I was going to ask this question when I heard Hillary Clinton said in the first presidential debate that: "Trump has said women don't deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men." I thought she misspoken or I misunderstood, so I didn't ask the question here.

But today, Clinton tweeted: Donald Trump's equal pay plan for women: "You're gonna make the same if you do as good a job." So there is no doubt that Clinton thinks Trump's equal pay plan is bad, otherwise she wouldn't use it to attack Trump, right?

To me, Trump's equal pay plan, as the way Clinton quoted, is the definition of fairness, i.e. equal pay for equal work. So, my question is: what is the rationale/logic behind the opposition of Trump's equal pay plan?

EDIT: I'm not interested in Trump's equal pay plan; my question is what's the possible reason or rationale behind Hillary Clinton's opposition of the following two quotes:

"women don't deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men"

"You're gonna make the same if you do as good a job."

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    You're missing context and intent here. The implication is that Trump doesn't believe women do as good of a job as men. As for a 'plan' I don't think there is one. That's just Trump stating his off-the-cuff opinion.
    – user1530
    Nov 1, 2016 at 14:15
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    At this point, I really have no idea what your question is anymore. Are you asking if what Trump and Hillary debate is controversial? Of course it is. Everything is. It's US politics!
    – user1530
    Nov 1, 2016 at 14:52
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    Asking us to climb into a persons head to determine their thought process or opinions on things they've said is beyond the scope of .se Nov 1, 2016 at 15:14
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    "So there is no doubt that Clinton thinks Trump's equal pay plan is bad, otherwise she wouldn't use it to attack Trump, right?" I don't think that's necessarily true. Candidates usually go after what they think will resonate with voters, not necessarily with what they particularly find disturbing or incorrect. Nov 2, 2016 at 21:29

7 Answers 7


"women don't deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men"

"You're gonna make the same if you do as good a job."

These statements are controversial because they are perceived to imply that the gender pay gap is entirely due to women doing less a good job than men.

People who are critical of those statements might argue that many women are already doing as good a job as men, but are not getting equal pay nevertheless.

Note: Whether the gender pay gap is real or not is beyond the scope of the question. I redirect any discussion on this topic to the relevant question on Skeptics.SE.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Nov 1, 2016 at 18:10
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    One piece that you're missing is that when Trump is saying these things, it is usually assumed that he's making the case for laissez faire, where Hillary wants some sort of enforcement mechanism. Nov 2, 2016 at 17:46
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    @SamIam I don't know if that is the case and if it is, I'm not sure if it's important for this question.
    – gerrit
    Nov 2, 2016 at 20:02
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    Furthermore, consider a man working normally, and a woman whose employer chooses to continually pelt her with golf balls as she works. Then "You're gonna make the same if you do as good a job" will be small comfort to the woman, since she knows she has not been put in a position where she can do as good a job as the man. To those who believe women tend to face certain disadvantages in the workplace, Trump's stated policy doesn't address the problem. To those who believe women face no disadvantages or discrimination, or that such disadvantages as they do face are warranted, no problem. Nov 2, 2016 at 20:53
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    @gerrit The important part is that it appears to his opponents that he doesn't plan to make any change regarding the issue. Nov 2, 2016 at 21:26

I can't speak for Ms Clinton but I can offer some thoughts on why she may not think that Trump's approach really addresses the issue.

What Trump is addressing is the case where a man and a woman both do the same job. He is saying, quite reasonably, that they should both earn the same (or thereabouts). This is a reasonable position to hold and I have no reason to believe that Ms Clinton does not agree.

However, there is a separate, and arguably larger, problem. That is whether women are getting the opportunity to do the jobs that earn more. So, for example, say you have a company that employs 50 men and 50 women where the women are the worker bees and the men are their managers. You would expect that the men are earning more.

In the Trump position this would be fine. Women can earn less as they're not doing the same job.

In the Clinton position this would not be fine. The women are earning less because they are in lower positions. Now it might be that they are all less deserving of a management position than all the men but it may also be something more nefarious.

Now it turns out that a sizeable percentage of the pay gap is due to women generally being in lower paid work. Whether that's because they are working less hours, doing work that is traditionally less valued or not rising to senior positions.

How much of a problem this is is a matter of some debate. However, focusing on the equal pay for equal work aspect has the tendency to brush it under the carpet. I believe that this is the issue that Clinton is more exercised about. I could of course be mistaken.

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    I think this is a good explanation of the broad issue, but I believe the actual controversial part about what Trump said was simply what he was trying to imply when saying it.
    – user1530
    Nov 1, 2016 at 18:13
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    @blip - I do not think that The Donald actually meant to imply anything. I think he perceives this issue as one that does not exist because in his organization women are treated equally(at least as he sees it) and promoted and paid according to how they do their job. His organization is statistically much better on the issue of both race and gender equality than most other organizations of equal size. And that is not a function of pro diversity policies, but rather an uncommon ability to actually recognize top performers regardless of how they look. Nov 2, 2016 at 16:24
  • Please do not take that comment as me being a trump supporter. I recognize where he does well, that is in running his organization. I am firmly #nevertrump. #feelthejohnson Nov 2, 2016 at 16:26
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    @DeplorableNumber9035768 at the same time, it can't be denied that his campaign has leveraged dog whistle politics to a rather high degree. I certainly can't say with any certainty he meant anything by the comment (after all, he often says things without much thought to begin with) but it's certainly not implausible for people to assume he did imply something, as he has done that consistently throughout this campaign. So, whether intentional or not, the potential for the implication is what (I personally think) is mainly the controversial part.
    – user1530
    Nov 2, 2016 at 17:20
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    @Era I don't even know if there is a strategy. :) (That said, when your campaign lead is the former lead at Breitbart, dog whistling certainly is in the realm of believability)
    – user1530
    Nov 2, 2016 at 17:53

FOR THE RECORD: This answer is based on what the perception of the issue and proposed solutions are or would be. Which is why the topic is controversial in the first place.

I make no claim as to the validity of the argument for or against equal pay, this answer is simply intended to explain the reason why the concept of regulating equal pay is contentious. These are widely held beliefs and reasoning.

The position against Equal pay:

Yes, equal pay regulation is opposed, but not because anyone necessarily thinks that women should be paid less just because they have boobs, or any other reason related strictly to their gender. Basically what the feminist left is calling for amounts to wage controls. Regardless of how the people perform in their role, the proposed regulations would require that everyone at a company with the same position be paid the same rate. And if the role was similarly titled, but the job functions were different, then the regulations would require that the positions be paid the same.

So let's look at an extreme example. A company, like Waste Management(but not actually WM) has Sanitation Engineer positions.

  • One of these positions is a desk job and their responsibility is to make sure that the waste collected is properly disposed of and the proper forms are filled out, and that there is a solution in place should the usual landfill/incinerator not be available.
  • Another Sanitation Engineer is responsible for the collection, handling, and disposal of hazardous waste. This job requires frequently putting the employee in a position where if they make a mistake there could be serious physical consequences. In addition most of their work will involve being in an uncomfortable and restrictive Hazmat suit, and dealing with unpleasant substances.
  • A third Sanitation Engineer is basically a truck driver, the collection vehicle they operate is largely automated, and has a lower paid assistant that will handle most of the physical labor, and more potentially disgusting duties.

The roles with the company mean that in theory any of the three could be call upon to perform the duties of any of the other 3 (or other hundreds of SE positions with the company). But the reality is that it's unlikely that any of these 3 would be called upon to perform the duties of the others because there are more qualified people in more similar positions that would be tapped first.

Lets assume that SE1 is female and is paid 40k a year. SE2 is male and is paid 90k a year. SE3 is female and is paid 25k a year.

The regulation would call for all of these roles to be paid the same amount. So even though neither of the other 2 are required or ever do put themselves at risk like SE2 they get the same pay rate. In addition SE1 requires less physical labor but the skills involved in the logistics are special and Neither SE2 nor SE3 are likely to be able to perform that role.

So of course this means that due to the regulations the company now needs to differentiate these roles. Meaning it now no longer has any flexibility in using SE2 in a different role should something happen and they be temporarily restricted from handling hazardous waste. It also would restrict the truck driver role from being cross trained for a move to a higher paying position. All in the name of making it fair for the sexes.

In addition it removes the ability of the company and its candidates from being able to negotiate. Maybe one candidate is willing to take a lower salary in exchange for a better benefit package, or flex time, etc. And maybe one person is more highly skilled and in demand, but because they are male should they be hired at a higher rate then the regulations would effectively give everyone a raise. It cuts a great tool for a company to excel and bring in the best people for the job for the best pay.

It really is not that most people who oppose it think that someone should be paid less because of their gender, just that imposing legislation to force equality of reward regardless of contribution is a bad idea. It is often impossible to quantify contribution and even when it is done successfully often the numbers look skewed so that men contribute more than women. This is mostly because men are in general greater risk takers are more willing to sacrifice their family time for work, while women are less likely to do both, in general. So yes often an average woman is quantifiably less of a contributor. This plays into the perception that there is a conspiracy to keep women lower paid. The reality is that women are, in general, not willing to do those things to advance their career that, in general, men are willing to do. So does that mean that as a society, we should prevent men from going that extra mile in order to be rewarded?

The position For Equal Pay:

** The question specifically asked about Hillary Clintons reasoning. The exact reasoning beyond because her focus groups say thats the position she should take, is not explained anywhere I know of. I would assume its the standard reasoning I lay out below.

Four quite some time in American history, women have not held the same rights and were not treated as equals to men. Activists have been fighting to achieve equality since the 1800's.(I am sure earlier as well but refer to the organized movement)

While many of the movements goals were achieved in the 1900's there still exists, at the very least according to the hard data, some very unequal treatment in general where often the female gender is trailing behind in equal treatment. The most noticeable place is in the area of Equal Pay, also known as the Gender Pay Gap.

The position is generally that men are institutionally entrenched in management and use that position to either actively, passively, or subconsciously to exploit the psychological and physical differences in gender negotiation, performance, and needs to keep the pay of female employees much lower than their male counterparts. And the only way that this will be changed is through legislation and regulations that would ensure that women are paid equally.

"women don't deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men"

"You're gonna make the same if you do as good a job."

The problem seen with these arguments is that the expectations can be and often are set to advantage men when doing reviews. This means that women are rarely going to be seen as doing an equal or better job as men even if their outputs and productivity are equal or even slightly bias in favor of women.

The only way to even the playing field is seen as removing the ability to discriminate based upon evaluated job performance. The concept of Equal pay for and equal job, not performance is also a platform advanced by Organized labor. Unions have shown studies in total productivity when performance incentives are removed and pay for the position is equalized. Note: Google "total productivity increased when individual performance incentives removed" to find your own reference there are many on both sides I refuse to champion any of them which is what a reference here is perceived to do

The belief is that a similar results would occur should pay be regulated to enforce an equality of pay among the genders. So yes the modern feminist advocates, like Hillary Clinton, oppose those statements.

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    "force equality of reward regardless of contribution" = is there a citation for that in terms of being what Hillary's plan is?
    – user1530
    Nov 1, 2016 at 15:04
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    also a -1 for the whole 'risk takers' spin in the last paragraph. This is just spin. It ignores the few hundred years of culture that has created this division in the first place. To imply there's an assumption of a conspiracy is just loading your answer with spin.
    – user1530
    Nov 1, 2016 at 15:05
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    This answer is not correct because it misrepresents the left's policy goals. "The regulation would call for all of these roles to be paid the same amount." - What specific regulation?
    – Era
    Nov 1, 2016 at 17:24
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    20 comments deleted. Everyone, please keep your tone civil and on-topic. This is not the place for personal attacks.
    – Philipp
    Nov 1, 2016 at 18:12
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    I don't understand the seemingly random pruning of comments as of late. I assume it's not meant to be random, but when long conversations are reduced to a half dozen leftovers, the context is completely lost and, IMHO, does more damage than just deleting the entire lot.
    – user1530
    Nov 2, 2016 at 17:23

Something none of the other answers mentioned. There are a couple of problems in Trump's statement:

  1. It assumes that there are ready and easy comparisons of men and women in similar positions.

  2. It assumes that performance is easy to measure.

While there are undoubtedly jobs where one or both of those hold, there are plenty where they don't. So its easy to say, and on the surface how could one disagree with it, but in practice such a statement is somewhat vacuous.

There really isn't a good answer for this problem. One way is to aggregate a bunch of data about a bunch of jobs and look for trends. I hope I don't have to explain why such an approach is problematic and easily twisted towards the dispositions of the trend identifier. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to perform such analysis, and it may yield answers that are good enough to loosely guide policy. But labor is a complicated subject, and anyone (on either side of the aisle) trying to reduce it to a single sentence is selling something.

  • We study lots of things that don't have trivially good answers. This doesn't invalidate entire fields of study or research toward problems. We're not going to dissolve the Bureau of Labor because statistics is too flawed for you. There have been plenty of rigorous attempts to study the wage gap and answer this very question. "77 cents on the dollar" is a factoid. This roundup washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/04/14/… suggests that there's a ~20% gap, 40% of which is likely discrimination-based.
    – djechlin
    Nov 2, 2016 at 4:47
  • @djechlin no disagreement that it is possible to draw meaningful conclusions from such data (and the conclusions you mention seem reasonable): I'm merely stating that making facile claims is disingenuous and that such analyses are understandably difficult. The Berkeley graduate admission discrimination lawsuit is a good example of why. I'll edit for tone since it sounds like I came across harsher than I meant to. Nov 2, 2016 at 11:11
  • These two points (It assumes that there are ready and easy comparisons of men and women in similar positions. It assumes that performance is easy to measure.) could just as easily be applied to the the problem statement or even the existence of a pay gap to begin with.
    – Mike Vonn
    Nov 2, 2016 at 14:28
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    @Mauser I'm not sure that holds. The pay gap is about an aggregate based on an attribute, but Trump AFAIK was talking about what an actual, specific woman would get paid. And job performance measurement is only an issue if you are using it as an explanation of the gap, it has nothing to do with whether or not it exists. Nov 2, 2016 at 14:36
  • You put that explanation of the gap into his mouth. He did not claim to address the gap. He just said here is my plan for equal pay for women. "You're gonna make the same if you do as good a job."
    – Mike Vonn
    Nov 2, 2016 at 15:30

I think that the quick back-and-forth during the Presidential debate doesn't quite capture the nature of her objection to Trump's position.

In a June 21, 2016 speech in Columbus, Ohio, Clinton more fully articulated her view:

Over the years, [Trump] has said all kinds of things about women in the workforce. He once called pregnant employees, and I quote, “an inconvenience.” He says women will start making equal pay as soon as we do as good a job as men, as if we weren’t already.

I think leaving out that caveat during the debate allowed for misunderstanding.

I think a fair way to characterize the underlying difference is between those (generally on the left) who feel that legislation is necessary to ensure equal pay, and those (generally on the right) who do not.

Note that people who don't believe the pay gap even exists will obviously be in the latter group. Even those who do believe the pay gap exists may still object to legislation to fix it, for any number of reasons.

Here's an example of the kind of legislation that Clinton says would reduce pay inequality:

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton highlighted one way to help close the wage gap between women and men: make sure women can find out if they are being underpaid.

The law should crack down on employers who intimidate or retaliate against workers for talking about their wages, Clinton said Thursday at a U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce event in San Antonio.

“How do you know you’re not being paid equally if you can’t get information about what your work colleagues are being paid for doing the same job?” she asked.

Trump has made a variety of statements about equal-pay legislation, some of them not entirely consistent with each other, but appears to come down on the side opposing legislation as a fix.

Well, what has happened since the election?

In August 2017, Trump halted an Obama-era Equal Pay rule that would have required companies to report wage information along with sex and age of their employees to the EEOC.

Pamela Coukos, a former Department of Labor official who helped develop the Obama-era rule, argued that employers who are required to be more transparent tend to have smaller pay gaps, pointing to unionized workforces and public-sector employees.

In the federal government, where salary information is public and pay scales are highly structured, the gender pay gap for white-collar workers shrunk from 30 percent in 1992 to 13 percent in 2012, according to a 2014 report.

"What gets measured gets done," Coukos said. "Not having data is a big limitation."

Conservatives and many business associations opposed the plan.

In halting the rule, which was supposed to take effect in March, the Trump administration said it simply wouldn’t have worked.

...Neomi Rao, head of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, explained the decision in a memo, saying the requirements "lack practical utility, are unnecessarily burdensome, and do not adequately address privacy and confidentiality issues."


The controversy over the pay gap reflects both a difference in perception and in values. Trump's statement is widely interpreted as a rejection of government enforcement of equal pay for equal work. Whether or not one favors government involvement usually depends on how one answers these two questions

  • Is the pay gap caused by discrimination?
  • Is fairness in pay more important than the freedom to negotiate salaries without government involvement?

Or to put it another way, is the patient sick and is the cure worse than the disease.

Hillary's answers are "yes the pay gap is caused by discrimination" and "fairness is more important than freedom". Trump's statement seems to imply that his answer to the first question is "no, the pay gap is not caused by discrimination". Support for Hillary's position has been widely reported, particularly by left-leaning sources: http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/ and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/no-the-gender-pay-gap-isnt-a-myth-and-heres-why_us_5703cb8de4b0a06d5806e03f Other sources have disputed this, saying that most of the gap can be explained by differences in career choices such as what career to pursue and how much time to take off, particularly for child-rearing: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/04/02/the-equal-pay-day-factoid-that-women-make-78-cents-for-every-dollar-earned-by-men/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/whats-the-real-gender-pay-gap/2016/04/24/314a90ee-08a1-11e6-bdcb-0133da18418d_story.html

  • Any particular reason for the downvote?
    – Readin
    Nov 14, 2016 at 12:48

The two quotes: "You're gonna make the same if you do as good a job" and "women don't deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men" clearly indicate that the quoted person believes that women generally don't do as good a job as men, and that is the problem with them.

Especially when the person quoted has made it clear repeatedly how offensive a thought it is to him that a woman might dare to compete with him for a job.

If you don't think the two quotes are offensive, then what do you think about "Men are gonna make the same if they do as good a job as women" and "men don't deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as women"?

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    I voted up because reversing the objects in statements is a good test for whether the statement is a problem, and I often try to do that... replacing men for women, black for white, etc. However, I wanted to add a comment that to me, the quotes above seem fine either way. They seem like an obvious truism. Nov 1, 2017 at 19:08
  • I personally don't think that any of these 4 statements is offensive and I'd support all of them. It's no secret that merit plays into your salary, regardless of sex. I'd also caution you not to be too liberal with ascribing intentions to people. Those are difficult to prove.
    – Basti
    Aug 13, 2018 at 9:48

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