A recent opinion piece in the Seattle Times attempted to provide a point/counterpoint argument on the gender pay gap, the difference in pay between men and women with the same job.
Framing the debate in the form of the question “is the gender pay gap a Seattle problem?” the article gave equal space to two journalists to respond. The first response was from Bruce Ramsey, whose tone deaf argument heavily relied on sarcastic quotation marks around phrases like “pay gap”, “pink ghetto” and, yes, even “problem”. His argument attempted to place the perception of the existence of a gap squarely on statistics. Ramsey:
I see tech people every day at lunch: most are men. That’s not discrimination; it’s that more men can do, and are willing to do, the sort of computer work for which Seattle’s employers are willing to pay good money.
He then goes on to promote the standard “men are stronger” line of argument, pointing to the number of men in construction and other physical jobs, all of which was handily rebutted by Varner’s counterpoint, but the reaction did not end there.
His argument has been widely discussed in Seattle and has been drawing a lot of condemnation, the most of surprising of which comes directly from Seattle’s Mayor, Mike McGinn who decries Ramsey’s argument as one that “has been made and debunked time and time again”. Says McGinn:
Seattle has a problem with gender inequality in pay. Let’s not make excuses and blame women for their “personal choices.” That isn’t going to help the 141,949 households in the Seattle metro area that are headed by women, 23 percent of which are living below the poverty line. For these families, the wage gap isn’t just a matter of fairness – it’s a matter of survival.
This conversation comes at a time when Seattle is revealed to have the worst gender pay gap in the country, and for a city that promotes itself as progressive as much as Seattle does, this is simply not a positive.
All is not lost, however, as McGinn notes on his blog post that his office is working to “make sure we’re doing everything we can to ensure equitable pay for every City of Seattle employee”. Hopefully his stern rebuke is part of a broader conversation that Seattle desperately needs to have.
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