Florida higher-ed official apologizes after saying "women's genetics" are to blame for wage gap

Florida higher-ed official apologizes after saying "women's genetics" are to blame for wage gap
Clarissa Horsfall holds a sign reading, 'Equal Pay,' as she joins with others during 'A Day Without A Woman' demonstration.
Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Clarissa Horsfall holds a sign reading, 'Equal Pay,' as she joins with others during 'A Day Without A Woman' demonstration.
Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A State University System of Florida board member found himself in hot water this week when he took his best guess at the root cause of the gender wage gap — and it wasn't great.

According to Politico, the remarks, made by board member Ed Morton, took place at a Tuesday meeting where the university system's board of governors discussed ways to close the wage gap for students graduating from the state's schools. Morton said:

"Something that we’re doing in Naples [with] some of our high school students, we’re actually talking about incorporating negotiating and negotiating skill into curriculum so that the women are given — maybe some of it is genetic, I don’t know, I’m not smart enough to know the difference — but I do know that negotiating skills can be something that can be honed, and they can improve."

"Perhaps we can address that in all of our various [curricula] through the introduction of negotiating skill, and maybe that would have a bearing on these things," he added.

The Florida board of governors has not yet responded to Mic's request for comment.

A woman pushes a stroller past a Philadelphia restaurant shuttered in solidarity with "A Day Without a Woman."
Source: Matt Rourke/AP

Morton apologized for his blunder soon after the board meeting, according to the Washington Post. “I chose my words poorly," he said. "My belief is that women and men should be valued equally in the workplace."

But in truth, Morton's colleagues' stabs at what's behind that pesky gender wage gap weren't much better.

The board of governors vice chair, Norman Tripp, wondered whether women were simply choosing lower-paying jobs after graduation.

"Are women going into education more?” Tripp asked. "Are those salaries naturally lower than in other areas? … I would just suspect that that might be part of the equation, but we can’t really tell."

For what it's worth, the gender wage gap is a fairly consistent problem across professions, with even female doctors earning surprisingly less than their male colleagues. "Education, success and occupational prestige are not enough to protect women from the gender wage gap," the Center for American Progress wrote in a 2013 report on the issue.

Morton and Tripp might want to brush up on their research before the board's next meeting.