Skip to main content

Equal pay or opportunity for outrage?

By Katie Packer Gage
April 8, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Katie Packer Gage says Democrats use the pay equity issue as a political football
  • Republicans, she argues, can take five steps to combat the ploy
  • GOPers should remind voters that they support the Equal Pay Act, she said
  • She also says Republicans should support companies with a diversified workforce

Editor's note: Katie Packer Gage was the deputy campaign manager on the 2012 Romney for President Campaign, and is a partner at Burning Glass Consulting, an all-female GOP political consulting firm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- 2014 is an election year. We know this because, once again, the Democrats are out in force with voices raised, full of outrage, trying to convince women that new laws are needed to ensure that they receive equal pay for equal work.

Equal pay for equal work. Sounds pretty simple, right? We all agree that a woman doing the same job as a man should not be paid less just because she's a woman.

Unfortunately, the broader issue is not that simple. What if one employee has more education? What if that employee has been with the company longer or has more experience?

These are questions that courts have been mediating since 1963 as companies have faced lawsuits over gender discrimination with regard to wages.

Katie Packer Gage
Katie Packer Gage

Why 1963? Because that is when the Equal Pay Act was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy. The law says that "no employer shall discriminate between employees on the basis of sex." And it passed the House that year by a 362-9 vote. That's right, nine Democrats voted against it.

Democrats highlight equal pay in political push

For the past two election cycles, Democrats have tried to paint Republicans as backward cavemen on this issue as part of their so-called "War on Women," claiming that Republicans don't care about women because they opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Never mind that the Ledbetter Act had little to do with the premise of equal pay for equal work and everything to do with the time limit for trial lawyers looking to exploit a potential claim.

Democrats consistently ignore data from neutral sources that indicates that when you actually compare men and women with the same background and education doing the same job, equality of pay has been largely achieved. PayScale, a compensation data company, has shown that in careers from software developer to nursing to construction project manager to human resources administrator, women are within 1% to 4% of men in terms of pay equity.

Obama to strengthen equal pay protections

However, much of the research on women voters in recent years supports the notion that women believe that men get paid more for the same job than women do. There are several reasons for this: 1) personal experience, 2) friend to friend examples and 3) Democrat politicians with manufactured data perpetuating it.

GOP pushes back on 'war on women' notion
Do women in power face a double standard?
Equal pay trending on Facebook

So what is a Republican candidate to do?

First, every Republican should affirm, without hesitation, support for the concept of equal pay for equal work. There should be no perceived daylight between Republicans and Democrats on this basic value.

Democrats seize on equal pay as midterm issue

Second, every Republican should remind voters that they support the Equal Pay Act. They should affirm that, had they been in Congress at the time, they would have voted to pass it and that the only "nay" votes recorded that day came from Democrats. And Republicans should remind women that if they are not receiving the equal pay that they deserve, the law is on their side and that bad actors should be vigorously prosecuted.

Third, all Republicans should know their facts. Be prepared to challenge the media and their opponents when they try to claim that some new piece of legislation is necessary to ensure equal pay. Not every problem in America can be fixed by Washington. Every disparity that exists in the workplace is not an opportunity for a new piece of legislation.

Fourth, every Republican should celebrate companies that have decided it is good business to have a diverse workplace. We should applaud those that have gone out of their way to attract women and give them a rich and robust work experience.

And there are plenty of great examples in the Forbes list, "The 10 Best Companies for Women in 2014":

-- IBM, which has a Reconnections Initiative that tries to bring women who left to have children back to IBM.

-- Marriott, which has an impressive 55% female workforce and 58% female management team.

-- Ernst & Young, which has a mentorship program where senior level women pursue opportunities on behalf of younger women within the company.

As we celebrate these success stories and condemn bad actors, workplace experiences for all women will improve.

Finally, all Republicans should support initiatives to encourage young girls to enter traditionally male-dominated fields such as science, technology, engineering and math. These important STEM fields are crucial to our country's future and provide incredible opportunities for women to achieve high earnings.

As of last month, there were 4.7 million unemployed women in this country. What is sad indeed is the willingness by Democrat candidates to use the issue of pay equity as a political football to change the subject from that sobering statistic and the fact that women can't keep their insurance plans or their doctors because the promise of Obamacare turned out to be a lie. These are the real challenges facing women today.

But the truth can be inconvenient when it doesn't fit into the Democrats' narrative of a trumped up "War on Women."

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1022 GMT (1822 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
ADVERTISEMENT