Local women’s group talks pay equality
By Bryce Kelly, Mt. Pleasant News
It is a topic that has long been debated nationwide, and Thursday afternoon the local Mt. Pleasant chapter of Business and Professional Women (BPW) made gender pay gap a main topic of discussion during their regular business meeting.
Leading the evening’s discussion on the topic was Mt. Pleasant BPW group president, Deb Bagby. The group consists of roughly 20 women of various ages – some currently working and others retired.
“The discussion and the fight for equal pay for both men and women has been going on for a long time,” said Bagby. “It’s something that has been in the news a lot more recently, and many women’s groups have made the pay gap a large part of their platform, which is why I thought it fitting to talk about.”
The gender pay gap has recently been the center of rather heated debates among groups who argue on both sides of the issue. Bagby, who presented information during her presentation that argues the absolute existence of the gender pay gap in America, said that the issue does in fact spread to countries outside of the U.S.
“Women are almost half of the workforce and are the sole breadwinners for half of the American families with kids, and still we are a lot less,” said Bagby, citing various reports and news columns. “Equal pay would cut poverty in half and would add $482 billion to the economy.”
Causes of the pay gap, Bagby argued, are many. Among the cited causes Bagby referred to during her presentation included:
• Men represent a larger percentage of high wage occupations than women do.
• Women are not as equally represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields as men, which are known to have on average higher overall earnings.
• Women earn less on average if they leave the workforce for a time to raise their children and then return to a career than men or women who stay in the workforce consistently until retirement.
• The rate of women in jobs that are considered “high-risk” is considerably lower than men, which on average pay more than lower-risk jobs.
Much of Bagby’s talking points greatly match those of hundreds of women who have launched national campaigns to better equalize pay for work in America between men and women. She also argued that women sometimes face discrimination during the job hiring process simply due to their gender, despite laws that are supposed to protect against such actions.
There are, however, both men and women across the U.S. who have argued against many of these points.
According to a widely cited report from Jeff Guo, of The Washington Post, since the 1980s, women have graduated from college at higher rates than men, and women hold 58 percent of graduate school degrees. CBS News also reports that women tend to value flexibility in their careers, while men statistically show value in upward mobility. The same study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor showed men work longer hours than women on average.
Women also tend to gravitate to college majors that lead to lower-paying careers, according to a Georgetown University study.
While Bagby and others within the Mt. Pleasant BPW agreed that both wage earnings and overall equality in the workforce has improved for women, particularly since the passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, all agreed that more could be done.
“I think the more women empower themselves and negotiate for themselves, the better off working women will be,” said BPW member Elise Klopfenstein, who is also currently working full-time.
While Klopfenstein did not share her particular views on the matter of pay inequality, she did say it was important that women recognize and stand up for their right to work and their overall value in the workplace. In addition, she stated more women need to be actively speaking to their local legislators about issues facing women in the workplace.
“I think as women we tend to be passive on these types of issues. We don’t want to always stand up for our rights,” added BPW member, Betty Mullen. “I think we are also sometimes guilty of not standing up for each other. As women, we need to come together as one and fight for equality if equality is not there because we are capable and we are worth it.”
Moving forward from Thursday evening’s discussion, the group agreed to be more proactive as an organization about educating others and speaking out in favor of legislation regarding equal pay for men and women.
For more information about the Mt. Pleasant BPW, visit www.facebook.com/MtPleasantBPW.