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Ms. Hattiangadi Seems to Believe the World is an Equal Playing Field.

"It isn't yet," says Liz Bligan, a senior manager of human resources in King of Prussia, PA.

March 17, 2000
Ms. Hattiangadi makes some important and perhaps even correct points in her essay regarding equal pay. I have two issues with her logic, however.

First, she complains that the "comparable worth" effort is too complicated and difficult to make a reality. So what? Shall we refuse to improve anything simply because it's too hard to do? As a nation we already avoid doing the difficult things for expediency's sake. Level of difficulty should not be the reason we don't try to achieve something; we're too happy with mediocrity as it is.

Second, she implies (or at least I infer) that, because equal treatment in the workplace is the law and has been since the passage of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII, it must be the reality as well. If only (to borrow a phrase from today's youth). The law prohibits sexual harassment--by her logic, therefore, it doesn't happen. The law prohibits us from refusing to hire a minority simply because he is a minority--I guess, because it's law, it never happens.

Civil rights laws prohibit us from killing people because of the color of their skin. Then I guess the truck-dragging in Texas never happened. The laws may be on the books, but individuals and corporations break those laws all the time. The mere existence of the laws in no way guarantees that the infractions occur. Ms. Hattiangadi also seems to forget, or at least to not want to admit, that in the not distant past. egregious inequalities occured, even after the laws were enacted.

Pay equity, whatever it means, is worth the effort. If it means that we have to study what's going on out there and try to figure out if there is a fair way to pay nurses and construction workers, then we have to. The result is worth it. If the studies turn up to support Ms. Hattiangadi's belief that pay is already equitable, great--but we need more information before we can come to that conclusion.

Ms. Hattiangadi's essay reads a lot like the folks who say that the people in Malaysia (or pick any Third World country) are better off working for Nike ( or pick any US clothing manufacturer) at scrap wages and for 70 hours a week than they would be without the jobs. Heck, if we paid women more, they might actually decide not to leave the traditionally female jobs!

Sounds like "Heck, sure they are worked brutally hard for 25 cents a day, six days a week, but at least they have a job!" It's very twisted logic that takes in absolutely no perspective of humanity.

Ms. Hattiangadi seems to believe that the world is an equal playing field. It isn't. When black men can enter a store without immediately being suspected of being there to create trouble rather than buy something; when women can walk past a construction crew on lunch break without being verbally molested; and when poor school districts can still offer the same education quality and access to higher education--then, perhaps, she can claim an equal playing field. It isn't yet, and we need to fix that before we throw in the towel because it's too difficult and, after all, the laws' mere existence must mean that we don't have to do anything anyway.