ABC's Claire Shipman on New Law and 'Female-Friendly White House'

On Thursday's "Good Morning America," reporter Claire Shipman touted legislation about to be signed into law by President Obama that "promises to level the playing field when it comes to pay discrimination." She enthused that the bill, which would give women more time to file salary discrimination lawsuits, "not only evokes change, but also the impression of a female-friendly administration." (Co-host Diane Sawyer, at right, introduced the segment.)

The GMA correspondent also noted Michelle Obama's support for the legislation and spun her as "a first lady that will champion the issues of working women." At no time in the piece did Shipman feature anyone who disagreed with the concept of the pay gap or offer any downside to its passage. Author Warren Farrell explained how women often earn less because of job choice in his 2005 book "Why Men Earn More." A May 20, 2005 review in National Review observed:

Farrell’s extensive research is persuasive: Women generally earn less than men because they choose jobs that are more "fulfilling, flexible, and safe." These jobs usually pay less. For example, the librarian with a graduate degree will earn less than a garbage collector who dropped out of high school. The same applies to the educated art historian working in a museum versus the uneducated coal miner working in a mine. The garbage collector and the coal miner get higher salaries because their work involves greater risk and less pleasant working conditions. Few workers are willing to accept the conditions in these blue-collar, male-oriented jobs — so employees willing to work in these fields are a more precious commodity than workers in lower-paying professions, including librarians and art historians.

Farrell suggests 25 ways women can level the salary playing field. Among his recommendations are that women choose careers in technology or science, work longer hours, accept more responsibilities, and take jobs that are more dangerous and in unpleasant environments. He notes, however, that these solutions — instead of empowering women — may leave them bereft of true power, which he defines as "control over one’s life." He believes that "pay is about giving up power to get the power of pay," and that by choosing to make more money, women limit their options. They forfeit the quality of life they enjoyed when they worked less and in better, non-stressful working environments. They risk relinquishing a profession they feel passionate about for one they dislike. They also will have less opportunity to have children, take maternity leave, or work flexible hours to take care of their children. If they do decide to have children and raise them, chances are they will lose their position and their high salary.

A transcript of the January 29 segment, which aired at 7:16am, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: And coming up now, President Obama is going to sign today a bill that promises to level the playing field when it comes to pay discrimination. By his side will be first lady Michelle Obama, a vocal supporter of equal pay for equal work, of that bill throughout the campaign [sic]. Senior national correspondent Claire Shipman has more.

ABC GRAPHIC: Equal Pay For Equal Work: New Law Signed Today

MICHELLE OBAMA: Right now, the average woman is earning 77 cents to every dollar that a man earns here in the United States for the same work.

SHIPMAN: It's an issue she talked about often on the campaign trail. And today, Michelle Obama will be by her husband's side, as he signs legislation protecting equal pay for women. The bill is inspired by Lilly Ledbetter, now 70-year-old South Carolina tire plant supervisor, who famously lost a Supreme Court case in 2007. The justices ruling, she waited too long. After 19 years of work at the tire plant, Ledbetter got a tip she wasn't paid the same as men doing the same job.

LILLY LEDBETTER: I was initially humiliated. I get degraded.

SHIPMAN: Before today, women could only file discrimination suits within six months of first experiencing a pay gap. The new legislation allows suits later, as long as the alleged pay discrimination is continuing. Even in 2009, the income gap is still very real. On average, women earn almost 20 cents on the dollar than men do. Over the course of a career, that can add up to more than $200,000. Some jobs are more equal than others, though. Public school teachers, unionized nurses and government workers have very little pay disparity, based on race or sex or religion. The biggest gap? Blue-collar, non-union jobs. Service workers at stores, for examples, or restaurants are often paid wildly different wages. The fast coordination between the White House and lawmakers to get this done not only evokes change, but also the impression of a female-friendly administration. And, very likely a first lady that will champion the issues of working women. For "Good Morning America," Claire Shipman, Washington.

ROBERTS: And Michelle Obama has said that will be one of her top causes.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's site.