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We've Still Got a Long Way, Baby

A 50-state analysis recently reminded me that it sucks to be a woman.

At least when it comes to salaries, jobs with any power, political leadership, health insurance and medical access.

Let’s not get bogged down in esoteric debates about wanting it all. Can we talk about just getting a fair shot?

According to “The State of Women in America” by the Center for American Progress, women now make up 47 percent of the U.S. labor force and hold 52 percent of all professional-level jobs. We are increasingly breadwinners for our families – and often the only breadwinners in single-mom households.

Yet we earn only 77 cents for every man’s dollar.

We’re not talking about losing out on a cup of Starbucks every once-in-awhile. Economist Evelyn Murphy puts it in perspective like this: 

Over the course of their working lives, a young woman graduating from high school this year will make $700,000 less than the young man standing in line alongside her receiving his high school diploma. A young woman graduating from college will lose $1.2 million compared to the man getting the same degree at the same time. A woman earning an MBA, law degree or medical degree will make $2 million less. The effects of wage discrimination follow us for a lifetime.

On top of that, only 4.2 percent of us are Fortune 500 CEOs. When it comes to political clout, only 18 percent are members of Congress. 

In terms of living conditions, the ladies of Louisiana, along with a half-dozen other states graded with an “F,” face the grimmest obstacles, but Florida shouldn’t feel smug. Overall, we got a C.

You know what would happen if one of my kids brought home a C on her report card? 

Cell phone use and an extra-curricular activity or two would get restricted so she could focus on trying harder. In other words, there would be consequences. 

So I ask my home state, what are you going to do about fixing the fact that Hispanic women in Florida make only 60 cents for every dollar a white male makes? Or that 30 percent of black women in the Sunshine State live in poverty – the 16th worst in the nation when it comes to women of color in economic distress? 

Why is it that 52 percent of Florida’s population is made up of women, but 61 percent of managerial jobs and a whopping 80 percent of elected offices are held by men? 

About 23 percent of Florida women are uninsured. Even if we have the means to see a gynecologist, there’s only one of those for every 11,824 women in the state. And a full 40 years after the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is a private matter between a woman and her doctor, women in Florida are now required to get medically unnecessary ultrasounds before having the procedure (a law imposed by that male-dominated Legislature mentioned earlier). 

What’s a woman to do? We might not be able to vote for raising the pay of minimum-wage workers (62 percent of whom are woman), but there are ways we can make a difference:

  • Consider casting your vote for a female candidate who represents your interests or, better yet, run for office yourself.
  • Support or join The Women’s Fund, Miami-Dade’s only organization focused on creating equal opportunity, access and influence for women and girls through grant making, research, advocacy and education. 
  • Talk to your employers about more flexibility in work schedules and locations, making your workplace family-friendly for women and men.
  • Look for opportunities to advance into management at work, either through internal training opportunities or pursuit of a higher degree.                                                

Let’s not settle for average when it comes to being female in Florida.