How are Women Doing in North Carolina?

Since the NC Council for Women released their Status of Women in North Carolina report at the beginning of the year,  we have used the data to see where NC women have made gains and where we still need to push for improvements. Women have made progress, but not all women have made similar progress; race, ethnicity, age, immigration status, sexual orientation and geography all play a role in these findings. And women as a whole are still behind in some key areas of economic security and civic participation, as well as still struggling for access to a full range of needed health care services, and the experiences of domestic and sexual violence.  This data helped inform our past session’s legislative agenda, but, unfortunately, we were not able to make as much progress as we would have liked, and we may have taken some policy steps backwards.

And some of the backwards steps of the past legislative session may have contributed to the poor showing for NC in the recent Center for American Progress  “The State of Women in America Report“. NC was not in the bottom ten, but just barely, ranking 39th. Political representation, access to a full range of health care services, and economic status and security all factored into the overall rating for NC. One of the issues for women in NC, and across the country, is Pay Equity – receiving the same pay as a male worker in the same job. Although it has improved, this is something that has always been a struggle for women working outside the home. NC’s rate – women here make on average 82 cents for every dollar made by men – is higher than the national rate of 77 cents. But there is still room for improvement, and that average number doesn’t tell the whole story; the wage gap for women of color is even larger, widening to 62 cents/dollar for African-American women and 49 cents/dollar for Latina women.

AAUW has done much research on this issue, and even when it has been as close an “apples to apples” comparison of jobs that it can be – comparing jobs that require the same skill set, education, qualifications, seniority, etc, – there is still a persistent wage gap – about 6.5% in NC. And researchers haven’t been able to figure out why that exists, leaving the possibility that it may just be due to gender discrimination (conscious or not). While 6.5% may not sound like much, that adds up; it can be a year’s worth of groceries, and over a lifetime, that can add up to a million dollars (a nice retirement). With over 40% of NC women being the primary breadwinners for their family, we can’t ignore this continued shortchanging of women.  We all can agree that all workers, no matter who they are, should be compensated on their skills and ability to do the job. The Equal Pay Act that was introduced this past session went nowhere, but we will continue our advocacy on this issue. The women of North Carolina deserve it.

Watch Tara Romano, President of NC Women United, discuss pay equity and the latest report on the status of NC women here.