By Pat Yosha, NH Women’s Foundation Leader’s Network Member
Here is a simple truth: the pay gap, the difference between what men and women are paid in the U.S., is real. Equal Pay Day marks the day this year when women’s pay catches up with what men were paid last year! In 2016, Equal Pay Day falls on April 12. To symbolize this continuing pay inequity, women wear red – to show the urgency of developing a solution to this persistent issue.
Women working full time in this country are typically paid just 79 percent of what men are paid. And though there have been gradual improvements in narrowing the gap (it was 59 percent in 1974), progress has slowed in recent years. Why, we continue to ask, is that the case?
Let’s look at what research shows: How does the education of a worker determine pay scales, for instance? One study shows that when males and females have equal college graduation backgrounds, one year after graduation males earn 7 percent more than females. Among full-time workers 10 years after college graduation, there is a 12 percent unexplained difference.For men and women with a high school diploma, the gap is 23%; for those with less than a high school diploma, the difference is 20%. In other words, the gender pay gap is larger at higher levels of education!
Becoming a parent has affected women’s earnings; a “motherhood penalty” not only has an impact on a woman’s income because of time off for having a baby, but there is documentation that shows employers are less likely to hire mothers compared to childless women, or mothers are offered lower salaries than other women. One study shows that many fathers actually receive a wage premium if they have children!
Pay gaps exist in nearly every occupational field, but jobs traditionally considered male fields, such as computer programming, aerospace engineering and firefighting pay more than fields dominated by women, such as office and administrative support, sales and service occupations. Though there are educational and training efforts to open up all occupations to both genders, old habits die hard. Occupational gender segregation has decreased over the last 40 years, but even when women enter typically “male” jobs such as computer engineering a pay gap persists. And in a once typically “female” occupation, nursing, female nurses earn only 90 percent of male nurses wages!
Race and age are further components of pay inequity, which beg for political solutions. For Hispanic women, earnings are 89% of Hispanic men’s earnings, but are only 54% of white men’s earnings! Within the African American workforce, women earn 90% of men’s earnings, but only 63% of white male earnings.
The gender pay gap grows with age. Full-time workers in the 20-24 age group are paid 92% of what are paid weekly; but workers who are 55-64 years are paid 76% of men’s median earnings. There is hope here that as the younger workers age, the ratio between women’s and men’s wages will continue to shrink.
In New Hampshire, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey of 2014, men’s (full-time, year-round workers), earnings were $55,617, women’s were $42,052, or 76% of men’s. New Hampshire is 40th on the ratio scale. (In New York, women earn 90% of men’s earnings. Our neighbors in Massachusetts earn 82% of men’s earnings.)
As we consider these disappointing figures, it is useful to review what has already been done to confront the pay gap. In 1963, the Equal Pay Act was passed, requiring employers to give employees “equal pay for equal work”. And The Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination in employment hiring, firing, promotion and wages on the basis of numerous characteristics, including sex. In 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act provided additional protection. However, since 2010, the Paycheck Fairness Act has been languishing in Congress. As a result, in 2014, President Obama signed executive orders on equal pay, banning retaliation against workers who talk about their salaries, and to help identify patterns of discrimination and support voluntary compliance.
New Hampshire‘s legislature and governor took steps to remedy pay gap problems. In 2015, an Equal Pay Law which included a non-retaliation clause, was passed. Legislators here apparently understand that pay equity is a family issue, not just a women’s issue. But at both the state and federal level, it has been clear all along that laws and regulations are needed; pressure on employers or the hope for voluntarily ensuring pay equity for men and women for equal work have not come easily.
Proof of the power of gender differences in pay is the recent action by the U.S. women’s national soccer team. The team filed a gender discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requesting an investigation of the habit of paying men’s national teams more than women. The motive for the suit, said the women leading the investigation request, was “equality” as well as “monetary gain”. “Respect” is what we want, they added. When we wear red on April 12th, that is what we are calling attention to: our society succeeds economically and ethically when we have equality and respect.
So we celebrate Equal Pay Day, but with the long-range desire to be able to eliminate the day because we have finally reached equity.
(Sources for the figures included here come from: “The Simple Truth about the Pay Gap”, AAUW publication Spring 2016; and National Committee on Pay Equity website.)
I recently had the privilege of attending a UNH Social Entrepreneurs panel held by the Carsey School for Public Policy. As a former Carsey Social Innovation intern the work that I did through Carsey is responsible for teaching me about social change. In a lot of ways my Social Innovation internship has also and has drawn me to my current position as administrator of the NH Women’s Foundation.
Attending this event allowed me to meet some amazing leaders and better understand how the work that we do, as a nonprofits fits into the greater context of social impact. This panel highlighted the work of social entrepreneurs in the greater Boston area. All three of the organizations, Y2Y, the College for Social Innovation and Strong Women Strong Girls shared their stories of the unique need and their solution for a positive impact on their respective communities. Each organization had a mission focused on the theme of social innovation and how to use business solutions to address social and environmental issues.
Y2Y Founder Sam Greenberg is a recent Harvard undergraduate and founder of a homeless shelter for young adults’ ages 18 – 24 in Cambridge. At Y2Y, volunteer students from Harvard help provide a path that aid in progressing Y2Y residents out of homelessness. His inspiration was based on seeing the need, first-hand. Greenberg worked with community members to design a homeless shelter to showcase the unique talents of many and find a collaborative solution to improve Harvard Square. In order to put together the resources for a homeless shelter, it meant capturing the attention of local business owners and making it a collaborative effort. By doing this, Y2Y not only received donations for local businesses but they built relationships that have contributed to sustaining their social efforts long-term.
The College for Social Innovation, co-founder Lisa Jackson helped to create an organization which designs hands-on curriculum for students. The College is able to provide experiences that allow students to spend a semester working in the Boston for a social enterprise that couples learning in the classroom, with learning in a given field. Although their mission is clearly a positive one, what struck me the most is the work they are doing to close the opportunity gap. Their hope is to give these kinds of experiences to a variety of students so that they leave school with internship experience regardless of economic status. Jackson made the point that while so many of these programs are available at elite institutions, we haven’t really done our job until these opportunities are the reality for anyone pursuing a college degree.
Executive Director Siiri Morley of Strong Women Strong Girls (SWSG) discussed the need for mentorship for young women and girls. SWSG pairs young women and girls in under-resourced communities with mentors to help teach them curriculum, as well as help to empower them and give them the tools to evade social pressure. While the need for mentorship is underserved, it was noted that women who had participated in the program as girls came back to be a part of this multigenerational mentoring program and help young women and girls through the same challenges and curriculum that they had learned. Morley stated that the self-esteem of most women peaks right before adolescence and that it’s important to have these kinds of programs to make sure they continue to be able to identify their potential.
The greatest take-away from this event was how each organization really worked to meet individuals where they are at, and provide an outlet for all people to be a part of social change. It’s about embracing people at all levels of involvement. Seeing the work that these organizations are doing to have a positive impact in the lives of other’s was an important reminder that nonprofit work is all about creative solutions to social issues. I learned about this during my own Carsey internship when I had the opportunity to serve as the Communications and Marketing intern at ROC USA in Concord NH. ROC is a nonprofit that works nationally to address issues of home security. Since mobile homeowners typically pay rent to a landlord, they are subject to high rent increases or an entire sale of the land. By helping mobile home owners cooperatively purchase the land underneath their mobile homes they are able to provide loans that allow communities to have home security and prosper.
I’ve always been inspired by the work that ROC USA does and it helped me realize how important it is to transform the lives of people and really focus on meeting the need, which is what the NH Women’s Foundation is doing with its Family-Friendly workplace initiatives and its grant making.
When organizations like the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation offer opportunities to host interns, we give others another avenue to engage with the issues that we work on and the policies that we address, through a more hands-on learning experience that drives real social change.
Nyomi Guzman is the Administrator at the NH Women’s Foundation and is a recent graduate from the University of New Hampshire in Durham. She completed a double major in Communication and Women Studies, with minors in Queer Studies and Race & Ethnic Studies. Ms. Guzman spent a year researching interracial couples in film and the progression of racial acceptance in America over a twenty year time frame. She has also worked as a Carsey Social Innovation intern in the marketing department at ROC USA, which helps manufactured home community residents address issues of home security, and as a Marketing and Media consultant for the Office of Inclusive Excellence in Durham. Ms. Guzman has been a New Hampshire resident her whole life, growing up in Amherst, NH.
The New Hampshire Women’s Foundation is a member of the legislative Task Force on Work and Family, whose purpose is to identify the multiple barriers that keep New Hampshire workers from achieving economic security and maximizing their contributions to the state’s economy as well as attending to family responsibilities.
This year we were part of an effort to secure a grant from the US Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, which recently announced $1.55 million in grants to eight states and localities to study the feasibility of developing and expanding statewide paid family and medical leave programs. The NH Women’s Foundation will participate in a sizeable grant received by the NH Department of Employment Securities. The objective of the proposal is to assess the costs and benefits of various paid family leave insurance programs in NH in order to consider creative state-specific approaches to paid leave, how to maximize the effectiveness of the program, and to broaden our understanding of the different patterns of leave taking for men and women. The NH Women’s Foundation will assist in disseminating the research findings by organizing regional meetings to inform interested stakeholders and legislators about the various potential paid family leave scenarios. While millions of Americans have to juggle both work and care-giving in their families, only 12% of private-sector workers are granted paid family leave by their employers. For the rest, the lack can be devastating. Employed parents with low wages, part-time workers, those in small firms, and mothers are themost vulnerable. Data shows that between 10% and 30% of New Hampshire
employers offered paid family leave to their employees in 2011, depending on the size of the business.
The Department of Labor said the following in their press release for the grant: “The United States is one of the few countries on Earth without national paid leave. Fortunately, we have seen remarkable progress outside of Washington, where innovative state and local officials are designing paid-leave policies that work for their citizens. These studies will help further our understanding of the issue and design programs that work for our economy. We must expand paid family and medical leave, for the good of our families and the strength of our economy.”
As we join together to fight for equality, opportunity, and recognition for women, the NH Women’s Foundation believes that encouraging businesses to engage in family-friendly practices is essential to overcoming gender-based stigmas and outdated traditions. Over the next two years we will direct research, education, philanthropy, and advocacy resources to increase the number of family-friendly workplaces, and to ensure that women of all generations have an equal voice, equal rights, and equal opportunities at work.One of the ways we aspire to lead a statewide conversation on this issue is through our events and outreach. This fall we hosted the two-day All In NH Tour with Josh Levs, and we will feature MomsRising CEO, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, at our Changing Workplaces luncheon in November.
The NH Women’s Foundation shared our initial research on paid sick days and paid family leave in our Spring and Summer issues of Gender Matters. Recently, we created a survey which was disseminated with the help of a dozen partners to learn how people define family friendly, how important people think it is, and people’s experiences with family-friendly workplaces here
in New Hampshire. We look forward to analyzing the results and sharing our findings with the public. The NH Women’s Foundation will conduct multiple Listening Sessions across the state to better understand the nuances of this issue and how the views of large businesses, small businesses and employees differ. We will follow up with the results of these sessions. Please let us know if you are interested in participating! In the coming months, our supporters can expect more roundtables co-hosted by family-friendly businesses to continue the conversation with other businesses that may be interested in adopting these
NH Women’s Foundation believes this issue is of great importance across party lines, to both women and men, and throughout our economy. Family-friendly practices benefit employees and their families, employers and their bottom line, and contribute to a stronger community. We believe it is important to the Granite State to further the discussion, and we hope you are ready
to join the conversation.
The NH Women’s Foundation has had a very successful year, presenting educational events and issue roundtables, and focusing on our policy priority – family-friendly workplaces. We are a small organization of only two and a half staff members, but with the help of an active board we’ve made impressive strides through collaboration. Because of our partnerships with other organizations, we are able to leverage our resources and increase our reach and our effectiveness.
“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” —H.E. Luccock
A great example of this collaboration is our decade-long partnership with the NH Charitable Foundation and the Granite United Way as co-presenters of the annual Women Building Community luncheon, and we look forward to seeing you there on November 19. Earlier this year we hosted a roundtable with Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards and other New Hampshire funders to discuss family planning and how it intersects with the mission work of the attending organizations. The NH Women’s Foundation also hosted Senator Shaheen and area businesses for a conversation about legislation she co-sponsored with Senator Ayotte protecting pregnant workers and offering them reasonable accommodation. We organized the successful All In NH Tour with journalist, author and paid leave activist Josh Levs, who participated in a dialogue with the Entrepreneurs Foundations of NH. We also coordinated events with the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, the NH Institute of Politics, and We the People to share Levs’ research and ideas for implementing more family-friendly workplace policies.
Our collaboration with the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, which includes a mix of business, labor, and nonprofits dedicated to workplace equality, will be ongoing. Our conversation about gender equality is cultural as well. We partnered with The Music Hall of Portsmouth for a presentation by Jill Lepore, author of The Secret Life of Wonder Woman, and a showing of She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry. We supported the NH Women’s Heritage Trail’s announcement of the 27 notable Granite State women who will be honored with site markers. We are profoundly grateful for all of our partners and the symphony we create together. Our reach and impact has been considerable thanks to our association with so many organizations who show deep commitment to New Hampshire women and families.