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Opinion

April 11, 2013

Pay gap ranking only part of story

The so-called “pay gap” is a simple term for a complex issue, which was recently highlighted on April 9, Equal Pay Day. 

The National Committee on Pay Equity chose April 9 because the date symbolizes how long into 2013 women must work to catch up with their male counterparts’ 2012 earnings.

But how we arrive at those figures, and understand what they mean, is a little more complicated than that. 

This year, we learned that Oneonta is among U.S. cities with the smallest pay gaps. The City of the Hills was No. 13 on a list of 943 cities, based on median full-time earnings reported in the last census. 

These findings, released by the personal finance website Nerd-Wallet, were cause for celebration for some. Hartwick College Human Resources Director Suzanne Janitz called Oneonta’s place in the top 20 “delightful,” noting that the college has taken steps to seek equity for its staff. 

For Janitz, the answer to getting there has been to look at what other colleges are paying, and to bring Hartwick’s salaries into line with that median. 

For all the hand-wringing about the whys and wherefores of the wage gap, the approach Janitz described is certainly a positive and common-sense approach. 

It’s healthy for institutions to not only examine their own practices on a regular basis, but also to look outside the area to see what competitors are doing. And if this has the secondary benefit of bridging the pay gap and equalizing salaries among men and women, all the better. 

The bigger question, about what it means that Oneonta is near the top of the list, proves harder to answer. With all respect to Janitz, we doubt her 415 employees are enough to move the needle. 

The No. 1 thing that seems to come up when we talk about the wage gap is child-rearing. Women, we’re told, often suffer professionally because they take time off work to care for children. In doing so, they fall behind their male colleagues, running the risk of getting passed over for promotions, and creating gaps on their resumes. 

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