Audi “drives progress” that is already mandatory by law
A look into the automaker’s controversial Super Bowl 51 commercial
This past Sunday night, an estimated 113 million viewers sat down with friends and family to watch Super Bowl 51. Some watched the game, others splurged over Lady Gaga’s impeccable half-time show, but many tuned in to see the $5 million per 30-second-long famous commercial advertisements.
Audi, a top-of-the-line German car company popular in the United States, decided to make a statement with a controversial ad challenging gender parity in America. Throughout the ad, viewers followed a young girl’s struggle to win a cart race against boys. The girl’s father narrates the strife, stating:
“What do I tell my daughter? Do I tell her that her grandpa is worth more than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom? Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets?”
Right away, Audi assumes that women are viewed as lesser in society. The girl ends up winning the race, and the commercial ends with “#DriveProgress.” On Twitter, the automaker expanded on this theme, emphasizing the statistic that women make 79 cents for every dollar made by men.
Sadly, Audi doesn’t realize that the 79 cent per dollar wage gap is a myth. And even if this myth were true, Audi used expired data. In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that the “wage gap” narrowed to about 83 percent.
But, as I mentioned beforehand, this wide gap itself is also a myth. It compares the median pay for all men and women who work full time, receiving both hourly and salaried income. This means that the study combines chief female executives and scientists with full-time teacher’s assistants and food service managers.
Instead, the correct comparison for gender parity is to examine men and women on an aggregate level with similar educations in identical jobs. Both genders in the field would be working identical hours, have similar years of experience and have similar negotiation styles.
Women do make less than men on an aggregate level, but it is not the result of discrimination. Thanks to the Equal Pay Act of 1963, gender-based discrimination, “between men and women in the same establishment who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions,” is illegal.
One cause is that identical numbers of men and women do not work in the same fields. According to the AAUW’s 2007 “Behind the Pay Gap” report, “Women with business degrees are twice as likely as men with similar degrees to enter administrative, clerical, or support positions earlier in their careers.” Alternatively, men are more likely to enter management positions with these degrees. To help women obtain these types of jobs, we should encourage women to apply for them.
Lisa MacKenzie, marketing director for Careerwomen.com, an online job board for women, noted in an interview with Forbes that recruiters are highly interested in hiring women who studied the hard sciences, but there are not enough women with adequate experience or education.
Employers are trying to close this gap, but there are just not enough women who are interested in these fields. The number of women graduating college with degrees in STEM-focused areas are increasing every year, but men still choose these majors more than women. Different BLS found that women only represent, “39 percent of chemists or material scientists, 28 percent of environmental scientists and geoscientists, 16 percent of chemical engineers and just 12 percent of civil engineers.”
The AAUW (2010) blames the lack of women in STEM fields on sexism, lack of interest, and work-life balance. Significant gains have been made to increase female interest in these fields by applying research in different studies to primary education. Still, 2014-2015 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) shows that women still prefer to choose other degrees.
Is this personal choice in career and education the fault of women? Absolutely not. Women have every right to choose careers that give them fulfilling lives. However, blaming discrimination for the wage gap is misleading.
Once accounting for similar education, hours worked, years of experience and other factors, a 2016 study from Glassdoor notes that the real gender pay gap shrinks to about 94.6 cents per dollar in the United States. The study notes that “The single biggest cause of the gender pay gap is occupation and industry sorting of men and women into jobs that pay differently…(This) explains 54 percent of the overall pay gap.” Weighting properly for different jobs and interests rationalized the pay gap by more than fifty percent.
Audi itself admitted this notion. When asked on Twitter if they paid their employees less than men, Audi responded:
@TueborFrog When we account for all the various factors that go into pay, women at Audi are on par with their male counterparts.
— Audi (@Audi) February 1, 2017
Once properly controlled for the correct variables, the myth about the wage gap is clear.
While sexism riddles the workplace, it doesn’t cause the wage gap. Occupation and industry really distinguish men from women in the workforce, and the parity with these factors adjusted really exists in the realm of 5 cents, which is the result of women making their own decisions about their educational preferences, work hours and bargaining over contracts and promotions.
Employers already pay women equal pay for equal work -- it’s the law. It has been the law since 1963. Women have just been living the lives they choose rather than being forced to overcome a false statistic.
Krista Chavez is a junior for the School of Public Affairs and a columnist for The Eagle.