Posts Tagged ‘pay equity’

Half of Well-Educated Charleston Women Have Experienced Wage Discrimination

September 15, 2011

Wage Gap is the term used to describe the difference between men’s and women’s salaries. Study after study has repeatedly shown that even when the variables that influence salary such as education and experience are controlled, the wage gap persists. In South Carolina, women earn 78 cents for every dollar a man makes (American Community Survey 2009 Women work 16 months to earn what a man makes doing the same job in twelve.

The wage gap is a statistical fact, but we wondered whether local women actually believe that they have been paid less because of their gender. Over 100 women replied to our Center for Women survey. Our survey sample was not scientifically drawn, but it does paint a picture that well-educated, local women have personally experienced pay inequity. The majority of survey respondents had attended college or graduate school and about one-third each were between the ages of 20 to 35, 35 to 50 and over 50.

Out of 106 women, 51% stated that they had been paid less than male colleagues in a similar position even though they could not prove it. When asked to rate their pay inequity situation on a 5-point scale from subtle bias to overt discrimination, the results were spread evenly across the range. About 40% leaned toward describing their situation as subtle bias, 40% leaned toward overt discrimination and 20% were in between.  No less disturbing, 39% believed that they had been skipped over or denied a promotion because they were a woman and 14% held the opinion that they had been let go, fired or severed because of their gender.

When queried as to whether or not they had discussed the situation with their employer, the following verbatim comments characterize their positions, “I’ve spoken to my immediate supervisor, who basically blew me off. I’m afraid to take it higher for fear of losing my job if it appears I’m complaining;” “This is a right to work state and there are too many other people that would take my job and not complain;” “I did [discuss the situation] and have since been treated poorly;” “I could not prove it;” “ I saw [salaries] by accident and didn’t want it to be a problem;” “I need to keep the job, so I keep my mouth shut!” “State budget cuts make it unlikely that the situation could be resolved even if I were to convince them that the pay grade was unfair;” “I don’t want to rock the boat;” “I attempted to discuss and was shot down. Now I’m a trouble maker;” “There was no resolution in my favor. In fact, I was let go;” “Hard to prove and unfavorable outcome feared especially as an African American.”

Why should men care?  

Women’s salaries no longer pay for extras or the nice-to-have of family life. Women’s earnings are essential to supporting families. In married households, women’s income typically accounts for 36% of the total family income and about one-third of employed mothers are the sole breadwinners for the family. (US Senate Joint Economic Committee 2010 Invest in Women, Invest in America: A Comprehensive Review of Women in the US Economy.) Fair pay for women translates to fairness for families and a more economically stable environment for children. I would ask men, “do you believe that your hard-working wife, mother or daughter with equal skills and ability should be paid less than her male peers?” Don’t you want to see her appreciated, paid fairly and not undervalued?

What can be done?

The wage gap is an injustice that deserves attention from the business community and all employers. We should not be afraid to acknowledge its existence and talk about its consequences. When the opportunity presents itself, middle management and executive women should raise the issue within their organizations and press for Human Resource policies and procedures that seek pay equity. Understanding that some pay inequity is due to subtle cultural bias and not in your face gender discrimination, open discussion and dialogue can do much to increase awareness of how widespread the practice really is and how unfair to families it is.

Women on their part can learn to be better salary negotiators. Men are much more likely to negotiate their pay than women. Women are not as comfortable with self-promotion and do not like to be perceived as pushy. Yes, the job market is very tough today and many of us are simply thankful to be working, but fair pay is a goal we should all be working toward.

Ginger Rosenberg is the Marketing Coordinator of the Center for Women. The Center for Women is a local, non-profit organization providing job counseling and job search workshops as well as programs on negotiation skills. Contact the Center for Women at     

C4W Member Profile: Dottie S. Ashley

August 10, 2011

What is your profession? Arts Columnist,  theater and dance critic and  general features writer  for S.C.’s two largest newspapers, The State in Columbia and the Post and Courier in Charleston for a total of 37 years; the the only newspaper writer to win the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award given each year by the S.C. Arts Commission for excellence in supporting and promoting the arts.; also, one of 10 dance critics  throughout the U.S., selected by the United States Information Agency in 1990 for a month-long visit  to Moscow and Tbilisi, in then-Soviet Georgia, to write about the famous Vaganova method of  ballet.  Is  the only dance writer to twice win a Dance Critic Fellowship from the NEA to spend a month,  with 12 other dance writers from the U.S. and Canada, writing about dancers from all over the world who performed at the American Dance Festival at Duke University in the summers of 1985 and 2005.  In 1981, she was one of 10 theater critics from all over the world to win a Critics Institute Fellowship to the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, Conn. where she spent a month critiquing new plays, featuring Broadway actors in the casts.

In September, Dottie will assume her new job as the Arts Columnists and feature writer with The Charleston Mercury newspaper, which is published every other Thursday by the Post and Courier. She will also continue to write for Sandlapper Magazine, based in Columbia, and for other publications.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your career? Outside my career, I enjoy dancing and swimming for exercise; traveling to New York to see Broadway plays with my husband, Dr. Franklin Ashley, a theater professor at the College of Charleston.

How long have you been a member of the Center for Women? I’ve been a Center for Women member for at least six years.

What inspired you to become a member? I joined because I truly believe that women need to ban together to fight for equality and to help not only themselves, but also each other. It’s criminal that in 2011 women still make less money than men for doing the same work or holding the same positions.  Also, at the newspaper, the  top editors are still men, as are most politicians, who make the laws that often greatly affect only the lives, especially the freedom of women.

Another reason my husband Franklin and I were inspired to become  members of the Center for Women was that  weI had the unforgettable pleasure of briefly knowing Executive Director Jennet Robinson Alterman’s parents, Pat and Emmett Robinson. When we moved to Charleston as newly weds in 1966, the Robinsons had been notified by one of their old friends and a frequent actor at the Footlight Players, Dr. Frank Durham, that his protege, whom he had taught in graduate school at USC, Franklin Ashley, then 24, was to be teaching at The Citadel that fall, and was moving to Charleston with his new wife.  I remember that, following the first production that fall, directed by Emmett at the Footlight Players, that afterward, Jennet’s mother, Pat, an accomplished actress and author on her own, sought us out and invited us to an intimate, opening-night gathering at their beautiful home for drinks and a light supper.  They kindly introduced us to several other theater-supporters and actors, some of whom became instant friends of ours.  As Franklin once noted: “Emmett could do it all: write, direct, design sets and costumes and teach. Because of this, and the fact he was such a nice person, made him a never-to-be-replaced contributor to the lasting success of theater in Charleston. ”

What kind of impact has the Center for Women had on you? I have enjoyed meeting interesting people through my membership, and in the future hope to become more active in the organization as my work load will not be as heavy.  Also, my husband, Franklin has been a Center for Women member for several years, as he believes in its goals and also in the equality of women in society.

How has living day-to-day as a woman affected you? Over the decades, I’ve found that women do not assert themselves as strongly as men do. Also they fail to promote their accomplishments to their higher-ups and supervisors, and they are often afraid to ask for raises. However, men often assume its their right to ask for more money because they feel they are honestly worth it. I’ve discovered the hard way, that it’s often a double-edged sword, in that most men, seem to resent assertive women and often feel threatened by them. Also, if a woman makes a mistake, she is often punished for it no matter how excellent she has performed in the past. With men, even if it’s truly a fireable offense, the opposite occurs.

Civil Rights

February 16, 2009

I was asked recently what civil rights issue was a priority. To me it is pay equity for women of all races. In SC today women make 72 cents for every dollar a man in a comparable job makes. That 72 cents represents white women. African American women make even less (65 cents) and Hispanic women even less than African American women.
It is time to close the wage gap once and for all. If we paid women what they were worth it would create more jobs and generate enough tax revenue to fully fund state government services. According to the Darla Mooore School of Business at the University of SC paying women that additional 28 cents would create over 100,000 jobs and generate an additional $1 billion in tax revenues for the state.

We can continue to seek legislation that prohibits pay inequity but until all women have equal rights under the Constitution it is a paper exercise. Let women become full citizens and watch how everyone’s quality of life will improve.

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