Last night’s debate was fun to watch, and would have been that much better if the president had actually followed his instincts and decked Mitt Romney, à la “Two Tribes.” There was a lot of huffing and puffing and talking over each other and ignoring Candy Crowley, and that was all in good fun. But for me, the most pointed moment was when Mitt claimed to understand that the women in his precious binder needed to get home to cook dinner and get the kids. Here’s the transcript:
“But number two, because I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you. What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers that are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford…”
Holy crap. It is 2012, and we have a candidate for President of the United States not only completely avoiding the direct question regarding equal pay, but also claiming that women need flexible schedules to be employable? WTF?!
I am more than aware that only women possess the ability to give birth, and that the first months of a child’s life require a mother’s nurturing more than any other time in the developmental years. But to suggest that women require this type of job flexibility just goes to show that Ward Cleaver over there is out of touch. Now, it may have something to do with women being second-class citizens in his religion (they are in mine as well), but what is most striking is that he doesn’t even flinch as he says that type of thing. And the question itself was about equal pay for equal work.
I work with very strong and intelligent women, heck, we even have a woman CEO. Aside from the CEO’s pay, which is publicly documented, I have no idea what women in my department make. It boggles my mind that it is even possible that there is an average 27% disparity, and given our diversity and equality initiatives, I am confident that is not the case in my company. However, good statistics don’t make themselves, and were pay inequality not a fact, the Lilly Ledbetters of the world wouldn’t need the assistance of the president to make what their male counterparts make.
I am not privy to compensation statistics for in-house lawyers, as I refuse to take part in surveys answering such questions when the surveying company then asks me for thousands of dollars for the resultant compilation. I do know that the last firm I worked for paid a female partner more than all other partners, because I saw the point breakdown with my own eyes. That’s the thing with shared printers, if you forget to pick up your print job, anyone might take a glance at your papers. But is this 27% difference a real thing in the legal profession? I know from clerking that it’s nigh on impossible for disparities to exist given the government pay schedules. I suppose in the black comp firms it may be possible, but I know of no looser lips than those of Biglaw partners. (Must. Not. Feed. Trolls).
If there is any one in my family unit who needs to be home to feed and care for the kids, it is me. My wife’s job does not allow for the flexibility that mine does. And that is my point in this little rant: it is entirely wrongheaded thinking like that of Romney’s that keeps more working dads from performing duties that they should share equally with their partners. Countries in Europe mandate that new fathers take time with their children. They also require four-week holidays. And you snarkers know that I am not referring to Greece or Portugal; I reference strong economies such as Switzerland’s.
Equality is simply not a norm in this country. Not yet. Doubtful in my lifetime, but maybe for my grandchildren, there might come a day when people no longer think it acceptable to make employment decisions based on a person’s real or perceived needs for flexibility in scheduling. That seems a no-brainer when you acknowledge that we still have to contend with the issues of racism, ageism, et cetera.
After two federal clerkships and several years as a litigator in law firms, David Mowry is happily ensconced as an in-house lawyer at a major technology company. He specializes in commercial leasing transactions, only sometimes misses litigation, and never regrets leaving firm life. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.