Head in Sand Does Not Improve Vision for Women


I am always amazed when I talk with women who seem totally out of touch about the status of women, here in the United States and across the globe. Ignoring the facts doesn’t make them go away, and today seemed like a great day to talk about women and “women’s issues.” I say “women’s issues” because these are not women’s issues, they are everyone’s issues.

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day.  IWD was first celebrated in the US in 1909 to honor the 1908 garment workers strike in New York.  Since then, IWD has been celebrated in many countries around the world with events focused on improving rights, working conditions, and opportunities for women.

The month of March is also Women’s History month —an event that started out as a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah and Rep Barbara Mikulski , Maryland  proclaiming the week beginning March 7, 1982 as Women’s Week. Getting a whole month was a long time in the making. Read about it here

How about that? A whole month recognizing women’s contributions, achievements and spotlighting gender inequality and women’s “issues.”  Aren’t you impressed? I’m not. It’s not that I don’t think it’s great that these events occur. It’s just that a day, a week, a month to honor women’s contributions and shine a light on what women accomplish?  Come on—there’s a lot of work to do. A day, a week, a month to draw attention to what is going on with women in the world is a drop in the bucket.  Check out just 11 facts about women around the world.  

Wage discrepancy is a big item on most women’s issues lists, and it is number one on this one.  These articles in recent Star Tribune articles are a great resource to start taking a hard look at what is going on.

Glass ceiling on female ADs rarely gets broken


Pay falls short for Minnesota women

If you live in the United States, you are better off than most women around the world, but I totally agree with Lois Alter Mark‘s article on the Huffington Post. Let’s Make Today the Last International Women’s Day.  “Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day by banding together to make the day unnecessary. As women, we don’t want special treatment – just equal.”  Get your head out of the sand now. Help another woman today–and every day.

 Actions you can take

Support women in other countries with Kivagive a free $25.00 loan if you are new to Kiva

Educate yourself about the status of women

She Power Blog

Amnesty International

Learning Partnership


Secret Society of Money Part Four

So, you may be wondering, what do the Wal-Mart law suit, pay equity and the White House Report on Women have to do with The Handmaid’s Tale? The basic plot of Atwood’s book is that a terrorist group takes over the US government. One of the first things this new government does is to electronically remove all assets from women. Overnight, women have no money, no assets, no way to make money—even their names are removed from them. They are renamed with a single name and geographically relocated.

Imagine a world in which you, because you are a woman, could own nothing—not even the clothes on your back. Stripped of your identity, your life role assigned by those in power, no way out because everything about you is cloaked in secrecy. Displaced, new name—who could find you? Communication between women and the rest of the world is severely limited. Your status in the world is determined by men and biology, based on whether or not your ovaries can produce viable eggs.

Atwood’s view of this future dystopia is extreme, that’s for sure, she pushes what is happening to women in the world today to a fictional future reality. But the basis for her story is real—gender bias is ingrained in our culture and has created a lesser role for women. While no terrorist group has made women penniless, women, especially single moms, are more likely to be poor than men. Even the Supreme Court, as noted earlier, seems to think that Wal-Mart’s practice of paying women less is okay because it is less than the national average.

Even though American women and girls have made substantial progress in educational attainment and achievement in the last few decades, they are still underrepresented at higher pay levels despite their education.  Climbing the ladder to board rooms is still out of the reach of most women–only 3% of Fortune  500 CEO’s are women—15 women. Those women who do make it into the boardroom are still paid less than men.

So what do you think about Atwood, pay equity, Wal-Mart and the White House Report?

Secret Society of Money Part Three

Speaking of pay equity, things do change, but only a little. The good news–President Obama signed an Executive Order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls in March of 2009. “The purpose of this Council is to ensure that American women and girls are treated fairly in all matters of public policy,” said President Obama. “My Administration has already made important progress toward that goal. I am proud that the first bill I signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act…”  Notice this article from CNN also says that Ledbetter would never have known of the pay disparity if someone hadn’t slipped a note into her mailbox showing her salary compared to three men who were doing the same work.

In March of 2011, in support of the Council on Women and Girls, the White House released the first major federal study on the economic status of women since 1963—long before many of you were even born. Interestingly enough, 1963 is the same year the Equal Pay Act was signed.

The bad news—one of the results of the study was that women still earn less than men do. Women earned 59% of the wages men earned in 1963; in 2011 they earned 75% of men’s wages—an improvement of about half a penny per dollar earned every year.  Pay equity was only one of the issues in the report, but it is a telling one. Women have made amazing strides in the workforce, but equal pay isn’t one of them. Here in Minnesota, Republicans have introduced bills that take a step backward in gender equity. HF 7HF 698 and HF 519, all authored by Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, and SF 282, authored by Sen. Michael Jungbauer, R-East Bethel, aim to repeal the Local Government Pay Equity Act. In addition to repealing the local government reporting mechanism, these proposed bills also remove language endorsing gender wage equity from Minnesota statute.

I love what Arvonne Frasier has to say about pay equity. “The age-old beliefs that women’s work is less valuable and that women don’t need money to support families is still alive and well. Women’s pay is generally still not equal to that of men, but groceries cost the same for everyone.”  So what do you think about pay equity–is it possible? Are your wages equal? How do you know?


The Secret Society of Money Part 2

On March 29, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., v. Dukes lawsuit which involves potential certification of a class of as many as 1.5 million female employees from 3,400 Wal-Mart stores across the United States.  The lawsuit alleges that Wal-Mart has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, stating that Wal-Mart discriminates against women in both pay and promotion decisions.  The Court has yet to rule on this case, but the questions posed by the Justices were quite interesting is noting the possible biases of the male judges.

Chief Justice Roberts, for example, asked, “Is it — is it true that Wal-Mart’s pay disparity across the company was less than the national average?” As if that meant Wal-Mart’s pay disparity across the company was okay because it was less than the national average, when in fact by law there shouldn’t a disparity at all. Questions like those posed by Roberts clearly show that gender bias is alive and well—it didn’t take a newspaper headline for me to figure that out, but here are a couple that explain further.

Being passed over for promotion is easy to know about–you applied for a promotion, you didn’t get it and you know who did. A question I have is how did these women know that they were being paid less? Hooray that they did find out, but salary is a one of those Secret Societies of Money items shrouded in secrecy—exactly the way private companies want it. In fact, most companies have rules against discussing  or disclosing your salary with other employees. Usually it says that right in the employee handbook you have to sign off on when you are hired. To find out if the guy who was hired at the same time as you were is being paid more is pretty hard to find out.  

How do you even know what to ask for when you apply for a job? What do you put in the “Desired Salary” blank? Sure, you can look up an approximation on websites like salary.com or monster salary ,  but finding the exact title or name of the position is sometimes difficult.

In public jobs at local, state and federal levels, all salary ranges are public knowledge—you can go it look up. Why don’t all companies do that? Why should it be a secret?  I think that’s a great question, don’t you?


The Secret Society of Money Part One

Four things have been banging around in my head lately: the Wal-Mart law suit, pay equity, the recently released White House report “Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being” and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m not sure how they are all related yet, but I have a sense of déjà vu with a trace of growing outrage. I know it has something to do with the secrecy surrounding money and wages. I’ll let you know tomorrow what comes out of this mental composting.