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Editor's column: Still doesn’t pay to be a woman

March 3, 2012
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

Here I thought the glass ceiling was shattered a long, long time ago. Maybe I just assumed it was because I'm a man and I don't have to deal with the uphill climb women face to be considered equal to their male counterparts when it comes to getting a job, getting paid, making a good living.

Apparently, there's no need to watch where you step for all the glass shards lying around, at least that's what the Women's Foundation of Minnesota says. It's not broken. Might be cracked, but definitely not broken.

The group released a study this week on the status of women and girls in the state that found that despite new laws that guarantee equal opportunity for all women and men, women and girls in Minnesota are "stalled on the road to equality."

Why should I care? Why should ANY man care?

For starters, if you don't, you're no man. Plus, if you have a daughter or two running around the house, you NEED to care. Chances are, by the time your little girl is welcomed into the working world, things won't have changed all that much.

"Regardless of education, age, or race and ethnicity, the wage gap continues to prevent Minnesota women and their families from receiving their fair share," said Lee Roper-Batker, president and CEO of Women's Foundation of Minnesota.

According to the research, all full-time working women earn less than white men in this state. White, African American and Latina women earn $0.80, $0.64 and $0.56 on the dollar, respectively, compared to white men.

If I was a woman, I'd be nauseous.

The report also finds that for women, a college degree isn't the guarantee it used to be. New female physicians earn $16,000 less than their male counterparts right out of medical school. The average starting salary for female BA holders (class of 2010, nationally) was 17 percent lower than the average starting salary for male BA holders.

And the study shows it's not just money that women find themselves on the short end of the stick on.

Minnesota's female-headed households are more likely than other family configurations to be in poverty. Seventy-four percent of Native American, 54 percent of African American, 49 percent of Latina, and 40 percent of Asian female-headed households fall below the federal poverty line.

Minnesota saw a 27 percent increase in the number of homeless families - mostly led by women - from 2006 to 2009. Sixty-three percent of the state's homeless young adults (18-21) are women; this group saw the largest increase at 57 percent over the same time period.

And then there's the safety issue. Roper-Batker says girls in Minnesota are growing up in a culture that both sexualizes them and normalizes gender-based violence. In other words, oink, oink, men are still pigs. Just ask Danica Patrick, who sounded off recently about media's penchant for using the word "sexy" to describe some female athletes. "I don't quite understand why when you're referring to a girl, a female athlete in particular, that you have to use the word 'sexy,'" she said at NASCAR's Media Day last weekend. "Is there any other word you can use to describe me?"

That's a guy thing that probably will never go away, Danica. Men aren't going to change. Many don't care how much a woman makes, or how much success they have; most men - whether they're in the media or not - will always think in the back of their minds they're the dominant sex, and they will never be able to get around your physical features enough to focus on or appreciate your success.

Especially if you're wearing lip gloss.

Remember, men DO think about sex like, what, 76 times a day or something? We're either thinking about sex or prime rib. But in defense of all straight men out there, Danica, perhaps it would help your cause if you didn't walk around in a two-piece in TV and online spots to promote your sponsor.

Just sayin'.

Somehow, there are still men out there who believe a woman's place is either in the kitchen or on the cover of Sports Illustrated every now and again, so the question for all you women and girls out there is how can you change this. My answer: Try not worry about it. As bleak as all these numbers appear, all you can do is be the best you you can be. Get the best education you can, land the best job you can, and work your tail off when you get it so you can buck the wage-earning trend that has always favored your male counterparts. I write that knowing it may fall on deaf ears, or blind eyes as it were, but that's what I'll be telling my daughter as she gets older. And I WANT her to see these statistics, if for no other reason than to be motivated by them. I want her to enter the workforce with a chip on her shoulder the size of a watermelon. I want her to be prepared for all the sexism that is sure to still be alive and well 10 years from now.

Eventually, my little girl will learn that our society treats women differently than men. Maybe telling her not to worry about it is the easy way out for me, but as strongly as I believe that the men-are-better-than-women thing will never go away, there's no denying we live in a different world than we did 50 years ago. We have women in Congress, women competing against the guys on the race track and playing professional sports, female governors, and by the time my daughter has a family of her own, we'll probably have a female in the White House - sitting BEHIND the big desk, not standing to the side of it.

It's hard to believe women still have a long journey ahead to achieve equality in this world, and, personally, I'm not so sure they'll ever get there. Maybe that will change when my daughter gets behind that desk.



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