When, last year, the Washington Examiner claimed that Clinton’s Senate office paid women less than men, Clinton responded by claiming that the Examiner figures only included median salaries among full-time, year-round employees. Among all employees, however, median salaries were equal. This devolved into a tit for tat about Clinton, and the larger point was lost.
The larger point shouldn’t be. The careers of women are much more subject to interruption than the careers of men. The reason? The responsibility for child care is still thrown for the most part on women. This is aggravated by the lack of a national pre-k child care program, and the way in which parental leave is largely unmandated in the US. The scandinavian countries have put in place pre-k child care programs, as well as instituting generous parental leave programs for both sexes. This is, paradoxically, important for the equality measure that takes in the whole career path. Men in Norway, for instance, can’t transfer their leave to women, and are under some pressure to take the leave. 68 percent of males do. This means that men also interrupt their career paths.
As this happens, career paths start accomodating this life style change, instead of the life style having to accommodate the career path.
As World Watch put it about the Norwegian example:“Then there are the childcare services – the guaranteed service to all families with children between one year and school age is seen an important enabler of gender equality. Even though a large number of women work part-time, 77% of Norwegian children between three years old and school age are in childcare for 30 or more hours per week, and 35% of children below three years of age are receiving the same amount, or more, of care. This number has increased significantly in the last six years, rising 25% between 2005 and 2011.”
These institutional supports still have not produced gender compensation equality. More women are part time, less men take their paternal leave (although the numbers on the latter keep rising), and the quota system that has tried to promote more women in management positions has still not cracked the hegemony of males in top executive positions.
The US will never reach parity between male and female compensation without a Norway style guarantee of childcare service for pre-K children and, incidentally, Kindergarten.
This issue reached into Clinton’s senate office, into Walmart and Goldman Sachs, and, really, everyplace in the labor market.
If Clinton is going to press on the symbolic value of having, at last, a female president, then let’s turn that symbolic power into real changes in the gender status quo.