Can Quotas Solve the Gender Gap?

Today marks the 47th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits wage discrimination on the basis of gender. When John F. Kennnedy signed the law in 1963, women were only earning 53 cents for every dollar earned by men. Today, we are earning 77 cents on that dollar. For women of color, the wage gap is even wider. There are several factors that come into play when economists try to rationalize the existence of a gender gap in wages. But at the end of the day, there is only one explanation that matters; it is discrimination, plain and simple.

President Obama has this to say about the pay disparities:

This remains unacceptable, as it was when the Act was signed. All women – and their families – deserve equal pay. Women now make up nearly half of the nation’s workforce, most homes have two working parents, and 60 percent of all women work full-time. As we emerge from one of the worst recessions in American history, when families are struggling to pay their bills and save for the future, pay inequity only deepens that struggle and hampers our economy’s ability to fully recover.

One potential solution is to institute a quota system, similar to the ones that have been adopted in other countries, like Norway and Sweden. Norway requires 50% of the Cabinet positions to be filled by women, and they have also passed legislation requiring 40% of executive positions in private companies to be held by women. [Read more...]