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Board of Governors member in hot water over gender comment

Ed Morton suggested salary gap between men, women due to genetics

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A member of the State University Board of Governors is in hot water after making a comment at a board meeting in which he seemed to suggest differences in starting salaries between men and women may be due to genetics and not culture. The comment spurred a backlash.

Florida’s Board of Governors were told statistics show women graduates make less than their male counterparts a year after leaving school. 

Board member Ed Morton suggested teaching salary negotiating skills for women, but also said the gap may be genetic.

“Maybe some of it's genetic, I don't know," Morton said. "I'm not smart enough to know the difference.”

Morton, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, was quickly condemned by the governor in a statement issued by his press secretary: “As a father of two daughters, the governor absolutely does not agree with this statement.”

Morton has since apologized, issuing a statement but refusing interviews.

He said, in part, “I chose my words poorly. My belief is that women and men should be valued equally in the workplace.”

But the National Organization for Women said the apology doesn't go far enough and is calling for Morton to resign.

NOW said that if Morton does not step down, Scott should remove him from office.

“No one in 2017 should ever be making such a statement, especially someone who's on the Board of Governors," said Florida NOW lobbyist Barbara DeVane.

The controversy comes after legislation failed in the 2017 regular session that attempted to close the wage gap between men and women. Florida is one of 15 states that has not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.

“Every session, we don't even get a hearing, just like this past session," DeVane said. "So for someone in this position to be making such a statement is idiotic and ignorant. Genetics has nothing to do with the difference in salary between a man and a woman. It all has to do with discrimination.”

More women than men graduate from Florida universities. Still, women’s median starting salaries are $5,500 less than men.

Dr. Wayne Hochwarter, a professor of organizational behavior at Florida State University, said the gap is more likely a result of women choosing professions that pay less.

“Whereas you still have a large section of young men who are also in the business school and engineering,” Hockwarter said.

He also said research shows women oftentimes are better prepared and better equipped for situations like negotiating salaries. 

The report presented to the Board of Governors also revealed African-American graduates make $3,500 less than other graduates in their first jobs.

Scott’s press office has not yet issued a statement regarding whether or not the governor would consider removing Morton from office.