men's career earnings with women's career earnings. By making comparisons with total career earnings and combining that data with large groups of men and women, there is indeed a difference.  Deceptively, the stated difference does not acknowledge the many women who choose to exit the workforce for periods of child rearing. Obviously, when they return to the workforce, they do not have the same seniority and work experience as their male counterparts and are paid accordingly.

The tragedy in these misleading statistical comparisons is the value of women's commitment to family and home is deliberately subverted. Rather than ennobling women who do not expect subsidized day care, school breakfast and after-school programs for their children, they are often stigmatized into abandoning the home to pursue careers. This is the real war on women and by extension a war on their families.

Sen. Margaret Dayton represents Provo and Orem in the Utah State Senate. Stuart Reid is a former state senator from Ogden.

 

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