OPINION: Women deserve equal pay for equal work

Wednesday was Women’s Equality Day.
I celebrated unofficially last week by interviewing several female businesswomen. They were smart, capable and hard-working, and I would put them up against any businessman as far as abilities.
Yet, there are some people living among us who seem to think women can’t hang with men in the business arena.
My friend – a female executive – recently went to an all-female gathering in the region. At the beginning of the event, the women were asked to introduce themselves by name, then add who their husband was and what he does.
To say my friend was upset is an understatement. She’s worked hard to get where she is and to be put in a situation where people, especially women, simply ignored that she might have any contribution to the business world irked her to no end.
Or maybe the women assumed the participants didn’t work, which is an odd assumption in 2009.
According to national advocacy group Women Employed, 63 percent of women work and 54 percent of women work full time.
The fact that I’m a business reporter and not a writer for the so-called women’s section – a common part of newspapers decades ago – shows that we’ve come a long way with job equality.
But we still have more to do in our country. Pay equality is a major area that needs improvement.
According to Women Employed, women earn 77 cents nationally for every dollar earned by men.
The median earnings for full-time male workers in Mississippi in 2006 was $35,617, while it was $25,849 for women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Female high school and college grads earn about 35 percent less than males with the same education, according to Women Employed.
It’s been my experience that women also are more defined by our marital status than men. Look on a speaker’s bio at your next event. Odds are if it’s a female speaker, there will be some reference to her husband or pets.
That has to change in Tupelo if we want to be a “cool community” that attracts younger professionals.
My female friends who have jobs and are not married frequently tell me they get hassled about why they aren’t married. People then try to play matchmaker.
I’ve heard from guys that it happens to them, too, but it’s not the same degree of intensity.
According to Women Employed, 55 percent of working women are married, 25 percent are single and 25 percent are widowed, divorced or separated.
Friendly advice to the community as we grow – you run the risk of irritating young professionals if one of the first things you ask them about is their marital status. If we feel it is important to the discussion, we’ll fill you in about our status.
Instead, stick to professional topics. The female business owners I talked with last week had loads to say about their jobs, their customers and their industry. Sure, their families came up in some of the discussions, but the focus of our discussions was their career.
And in one case, a business owner said her young daughter already is following in her footsteps. The child wants to own a store that sells dolls.
To that I say, “You go, girl!”

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.

Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio