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Policy: Economy

House Democratic women take on White House economist who said wage gap isn't caused by discrimination

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,White House,Joel Gehrke,Nancy Pelosi,Economy,War on Women

House Democratic women on Tuesday contradicted a White House economist who said that the wage gap between men and women reflects different professional choices that women make, rather than workplace gender discrimination.

"We're saying one thing: equal pay for equal work," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. "A woman with the same qualifications, education, experience and job should make the same amount of money as her male counterpart. It isn't about if you decide to take a different kind of a job, or anything like that, this is about equal pay for equal work. It's apples and apples. It's not apples and oranges."

Pelosi maintained that her position was not at odds with White House economist Betsey Stevenson, but Stevenson told reporters Monday that the oft-repeated statistic that women make 77 percent of what men make is not a statement about women and men in the same job.

“Seventy-seven cents captures the annual earnings of full-time, full-year women divided by the annual earnings of full-time, full-year men,” Stevenson said. “There are a lot of things that go into that 77-cents figure. There are a lot of things that contribute and no one's trying to say that it's all about discrimination, but I don't think there's a better figure.”

Stevenson discussed this issue at greater length with MSNBC last week, as National Review's Patrick Brennan noted.

"I agree that the 77 cents on the dollar is not all due to discrimination," she said. "No one is trying to say that it is. But you have to point to some number in order for people to understand the facts. And what it represents is the fact that women on average are put in situations every day that for a variety of reasons mean they earn less. Much of what we need to do to close that gap is to change the constraints that women face. And there are things we haven’t tried."

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said Stevenson is wrong to say the wage gap isn't about discrimination.

"If that's really the case, then we wouldn't have issues with transparency," she told the Washington Examiner. "So, if these choices were acceptable choices that made sense for men and women about flexibility in their workplace, they would be transparent about what you give up in terms of what that salary is. They're not transparent in many workplaces because the intent is to continue to pay women less."

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