Equal Pay

By Tara Keesling

I find myself in a lot of conversations with people — not to be divisive, but men specifically — who are working at a company with a female CFO, or they have a female manager, or they have a few female friends at this company — and they use these personal examples as a way to validate their worldview that there is not a gender wage gap.

It’s similar to the people of privilege who grow up in white picket fence communities and assume that everyone has a car, everyone’s going to college, everyone can afford new shoes each school year, etc.

Tara Keesling is a graduate of Miami University. She is a Cincinnati-based communications professional, currently serving as Communications Director for Tamaya Dennard’s campaign for Cincinnati City Council.

Yes, there are great companies out there that focus on maintaining a diverse staff. Yes, there are amazing women out there who have each worked her own way up. Yes, for every statistic I give you, you can give me a story of someone you know who beat the odds.

These stories are ignoring hard facts. And in a time where hard facts are ignored over authentic personal narratives, it’s time to bring power to truth and speak these words a little louder.

The Greater Cincinnati Women’s Fund has compiled great research on this issue. The wage gap is real. On average, women only make 80 cents to the dollar over men. And this stat isn’t factoring in race. Women of color make even less than 80 cents to the dollar. This may not seem significant when discussed in terms of dollars and cents, but over the course of a year, that 20 cents amounts to a loss of $745 for the average female every month, or $8,950 in a year. For many, that monthly loss could equate to rent or a mortgage payment. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center estimates a woman would need to work an additional 44 days a year to earn the same amount as her male counterpart.

In Cincinnati, the gender pay gap is even worse. Women working full time in Cincinnati earn an average of $40,497 per year, which is only 78.2% of the $51,765 median income of men in the region. The gender pay gap in Cincinnati also varies by industry. The largest earnings gap between men and women in the metro area can be found in transportation occupations, where women earn only 55 cents for every dollar earned by men.

There are many people, organizations, universities, and businesses studying the reasons behind this wage gap. Many of them have found the existence of the wage gap is caused by the types of jobs women have historically filled. Women tend to enter into careers where the skills are less valued by society and therefore, the annual salaries or hourly rates are lower than in industries dominated by men. Examples of this include teaching, administrative roles, professional caretakers.

Women are also more often slated into traditional gender roles in families with the expectation that when something comes up with a child or elderly relative, like sickness for example, the woman will step into the caretaking role. Think about the link this creates with child poverty.

When we talk about child poverty, what we’re really talking about is family poverty. Two out of every three kids living in poverty in Cincinnati live in a single female-headed household. Knowing this is the first step towards finding a solution. In fact, knowing this makes the solution pretty evident.

As a society, if we raise women up, all women, including women of color who have historically been left behind in feminist movements, we are creating an environment that values women, both in the workplace and at home.

I support Tamaya Dennard for Cincinnati City Council because she acknowledges the link between child poverty and the wage gap. She knows these are big, hairy issues and that the solutions for each just might overlap.