ABC's World News Shows How Media Should Cover The Gender Wage Gap

Equal Pay

On national equal pay day, ABC's World News served as an example of how the media should be covering the gender wage gap, emphasizing the significant economic benefits of equal pay and simultaneously shooting down the right-wing media spin that dismisses the issue.

On April 8, President Obama signed two executive orders aimed at closing the gender wage gap, beginning with federal contractors. One executive order makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who discuss salaries. President Obama also signed an executive memorandum that “instructs the Labor Department to collect statistics on pay for men and women from such contractors.” The president then called on Congress to pass legislation that would have much more impact.

April 8 also marked the observance of Equal Pay Day, an awareness campaign to educate the public about the pay discrepancy between working men and women in the United States. National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill says the date marks “the number of extra days into 2014 the average woman has to work to earn as much as her male counterpart did in 2013.”

On the April 8 edition of World News, host Diane Sawyer and correspondent Mara Schiavocampo shined a light on the gender pay gap, lending the issue the emphasis it deserves by highlighting the significant beneficial impact closing the gap would have on women and the overall economy as well as the necessity of President Obama's executive orders. 

Sawyer and Schiavocampo championed President Obama's executive order barring employer retaliation against employees that discuss salaries, and explained that this is necessary because “half of all workers say they are required to stay silent about their salary.” Many women may not be aware of pay discrimination due to company policies that prohibit salary discussions -- a 2011 survey by the Institute for Women's Policy Research revealed that "[a]lmost half of all workers (48.4 percent) responded that they were either prohibited or strongly discouraged from discussing their earnings with colleagues."

Schiavocampo also deserves credit for highlighting the substantial effect closing the pay gap would have, noting that “if women could eliminate that pay gap, the average working woman could pay for more than a year's worth of food in California, 10 months of rent in Georgia, and more than 1,900 gallons of gas in Florida.” Schiavocampo also pointed out that action such as Obama's executive order would allow “women to ask for more without fear of losing their jobs”:

Despite the fact that the most recent report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) reveals that women working full-time in 2012 took home approximately 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man working full-time, right-wing media have dismissed the gender pay gap -- often by insisting that it narrows when “relevant factors are taken into consideration.” 

In reality, the gender wage gap is a serious issue that plagues women at all stages of their careers independent of education levels and career and life choices, and gets worse as women's careers progress. In its 2013 Gender Pay Gap Report, AAUW found that women were paid 82 percent of what men were paid just one year out of college, and that gender wage disparities cannot be “fully accounted for by women's and men's choices.” Furthermore, the Institute for Women's Policy Research explained in a 2012 report that “Women's median earnings are lower than men's in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women.” Think Progress also reported that women earn less than men regardless of their educationindustryjob, or location.

The National Women's Law Center explained that studies that control for some factors cited by right-wing media don't account for wage disparities:

[W]omen are often excluded from higher-paying jobs; women are subtly and not-so-subtly pushed into lower-paying jobs that are often devalued precisely because they are done by women; and social expectations of women to do most of the unpaid caregiving work put together with the lack of paid family leave and other forms of workplace flexibility mean that women still face a wage penalty for not being the ideal, unencumbered worker.

Right-wing media have a longstanding history of dismissing gender wage disparities, a campaign that has only gained momentum in light of executive attempts to close the gender pay gap.