It Isn’t Just the Groping

Women voters need to reject Donald Trump decisively. Not simply because he is a pig who evaluates us solely on the basis of our looks (or because, as an Australian parliament’s motion put it, he is “a revolting slug”). Not simply because he clearly feels entitled to grope those of us he considers to be “tens.” And not even because he advocates “punishing” those of us who have the temerity to believe we should be able to control our own reproduction.

We need to reject him because even if he were a competent and informed candidate, he would never pursue the policies women need to achieve parity in the workplace. recently revisited the inequities of the workplace–the realities that working women face, and our lack of progress toward genuine equality of treatment and compensation. The gender wage gap hasn’t improved in years–women make 79 cents for every dollar a similarly employed man makes, a number that hasn’t moved since 2007.

As ThinkProgress reported, the wage gap closed at a relatively rapid pace between the late 1960s and 1990s, but that progress has “all but flatlined” since 2000. A slowdown in women’s wage growth–growth that helped narrow the gap in earlier decades, has come to a standstill. (In fact, that standstill has affected all wage earners, not just female ones.)

Not surprisingly, the story is even grimmer for women of color.

Women make less than men, on average, for a number of reasons. About 10 percent of it is thanks to different work experience, often because women are much more likely to take breaks from work to care for family members. The drop of women in the labor force over the last decade can be tied to the country’s lack of paid family leave, child care assistance, and support for flexible schedules.

Some of it is also due to the fact that women end up working in areas that tend to pay less. But that doesn’t mean they can escape the gap by choosing different paths. They make less in virtually every industry and every job. And while getting more education boosts earnings, women make less than men with the same educational credentials at every level and even make less than their former male classmates when they graduate from top-tier universities.

Social attitudes that promote discrimination in the workplace are often not recognized as unfair; employers who have been socialized into older attitudes about gender tend to see differential treatment simply as recognition of “the way things are.”

Studies have found that people of both genders are inclined to give men more money, especially if the woman is a mother. Meanwhile, women’s job performance is continuously underrated compared to men’s.

It’s tempting to believe that 21st Century Americans have moved beyond gender stereotypes, but even the most reasonable efforts to achieve workplace equality continue to encounter substantial resistance. A majority of Republicans–including 2008 Presidential candidate John McCain–opposed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which required equal pay for men and women doing the same job. They resisted re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. And they continue to oppose other measures that other nations have put in place to ease the balance between work and family, like paid family leave and child care assistance.

Donald Trump is far from a typical Republican, but on matters of gender equity, he has proven to be even less progressive than his putative party. The behaviors and attitudes that his son has approvingly called “Alpha male” would reverse the already far too incremental progress toward women’s equality, and take us backward by legitimizing attitudes about gender not seen since the 1950s.

Of course, the effect on women’s equality might not matter, since the election of this narcissistic buffoon would probably signal the end of the world as we know it.


  1. Sheila: “Of course, the effect on women’s equality might not matter, since the election of this narcissistic buffoon would probably signal the END OF THE WORLD as we know it.”

    I’m in agreement except for the word “probably.” It’s inaccurate. It needs to be excluded from the sentence.

  2. We’ve come a long way, but there is still a lot of work to be done. It is especially distateful to see the Trumpettes giving him a pass for his boorish behavior.

  3. I realized decades ago that women can be our gender’s own worst enemy. I’ve witnessed women’s jealousy in the workplace when another woman is promoted and they aren’t. The promoted women have been highly educated, talented and have the right skills for the job, but suffer the consequence of wrath from those who are jealous. This happens even though the jealous co-workers know that they are not as educated or as knowledgable they still get angry when another woman is promoted over them.

    Until women are willing to band together and demand equal pay for equal work, we will continue to be second class citizens.

  4. Of course, in my perfect dream world women will be the ones in power and have men working for them at lower pay.

  5. Quite aside from the right or wrong of this narcissistic cave man’s views of gender equity in pay, I as a lawyer and amateur economist offer another rationale for equal pay for equal (or close to it) work, and it is this. We are living in an underperforming economy that has nothing to do with the usual meritocratic excuses offered by Wall Street, since Germany, Sweden and other face the same global arithmetic we do and are prospering by comparison with us in the global economy. Our economy is suffering because of chronic wage and wealth inequality, that is, the income and wealth created by our economy is going disproportionately to the financial sector rather than to corporate workers, which constitutes an immense drag on aggregate demand, the ultimate arbiter of the health of any market-based economy. We need all the help we can get in stoking demand and a 21 percent increase in wages paid to women across the board would enhance demand and thus be a good thing (in addition to basic fairness) for all of us of whatever gender with whatever work skills. Of course, our advanced manufacturing numbers are in fact also dependent upon training Americans in vocational education such as is done in Germany and Sweden (as Hillary has suggested in her campaign in which she rightly tells us she will favor increased funding for vocational education as well as relief for the academic). She is right, since one of the ways to get a leg up on global labor competition is to perform smartly, as German and Swedish positive balance of payment attest (while ours continue negatively stratospheric). We have work to do in removing impediments to our own success, starting with a NO to TPP and adoption of programs which will put our work force in a position to claim a greater share of the economy’s income and wealth based on their relative contribution to the production and distribution of goods and services, thus, finally, meeting Wall Street’s definition of merit.

  6. I would argue that work types that tend to pay less do so historically because they were predominantly female. Nursing & teaching come to mind, and if it weren’t for unionization they’d still be paid peanuts.

    It still mystifies me why seniority or years of experience is a consideration at all when it comes to determining salaries. The correlation between experience and performance is weak in the fields I’ve worked in – or I may have just encountered an unusual number of young stars & older people who were coasting.

  7. The lack of equal pay for women is a carryover from decades ago when women were ALL expected to stay home as wives, mothers and remain in their kitchens. Today; there are literally millions of women in the work field due to necessity, not some arcane or imagined wish for self-fulfillment. Many of these are single, working mothers who receive little if any financial support or emotional support for the children from ex-husbands and boyfriends who fathered their children. Even most working married women in a stable marriage, with husband and father in the home, are the primary maid, cook, laundress, chauffeur for children’s activities as well as contributing financially to support the family with their lower wages.

    All too often; working women must contend with the unwanted sexually overt attention from male superiors, fear of losing their jobs is counter-productive in workplaces but is simply tolerated as “boys will be boys”. Or the women are blamed for dressing suggestively or sending out sexual signals (real or imagined) encouraging such behavior.

    “It Isn’t Only Groping” scratches the surface of what too many women, who must work, are forced to tolerate. It doesn’t have to reach the actual “groping” stage to be offensive and frightening…or sexual in nature. What is considered sexual harassment by women is usually ignored or laughed at by male superiors who make up the majority of upper level positions. Donald Trump is the consummate example of the male predator who has gotten away with his unwanted sexual abuse for decades; believing it is his due, due to his wealth and ability to pay off his victims. We are seeing a small example of those he has victimized through the years. His comments regarding the appearance of the woman on the plane would be laughable if not for the fact that this man may be elected President of the United States. We are seeing an attractive, mature woman making the accusation; we have not seen her appearance 30 year ago when the incident is alleged to have taken place and she may have been considered “worthy of The Donald’s attention”. He has done this so often; I doubt he remembers who, where, when or how many he has actually groped…more recent victims could be afraid to report the abuses or have been paid from his billions; we will never get an accurate count.

  8. Before worrying that women only earn 79% of what men earn you might ask what men actually earn. I make $14,500 in an average service sector job ( Bloomington) which has pretty much flatlined for the last 7 years (Oh, before someone tells me I should have gone to college, I have 5 degrees)–79% of not-enough-to-live on is what? The real issue is how to get a living wage for your work. Sorry, that’s not quite as catchy an issue as gender equality.

  9. Always interesting to see how powerful money is in keeping self destructive people from self destructing. There was the classic Howard Hughes who, by buying doctors was able to live in a delusional world without treatment ordinary people would have received. What Trump has said and done would have brought down any one of us in weeks, but like the Energizer Bunny, he just keeps on running. That postpones the consequences that only gather steam like a sealed boiler until, one day, it explodes. That’s why it’s best for this kind of behavior to come to an early end. Fewer people are damaged than later destruction.

  10. Great article except I’d make one edit. Strike the word “women” from your first sentence.

  11. I have read slightly snide remarks regarding unions in this column from time to time. And there is one today regarding seniority and teaching. I was a longtime school teacher in IPS and it was only after we formed a strong teacher association (union) were we able to get equal pay for equal work. In other words our women teachers earned the same pay rate as our male teachers. I have used the pronoun “our” because a teacher, man or woman, did not need to belong to the IEA but still enjoyed the same benefits as did members. And we all enjoyed small yearly increased based on time server. And when we were able to obtain an across the board raise, all teachers enjoyed that raise. And we also received small income increases for obtaining additional college hours to improve our teaching skills. As teachers we enjoyed thinking of each other as equal.

  12. When I was in school in the 70s, I wanted to be a teacher and asked about education requirements, salary and benefits. And work load. And I decided I didn’t want to work for minimum wage with a Master’s degree. Not only that, but how was I going to pay for a master’s degree and eat. I don’t know how the teacher’s do it any more. It’s 10 times worse than it was back then! You all have my respect. The union was the least they could do for you. Sheesh. And you had to pay dues to be protected! So there. You pay for it, like insurance. The union busters don’t get that.

  13. Aging Girl. In Indiana, and elsewhere I would guess, state right to work laws protects non-union members from having to belong to the union in order to receive equal benefits. As another example, after I graduated from high school I went to work for the Joseph E. Seagrams and Sons,
    Distillers of Fine Whiskey since 1857. We also had a union and the company employed a large number of women. If a woman did the same job as a man, she received the same hourly wage as the man. That is what a strong union can do for the employees. At Seagrams you belonged to the union. Of course that was back in 1947

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