RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

We’re Still Addressing Discrepancies Between Men and Women

Every now and then, I have the pleasure of seeing three women on the TV news debating some subject or another. And, while the subjects debated might be as important as Iran-US nuclear negotiations, kidnapping of girls in Nigeria, or the significance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I usually credit the coincidence of three women on screen to cost-cutting at the network head office. Please, network producers, correct me if I’m wrong!

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women make 78% of the pay that men make. So, on April 14, when we’re all thinking about taxes, one group of women celebrate the day when women as an average have earned the same amount of money as men did as of Dec. 31 in the last year. This “Women’s Equity Day” which is also the birthday of Lilly Ledbetter, more about her in a minute, takes data on the pay gap in all kinds of jobs, from accountancy to hamburger flipping, and probably to commentating. Then, they figure the percentages.

And, even though more education translates to better jobs at all levels, women suffer discrimination, varying from 73% to 79%, no matter what degrees they hold. In Washington DC, where some of my woman-centric news shows are produced, women do the best. Federal jobs are not supposed to discriminate, but D.C. women hold many kinds of jobs. They work as clerks, cleaning ladies and caregivers, and they come up short, earning 91% of what men make. Meaning that men working as clerks, cleaners and caregivers, make more for the same jobs.

The discrepancy varies slightly by state. Louisiana is worse, with women making 61% of men’s pay. In Missouri, women average $34,708 for full-time, year-round work while men average $43,921.

It should be obvious, but it isn’t, that when women earn less it means that children suffer. In 2013, the Pew Center discovered that 40% of households with kids are headed by women as sole breadwinners. But, rather than ramp up the help for women with children, legislatures respond by cutting things like health care help, food stamps and months of unemployment aid.

It should be illegal to starve the future. It is, except when lawmakers pass bills that make it not-illegal. One bright exception: In 2009, President Obama signed The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, his first signing, by the way. The Act amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act by saying that employees can file an equal-pay lawsuit over pay discrimination a full 6 months after discrimination occurs. Ledbetter had discovered her male colleagues made more than she did after she retired from a Goodyear plant as a production supervisor.

Few women can rally the support that Ledbetter got, however. She was supported in her fight by The American Bar Association, the ACLU, the AFL-CIO, National Organization for Women (NOW) and AARP and many others. She was opposed by the US Chamber of Commerce and others.

Most of us won’t have to fight a Supreme Court case, but we can all make out preferences known. A couple of years ago, I went through all the glossy New York-published magazines we subscribed to and purged those written by fewer women. When I say “fewer,” I don’t mean that I had a percent—like, say written by 50% women writers—which would have made sense since women make up 51% of the population. But if I’d done that, I’d have nothing to read. So I canceled the subscriptions of those with the least number of women writers. The best had a full 40% females on the contents page. Note that I didn’t count articles written ABOUT women, which it turns out a lot of men like to write. I was counting articles that PAID women for their work. Full disclosure: I am being paid to write this column. Thanks, Boss.

A couple of weeks ago, I made another survey. This time, the number of female writers had fallen. Do the exercise yourself ... can you find glossy magazines with more than 20% female names on the Table of Contents page? Then think about it ... these are the publishers that present the ideas and the voices that matter, the voices we read.

So I don’t subscribe to too many glossy magazines these days, but I shouldn’t pick on the N.Y. publishers. All over society, women are slipping off the radar. We are 19.4% of the US Congress and the Missouri legislature has 24.8% women, more in the house than in the Senate. In business, women make up 4.6% of the CEO positions in the S&P 500, 19.2% of the board of director seats and 25% of executive managers.

So, really, it shouldn’t be a surprise when laws, work conditions and even pay favor men over women. Not a surprise ... but an outrage.

Margot Ford McMillen farms near Fulton, Mo. Email:

From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2015

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