A Wyoming legislator just said women workers suffer from a “dependability issue,” and shoulder the blame for the pernicious wage gap — and he managed to say it with a straight face, despite his own attendance record being far from perfect.
Casper lawmaker Gerald Gay made the comments in an interview with veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake who works for an activism group, Better Wyoming.
“Men and women have different ways of going about taking time off — moms for maternity leave and that sort of thing,” Gay said in the interview. “Women are always going to take their full maternity leave, and there's the dependability issue about whether they're going to show up for things.”
Predictably his words were met with a swift backlash.
This is the problem with our "EQUALITY" State! https://t.co/W3RHkXqbq6— April Martinez Ramos (@ramos_april) September 14, 2016
This guy sounds like he lives in the shoebox. https://t.co/1pn1pqsOxj— Gaylan D. Wright Sr. (@votewright4wyo) September 14, 2016
I loooove when politicians agree that women should be paid less than men because they're undependable (eye roll). https://t.co/Y6MW2wGpUF— Adlir Ax (@adlir_ax) September 15, 2016
In a later phone call on Wednesday, Gay “clarified” his statement saying he was “unfairly represented” in the interview. He said he was trying to highlight the sexist perceptions that women are unreliable and was certainly not expressing his personal opinions. He also said the remarks he made about women “abusing” their sick days were based on statistics.
“Women in the workforce traditionally take a disproportionate amount of their sick days off for other reasons than sick days,” he told the paper. “They take Junior to the hospital or go see Johnny’s soccer game.”
Gay said his comments were based on his own “surveys with employers” but neglected to say which ones. Nevertheless, he asserted women don’t get paid as much because they take too much time off.
However, according to The Washington Post, women are much less likely to get paid leave. This is due to the fact there are more women working part-time than men and part-time jobs do not yield benefits like paid leaves. One of the chief reasons for this inequality is that most women take up the burden of child rearing and managing a home.
Yet Gay thinks addressing wage inequality should not be the government’s problem.
“In the free market system it's the employer's responsibility,” Gay said Wednesday. “No one forces anyone to go to work anywhere. If you don't like the wage employers are offering you, go somewhere else and get a job somewhere else.”
When asked how he could make such gross accusations about female absences since his own attendance record at the Wyoming Legislature was hardly stellar, Gay replied that it was “different” because he was elected official.
“It’s a different thing,” he explained. “You’re elected versus when you’re hired. I don’t have the best attendance record. I was in the hospital for part of the (time) when I was in the Legislature. I was in a long-term rehabilitation wing of a nursing home during the session.”
Gay was recovering from a spinal cord injury and had to struggle to find transportation between work and his nursing home so it is a bit hypocritical of him to condemn women for struggling with childcare, house work and transportation.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Lucy Nicholson