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Earning Power!: April 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

My Week with Warren Farrell

My Week with Warren Farrell

It’s the end of Equal Pay Week, and I’ve been spending the week with Warren Farrell’s book Why Men Earn More, trying to follow his advice in his twelfth chapter. The often quoted book is extremely popular with those proponents that believe the wage gap is a result of women’s “lifestyle choices”. As recently as the beginning of this month, Carrie Lukas, VP of the Independent Women’s Forum started a firestorm of blog commentary for her article in the Washington Post wherein she quotes Farrell’s book to support her perspective of self-blame for this nation’s women’s wage gap problem. “I’m the cause of the wage gap,” says Lukas, choosing to be fulfilled rather than be well paid.

So to honor Equal Pay Day, I chose Chapter Twelve of Farrell’s book because his ideas particularly and coincidentally bankrupt for how women can make up the pay gap.

Farrell Idea Number One: Women can make up the pay gap through tips when working jobs that please men.

Much like Gloria Steinem at the Playboy Club of yesteryear, I went over to an Orange County institution---Captain Creams in Lake Forrest---to find out just how much a forty-year-old mother of four like myself could make as a waitress or dancer. On page 199, Farrell implies that women have such an advantage over men in these positions; it is really unfair for the men. Farrell suggests I’ll be making $200 per night just in tips, multiplied out five-days a week for a year. I can’t wait for the money to roll in.

Imagine how disappointed I was to learn that the waitress job is indeed minimum wage, but the job of dancer is commission only! In addition, “You have to have a portfolio to bring to try outs on Sunday nights”, says Rob the doorman. So it’s not really considered an unskilled job. Farrell had really inappropriately set my expectations on page 183 of his book when he says, “Women are more likely to be hired when skills aren’t required.” Also, come to find out that $200 in tips every night of the week is in fact, not the norm.

Farrell Idea Number Two: Women can make “invisible income” because of their good looks and sex appeal.

I’m really excited about the idea of getting things for free to make up for the estimated $700,000 to $1.5 Million lost over a woman’s lifetime to unequal pay. Farrell on page 193 suggests that men “pay” women with gifts for being sexually attractive. There’s nothing wrong with getting a free lunch for being pretty, if it’s actually at no cost to the woman, right? On page 196, he even expands this idea to a woman who has even gotten her house painted for free, clearly having an advantage over males with this female “invisible income” he speaks of.

I took this very practical advice directly to an application in my own home. I’m doing $14,000 of home repairs to put my property up for sale, and I asked my general contractor, Juan, if he wouldn’t mind painting my house for free. He said no, even though I batted my eyes. I asked him hypothetically, if I traded another “job” for the paint job, would it be free then. Juan responded with a smile, “I have an entire crew that would need to be paid.” My conclusion? Invisible income for the average woman is just that: nonexistent.

Farrell Idea Number Three: Marrying up allows for more social and financial options, and being dependent upon a breadwinning spouse makes the most economic sense.

I gave up my checkbook, bank account, credit cards and everything that makes me financially independent this week following Farrell’s guidance on pages 171 and 203. On these pages he discusses how putting women back into the home as wives and mothers exclusively makes economic sense, and marrying up gives women more financial options. I decided to ask my husband every time I needed any sort of economic support. By the end of the week, he was fed up with my requests for everything from Similac to gas money.

“If I had to go to a wife every time I needed to pay for anything it would make me feel castrated like I’d have to look around for my balls,” Guido says looking downward. Good thing for women, I guess. But I agreed with the sentiment. I actually felt like I had fewer financial options than when I had my own sources of income to draw from, not more options as Farrell implied. It’s nice to be cared for, but also humiliating disempowering to be so completely dependent.

So another week of non-equal pay is concluded. I’m certain Farrell supporters will cry “foul”, but I’m honestly tired of the wage gap being blamed on the fallacy that it’s a woman’s choice to be paid less than a man for the same job performance. The real choice for women isn’t available: to be paid like fathers when we are working mothers.