Here's Katherine's question:
In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?The President had an easy answer to this one: he signed the Lily Ledbetter Act, which makes it possible for women to file discrimination suits when they have been unfairly treated in the workplace years after the actual discrimination occurred, on the premise that while it's happening - when the woman is being paid less than her equally qualified male counterpart - she's not likely to know that she's being screwed.
Mitt Romney didn't address the wage equality piece; instead he focused on his hiring of women when he was a governor. He also, famously, made the 'binders full of women' remark, which has overshadowed just about his entire debate performance. It certainly covered up his comments about his chief of staff, a woman with school-aged children.
Here's what Mitt said:
Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of the team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said I can't be here until 7 or 8 o'clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 4 o'clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.And he didn't stop there. Nope, he kept going:
We're going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the new economy I'm going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they're going to be anxious to hire women.Yep. Go ahead, read that again. These businesses, they're going to be so anxious to find good help, they're even going to give women a shot. Damn! All us pretty little ladies, we should be practically swooning at the thought.
What I would have liked to hear (other than silence from Mitt), is this:
Hey Jeremy (the 20 year old college student who asked the first question), stand up a second, would you? Can I ask you a question? Is there any reason why one of your classmates, who took the same courses as you, got the same grades as you, you both start working for the ABC company on the same day, in the same position, is there any reason you can think of why you should be paid more than she is, just because you're a man and she's a woman?
And to you, members of the audience -- is there any reason you can think of why a man should make more money than an equally qualified woman, doing the same work?
Of course there's not.
It's sad that we're still having to talk about this in 2012, but it's not enough that women have equal opportunity to get jobs, they deserve - everyone deserves - equal pay for equal work. And so, if we find out that a company is not doing this, is not treating their employees equally, there will be consequences under federal statutes. Period.