In conjunction with this year’s “Equal Pay Day,” or the day it has been determined that women’s average earnings “catch up” to men’s earnings from the previous year, the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) released a report of suggested policy reforms to address the unique set of challenges currently facing women in the workplace.
Rather than simply focusing on the often-cited statistic that women earn 79 cents for each dollar men earn, or championing “equal pay for equal work” which has been the law since 1963, IWF detailed a broad variety of reforms surrounding issues of economic opportunity, family leave, and workplace flexibility that are important to women in 2016.
“There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges women face,” the report reads, “and these well intentioned government efforts may help some, but they will backfire on many more by making our workplaces less flexible and discouraging job creation.”
The Paycheck Fairness Act, which is currently before Congress and would strengthen penalties for equal pay violations, is one of the “solutions” to this problem that IWF has claimed would do more harm than good.
IWF Executive Director Sabrina Schaeffer said the Paycheck Fairness Act could backfire because it has the potential to increase the cost of employing women.
“While it’s sold in the name of protecting women from sexism in the workplace, the PFA would do nothing to address discrimination but would be a gift to trial lawyers — opening businesses up to potential lawsuits and making women riskier to employ,” Schaeffer said.
Some of the reforms IWF suggested in its “Working for Women” report include:
– Fix the tax brackets that impose higher tax rates on married couples with two earners, which often discourage women from entering the workforce;
– Create Personal Care Accounts (PCAs) in which people can invest pre-tax dollars used to replace or supplement income during periods of family or medical leave;
– Offer tax credits for small businesses that provide paid leave time for employees;
– Reform the Fair Labor Standards Act (which established the 40-hour work week in back in 1938) and allow private sector employees to choose paid time off or a flexible schedule in lieu of overtime pay.
Schaeffer pointed out that not all women want or need the same things in the workplace.
“Non-mothers are salary maximizers while mothers are flexibility maximizers,” she said. “Women benefit from a free and dynamic work environment where they are free to negotiate wage-benefit packages that suit their needs and the needs of their employer.”
The report also promotes various policy reforms that are not aimed specifically at women, but would promote overall economic growth and job creation to lower the cost of living and increase career opportunities for both men and women.