NEWS

On Topic: We're past the time we need to walk the walk

Stephen Mally/The Gazette

Beth Townsend (from left), director of Iowa Workforce Development; Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds; Diane Ramsey, CEO of Iowa Women Lead Change; and Suzanne Heckenlaible, vice president of public affairs for Delta Dental, talk about the IWLC’s launch of the EPIC Corporate Challenge — an initiative to boost attraction, retention and promotion of women in Iowa companies — at Geonetric in Cedar Rapids on March 31.
Stephen Mally/The Gazette Beth Townsend (from left), director of Iowa Workforce Development; Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds; Diane Ramsey, CEO of Iowa Women Lead Change; and Suzanne Heckenlaible, vice president of public affairs for Delta Dental, talk about the IWLC’s launch of the EPIC Corporate Challenge — an initiative to boost attraction, retention and promotion of women in Iowa companies — at Geonetric in Cedar Rapids on March 31.

Time’s up: “Mad Men” is off the air, and women long, long ago earned the right to hold their share of offices in the C-suite and to receive pay comparable to what men make.

And yet, here we still are well into the 21st century, waiting, waiting, waiting at the same metaphorical bus stop.

Sorry, does this sound impatient? Well, listen to this, taken from “She Matters,” a 2015 report by Cedar Rapids-based Iowa Women Lead Change:

• Iowa women earn 77 percent of men do, fairly similar to national figures.

• To put a finer point on it, a full-time female worker in this state on average receives $35,106 a year, while a man working full time makes $45,305 annually.

And this just in from PwC: Only one of the 87 CEOs named to the largest U.S. and Canadian public companies in 2015 was a woman.

This comes at a time when women in the workplace as a whole have surpassed their male counterparts in terms of education — and in fact are more than likely to hold an advanced degree, according to “The Gender Wage Gap,” a working paper released in January by Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, Cornell University economics professors.

Moreover, women today are nearly caught up in regard to experience, too. Men on average have a narrow 1.4 years’ lead on women, Blau and Kahn found. In addition, women and men are pretty much on par in holding manager-level positions.

So why hasn’t that pay difference between the genders changed a whole bunch since 1990? One answer is that employers consider work done by women to be of lesser value. So as women start to move into specific fields in greater numbers, the pay goes down.

“Gender bias sneaks into those decisions,” Paula England, a New York University sociology professor who studies gender-gap pay issues by sifting through U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, told the New York Times in March.

“It’s not that women are always picking lesser things in terms of skill and importance,” England said. “It’s just that the employers are deciding to pay it less.”

England isn’t alone in reaching that conclusion. Blau and Kahn back her up in their new paper, writing that “ research based on experimental evidence suggests that discrimination cannot be discounted.”

So the question before the court, your honor, is what do we do about this — “this” being the promoting and paying of everyone fairly?

Tuesday at the DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Cedar Rapids, the not-for-profit Iowa Women Lead Change organization will bring in speakers to address a number of leadership topics, including getting men to “engage” in the discussion in helping women advance professionally.

The Gazette will be one of the corporate sponsors of the event. You received an IWLC-themed supplement in your April 17 Sunday edition, with stories and interviews by Gazette writers Alison Gowans and Chelsea Keenan.

“Until we highlight the differences between how men and women approach leadership opportunities, we can’t move the needle,” IWLC COO Tiffany O’Donnell says in one of those stories. “We need to show male leaders that, in general, we need to ask women, and then support women.”

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Nancy Kasparek, U.S. Bank Cedar Rapids market president, makes the case that, “We can do all the education we want, but we need people at the table who want to change the dynamic.” Women right now, she adds, “are over-mentored and under-sponsored.”

The long-past-due marching orders are clear: Those at the top, female or male, need to make room and start walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

As Spike Lee once said, on a different issue but one that, at its heart, also was about fairness — we need to do the right thing.

• Michael Chevy Castranova is enterprise and Sunday business editor of The Gazette. (319) 398-5873; michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com

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