Income gap between men and women still problematic

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October 26th, 2013

Omaha, NE – According to the 2012 U.S. census, the average full-time working woman in America makes 77 cents when compared to every dollar the average man makes.

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In 1963, the figure was 59 cents to the dollar, so the wage gap has only narrowed by 18 cents over the past 50 years. Nebraska State Senator Amanda McGill recently made stops in Grand Island, Lincoln and Omaha for three town hall style meetings regarding the income gap between men and women. She said part of the problem is that some people don’t view it as a problem.

“I don’t think that enough people even realize that this is still a problem,” McGill said.” To an extent some people don’t care or think ‘oh well women leave the workforce for a while to go have babies, so they shouldn’t be paid more.’ I mean there are some people who believe that is the way it should be in every career and have that stigma floating around with them. Plenty of women work hard and want to stay in their careers and want to be encouraged to stay there. And when you find out you aren’t making as much as you’re other colleagues that can be very discouraging.”

McGill said that in her recent meetings across the state, she has gained a whole new perspective on the issue.

“At my Omaha town hall meeting I met a woman in the financial industry who left one job for another,” McGill said. “And her replacement at her first job was paid $30,000 more than she was. She found out about it and was able to sue the company and get a settlement for it.”

State Senator Amanda McGill represents Nebraska's 26th district. (Photo Courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

State Senator Amanda McGill represents Nebraska’s 26th district. (Photo Courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

McGill said while that was an extreme case the statistics are alarming.

“Looking at the statistics women are making about $9,000 a year less than men are when all other things are being equal,” McGill said.

Professor Samantha Ammons, an assistant professor of Sociology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said women have come a long way since the early twentieth century.

“So they made tremendous gains in education and getting men more involved in house work and child care,” Ammons said. “But we still see a gap in earning despite that.”

Ammons called the problem multi-faceted. She said it is a misnomer that discrimination is the sole concern. She summed up the problem in order of importance.

“I would say it is more the (types of) jobs. Then the kinds of people, what skill set they bring secondly and then lastly discrimination,” Ammons said.

Both Ammons and McGill said a shortage of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics positions has caused at least part of the problem. Ammons said letting women know earlier in life about these jobs could help promote an increase of women in these particular fields.
“It also encourages them to pursue a non-traditional career path that women haven’t traditionally gone into,” Ammons said. “Like law, or medicine or management levels. Kind of knowing those as options through education is a wonderful thing.”

Ammons said discrimination is always a factor. For example, if a woman gets a job and becomes pregnant, Ammons said she could be perceived as having a lack of commitment to her job.

“But it could be things like women taking time to shuttle kids back and forth to doctors’ appointments or maybe they make career moves that are based on their spouses,” Ammons said. “Or they may just be perceived as less committed which could affect how people perceive them.”

Kaye Goetzinger, Principal at Dundee Elementary in Omaha, said one of the most important pieces of career guidance that her teachers and staff pass on to their girls is the idea that they can dream big and do anything they put their minds to. She also said it helps having a strong support system at Dundee.

“I think we’ve got great role models here at school that I think are strong confident women.”

Goetzinger said on the other side of the coin it is not only important to let girls know they can shoot for the stars, but it is also imperative to show the boys that women can possess desirable characteristics too.

“Every year we’ve got a staff versus student basketball game and every year the girl teachers are playing right in there with the guy teachers,” Goetzinger said. I heard a young student say ‘WOW. Ms. Zulkosky is really good and she is really aggressive and I want to be just like that.”

State Senator McGill said these town hall meetings across the state were important to hear the voices of Nebraska women because as she put it, this is a problem that can’t just be legislated away.

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