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How Factories Explain the Pay Gap

Women are losing the gains they've made in male-dominated industries.
These women are increasingly the exception. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg
These women are increasingly the exception. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg

U.S. President Barack Obama commemorated Equal Pay Day this week by saying that women are paid less than men, only to undercut his argument with a lousy comparison. The larger problem isn't that women are paid less than men for the same work; it's that the American workplace puts women at a disadvantage before any apples-to-apples comparison can be made.

Accounting for differences in the types of work men and women do, experience, education and hours, the pay gap shrinks from Obama's 23 percent to 12 percent. But that reduction shouldn't be interpreted as a victory against sexism -- it should be seen as proof that the problem is in many of those factors that explain women's disadvantage.