Rachel Maddow   |  April 08, 2014

Gender wage gap exists in real life

Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research and professor at George Washington University, talks with Rachel Maddow about what the data and social science literature show about the wage gap between men and women in America.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> it was the question that launched 1,000 halloween questions that year.

>> governor romney , pay equity for women .

>> great question. one i learned a great deal about serving as governor for my state. all the applicants for my cabinet seemed to be men. i said, well, can't we find some woman that are also qualified? we took a concerted effort to find women that were qualified. they brought us binders full of women .

>> faster than you could say, is that name still available on the internet, a sea of pictures. even lady people can do fantastic things with cardboard boxes, making themselves into binders. he got thousands of binders full of women , and america did, too. but did governor romney answer the question?

>> pay equity for women ?

>> what should the government do as a matter of policy? binders full of women just wasn't an answer to the question. during the campaign, we asked for his position on the paycheck fairness act, which was then up for a vote. and his campaign told us that he supports eke whqual pay. does he support the bill, though? the campaign responded, he supports equal pay . so, we responded with multiple choice questions. does he support this? check one. well, at the time, you might remember the romney campaign having a press conference talking about how great a president mitt romney would be for women . and he was asked on that call about getting the act signed, the lily led better act. that was the first high-profile piece of legislation about women 's rights. so, it would be the first thing the romney campaign would be asked about. yet, they were completely flum moksed.

>> does governor romney support the led better act?

>> we'll get back to you on that.

>> we'll get back to you on that. the romney campaign struggled mightily with both pregnant pauses and with addressing that issue. losing to women by 18 points, and losing the presidential campaign . president obama got elected, and the democrats did pretty well besides. but the paycheck fairness act has not passed congress net. but lily was back with president obama trying to somehow, some way make it the law.

>> for african-american women , latin latinas, even less. in 2014 , it's an embarrassment. it's wrong.

>> 77 cents on the dollar for the average working woman. today is equal payday, where the average woman will earn against her male colleagues just to make the same as them last year. republicans spend the day arguing that equal pay day is a myth. releasing a statement that the difference in pay is because of their jobs. women prefer jobs that pay less. and that was the polite way of saying it. at fox news, they scrapped the finer terms.

>> so, tomorrow, a couple of executive actions to make sure that women get paid the same as men.

>> now they think you're anti anti -woman if you question equal pay .

>> they're virtually getting paid the same.

>> that's true.

>> at fox news channel , it's the truth. so, from republicans, the persistent claim that women just happen to like making less for mysterious woman reasons. and from the fox news channel , they're not just paid less, it's liberals making it up in order to give you bad dreams and bother you. professor hartman, thank you for being with us. i want to ask you a basic but specific question. do american women make less than men while doing the same work?

>> it's tricky, doing the same work. there are many companies where they would get the same pay. but many companies where they don't. and the 20 largest occupations for women , ones that sound the same. customer service representative , making 94% of what men make in customer service work. not necessarily in the same companies, but many examples of women claiming discrimination within the same company. women at sterling jewelers across the country claimed that men were coming in and being paid a couple of dollars more than the women . the men were brand new, making more per hour.

>> how does the gap change across the income spectrum? at the top of the pay scale and the bottom?

>> well, there's more room for differentiation at the top. but there's no limit at the top end . if you're both in low wage jobs, there may be a smaller gap there. it's not exactly what you think. but in low wage jobs, we've studied that, and women require certifications and high school graduation. but men don't require those things, and actually pay more. so, there seems to be an inequality between occupations, within the same occupation.

>> from your research, taking that nuanced and fact-based of a view of how it works out in real life , can you tell if there are policies that the government can pursue to change things? within occupation groups and income levels, is there something the government can do?

>> no question. the research that scientists have done, title 7 has made a difference. the federal contract compliance we have already, makes reports and affirmative action plans. all the research shows that it has made a difference. and two of the policies from the president would make a difference. pay transparency. lily led better found out toward the end of her career at goodyear that she was making tens of thousands of dollars less than her male coworker. so, if you have that information and you can share it without penalties --

>> can i just ask you, in of your professional work in there, you have dealt with it in an academic realm, but you can also -- i have seen the debate on the political right shift from being against the idea of women shouldn't be working to there's no right answer, to now talking about equal to as if it's a liberal plot. and if you believe this, you probably believe that the earth is warming, too. i just have to ask your reaction to that.

>> well, you know, i don't take it too seriously. i took at the actual data coming from the federal agencies . it shows a wage gap . and it's confirmed. there may be a portion that can be explained with factors, but there's others that can't be explained. most of the women , and the vast majority of the women , and many of the men will say equal pay . the campaign from conservative economists and politicians to try to make it go away, pretend it's not real. it hasn't convinced the american people . i saw some data from pew, looking at men and women , 7% differential. 75% of the women in that age group said they'd like to see the government do more.

>> i honor and respect your resilience in these matters. to not take it seriously, makes me want to poke myself in the eye. thanks for being here.

>> fun to be here again.

>> all right, if you are an elected official, and you find yourself not poking yourself in the eye, but punching someone in the face, it over and over again, clearly the political process has problems. a road map of political