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Audi debunks its own Super Bowl commercial about gender pay gap

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The USA branch of German luxury car company Audi aired the following commercial during Sunday’s Super Bowl. It tackles the supposed gender pay gap about how women make less than men in the workplace.

In the commercial, a dad is attending his daughter’s soapbox derby race. In a voice over, the dad is worried about what he will have to tell his daughter about her worth compared to that of guys.

“What do I tell my daughter? Do I tell her that her grandpa’s worth more than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom? Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets?”

This voice over occurs as his daughter overcomes every obstacle on the track, including that of every other driver who are all boys (I guess having to race against another girl would have ruined the message). As the race nears the finish line, we see the daughter neck and neck with a car being driven by a boy. The boy’s car pulls even with her car, and then begins to pull ahead. The girl appears to grit her teeth, which makes all the difference as her car suddenly starts pulling ahead and she wins by a full car length.

The commercial ends with the following written words on the screen.

Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work. Progress is for everyone.

The message of the commercial is clear: women should not be valued less than men and that they should receive equal pay for equal work. To break this down into an example, the woman who welds the driver-side doors to the car chassis on the assembly line should be making the exact same pay as the man across from her who welds the passenger-side doors to the car chassis.

Audi tweeted the commercial out back on February 1, five days before it aired during the Super Bowl. Their tweet matches the written word on their commercial: “equal pay for equal work.” So it should come as no surprise that the following question was asked of them.

It’s an honest question. Audi’s tweet says “women are still paid 21% less than men.” It’s only fair that someone asks them if they are part of the problem, reminding them in the process that it is already against the law to pay women less than men.

So how did Audi respond?

Did you catch the qualifier Audi put in their tweet before answering the question? “When we account for all the various factors that go into pay…” That line right there negates the “equal pay for equal work” line of the commercial. Even though Audi continued their response by saying “women at Audi are on par with their male counterparts,” the qualifier makes it clear that the men who work there are making more money than the women who work there. While Audi doesn’t say what percentage less the women who work there are making versus the men who work there, it does call into serious question the entire “women are still paid 21% less than men” line.

This is what the vast majority of republicans and conservatives have been saying all along. We believe that it’s wrong to pay women less than men, and we have no problem with the law that is already on the books that makes it illegal to do so. But we also recognize the fact that you can’t simply add up all of the women’s wages and all the men’s wages and make a comparison that way. You have to take into account things like work experience, the number of years someone has been with the company, the degree of difficulty of a job, and much, much more.

To keep going with the example I used earlier, if the man on the assembly line welding the passenger-side doors on has worked for the company for 15 years versus just five years for the woman welding the driver-side doors on, wouldn’t it make since that he would be paid more? The same holds true in reverse: if the woman has worked for the company for 15 years versus just five years for the man, it would make since that she would be paid more.

Would you not expect the CEO of a company to make more than the secretary? If the CEO was a man and his secretary was a woman, can you really use their differences in pay to say “women are making X% less than men?” The same would be true if the CEO was a woman and her secretary was a man. You can’t compare those salaries because they are very different jobs.

For what Audi wanted to say in the commercial, they did a good job. But their follow-up tweet debunks everything they were trying to say with an acknowledgement that there are a lot of “various factors” that go into determining pay.

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