In the response to March 20 Dispatch article, Income Inequality: Despite thriving economy, many in Central Ohio struggle in low-wage jobs:
Since 2008, I’ve been on the forefront of gender-based research as the President and CEO of The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, a public foundation working to create gender equality and influence. I echo that economic inequality is a problem and add that economic disparities greatly impact women in our community. Gender impacts our economy, and the economy impacts us based on our gender. While it’s hard to say which comes first, we know: gender powerfully affects experience and opportunity.
Looking at topics like economic self-sufficiency, leadership, and lifeskills through a gender lens, we use the data to create shifts in social change. We apply a gender lens, simply by asking the question: Does the issue affect women and girls differently? And if so, how? By asking this question to understand the problem, you may therein find a solution that benefits women and girls, but ultimately an entire community. Numerous studies show that when we invest in women, we see our communities thrive. A thriving community will only occur once women are economically secure.
For example, our most recent study, The Pervasive Power of Gender Norms, examined the social norm effect on gender. These gender norms contribute to economic, educational, and leadership disparity among women and girls on an individual and institutional level.
The power of gender norms plays out in economic opportunity. In the midst of every city and town in the United States there is shared proclamation of poverty as a critical and urgent matter. When applying a gender lens, we learn that one in three women are not economically secure, over two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women, 51 percent of the workforce is women, and the majority of single heads of households with children are women. These are undisputed data points.
Further, in 2014, The Women’s Fund commissioned research around economic security, resulting in the Womenomics report. The research shows that 1 in 4 central Ohio women are not economically secure. We can certainly add to this list of examples the wage gap. Let’s be clear that when we talk about wage gap of around 78 cents a woman makes to a man’s dollar, we are talking about an average. For women of color we learn that African American and Latina women earn 65 cents and 54 cents respectively.
From my experience, which let me share is from the perspective of a middle class, 40-something year old, educated, white woman, with a son and a daughter, living in a suburb a Columbus, Ohio, my personal experience does not reflect the data. Still, it has become clear that in order to change the realities women face across the country, our mindset must change, our social norms and beliefs about women, and girls, must change.
Businesses need to offer a livable wage and family-friendly workplace policies. Policy efforts at the state and local level can support living wages. This week’s City of Columbus Paid Family Leave policy announcement reinforces this, offering four weeks paid leave for all city employees and sick family member leave at 70% of normal pay. State and local government can also raise awareness while waiting for the federal government to take action on the Lilly Ledbetter Act and Paycheck Fairness Act.
The week of April 3rd, anyone can participate in #WageWeek to change the game, raise awareness, and create a dialogue around the gender pay gap.
We can be part of the solution. We can change the game when it comes to poverty in our city. And yet we will only do so once we understand, accepts and take responsibility that women’s economic security benefits the majority.
Nichole E. Dunn
President & CEO
The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio