The Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee last month voted to terminate the Colorado Pay Equity Commission, which was established in 2010 but needs an affirmative vote of confidence by the general assembly to avoid statutory “sunset” termination on July 1. Here’s why we think this dysfunctional, unnecessary, do-nothing board should be allowed to disband when its term expires this summer.
Testimony at the Senate hearing revealed a four-year history of ineptitude and failure. The commission failed to meet statutory requirements for annual reports; met many times without a quorum; has made no legislative recommendations and has no web page or serious outreach
effort. Moreover, it consistently showed hostility toward the views of small business representatives on the commission.
So embarrassing were these revelations that two committee Democrats effectively put the commission on probation, by proposing just a two year extension, after which it would come back before the legislature for another performance review. But just a week after that embarrassing hearing, Democrats on the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee tried resuscitating the corpse, by putting forth a bill (HB15-1133) aimed at indefinitely extending the PEC’s life without addressing or correcting any of its failures.
Committee Democrats also proposed giving the commission one new staff person, who would be funded by outside gifts or grants – showing that even they seem reluctant to gamble public funds on this failed experiment. The bill would also empower the governor to appoint all 11 members, without any oversight or participation by Republicans or Democrats in the General Assembly, a change that would make the commission less accountable and more partisan.
Unfortunately, no conceivable corrective action can address the underlying problem, which is that the commission’s existence is based on false assumptions and myths about the “gender pay gap.”
Independent research consistently discredits the so-called “gender pay gap.” The most professional and comprehensive study ever made of the pay differences between men and women in the workforce was conducted under contract with the U.S. Department of Labor in January 2009. The study examined dozens of academic and government studies and applied new statistical tools to identify and measure all the variables involved in wage differentials. The report concludes that:
“There are observable differences in the attributes of men and women that account for most of the wage gap. Statistical analysis that includes those variables has produced results that collectively account for between 65.1 and 76.4 percent of a raw gender wage gap of 20.4 percent, and thereby leave an adjusted gender wage gap that is between 4.8 and 7.1 percent.”
What an individual earns is subject to many variables. Occupation, education, capital development, work experience, number of hours worked, negotiation skills, career interruptions, motherhood, industry, health insurance, retirement and other fringe benefits — are important factors in an employee’s compensation package.
Of course, a wage gap of 4.8% or 7.1% is not as dramatic or scandalous as an alleged 20% gap, so the commission consistently ignored such findings.
Other independent studies confirm that the 20% gap is a myth. In 2012 the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America published a report concluding that sex discrimination plays a very minor role, if any, in those disparities. And the 2011 White House report, “Women in America,” revealed that on average, women work only 89% as many hours weekly as men, as confirmed by U.S. Census Bureau data.
That’s just some of the research rebutting the myth that there are huge gender pay disparities in the U.S. workforce, and that those disparities are mainly due to sex discrimination. Of course, anti-business advocacy groups will continue to cite and publish misleading reports, comparing apples to kumquats, to keep the myth of systemic gender bias alive. But does Colorado really need a permanent commission perpetuating such myths as well?
It was reported recently that during the period Hillary Clinton was in the U.S, Senate, she paid her female staff 72 cents for every dollar paid to her male staff. Does that convict Clinton of gender discrimination? Of course not. Such numbers are meaningless and we ought to stop using them.
Sadly, from its inception back in 2007 as an ad hoc body created by the Ritter administration, the Pay Equity Commission has never been dedicated to nonpartisan research and educational outreach. Instead, it has been devoted to anti-business propaganda.
The Colorado general assembly will do all Coloradans a big favor if it lets the Colorado Pay Equity Commission ride off into the sunset.
Patti Kurgan is a former member of the Pay Equity Commission and CEO of AstroLogistics. Senator Vicki Marble is a small business owner and represents SD 23 in Broomfield, Larimer and Weld Counties.