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Women’s Issues Get Airing at Forum

Diane Polangin’s red purse is not a bold fashion statement, but a reminder that women are always “in the red.”

While women have seen changes since the women’s rights movement began with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, their paychecks have not caught up to men, said Polangin, who was one of six panelists at a forum June 16. Organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, the 1848 convention called for women’s equality, including the right to vote as American citizens. The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote in 1920.

U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md., 5th), the Fifth District Women’s Network Advisory Committee and other women’s organizations hosted the forum at the Colony South Hotel in Clinton to find an economic agenda that works for women.

In his opening remarks, Hoyer said women make up 47 percent of the workforce, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Hoyer is a father of three daughters, two granddaughters, one great-granddaughter and a second great-granddaughter on the way. He and his wife Judy were married for 37 years before she died in 1997.

“So, I am very focused in my family on women,” Hoyer said. Although women earn on average 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, for many American families “women’s incomes are crucial to making ends meet,” Hoyer said, and “the success of our economic recovery is indeed one of the most important issues concerning women in America today.”

Women in Maryland’s 5th District see 90 cents for every dollar a man makes, but Hoyer said regardless of the difference, “we do know without a doubt that women are not being paid on average the same as a man doing exactly the same job.” Hoyer has co-sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act to provide legal remedies for people who have experienced pay discrimination.

Hoyer said women in minimum-wage jobs are struggling because $7.25 an hour is not enough to support themselves, let alone children. If the minimum wage had risen with inflation to have the same purchasing power in 2014 as in 1978, the minimum wage would be $10.77 per hour. This fact, Hoyer said, is why he supports raising the minimum wage in Maryland to $10.10 an hour.

For two of Hoyer’s daughters, child care “was the most significant concern when they had a child.” Hoyer said his late wife, who was a school administrator, focused her career on expanding access to child care, specifically before- and after-school care, because many women do not work 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

“When women succeed, America succeeds,” Hoyer said. His Make It In America plan “is not a women’s agenda. It affects women, but it ought to be America’s agenda.” He encouraged audience members to write down any ideas from the forum they wanted to share with other people in their lives.

Polangin, a member of the Bowie City Council, spoke before the crowd of 48 men and women wearing one shoe.

“I often walk around with one shoe many, many times, and that’s because I can’t afford the other shoe,” Polangin said.

While earning 77 cents for every dollar a man makes — the national average — women lose an average of $434,000 in a 40-year period. At the current rate of change, Polangin said women would catch up to men in pay by 2054. By 2020, 3 million more women will be in the country’s workforce.

While women are a bargain for employers, Polangin said, women do not receive 23 percent off to make up for the 23 cents for every dollar they do not earn compared to men. She asked if it would be acceptable for women to leave work every Thursday at 3 p.m., when 77 percent of the work week is done, or stop working each year on Oct. 9, “having hit the 77 percent mark for the calendar year.”

“Would any of these new policies for women be acceptable in your workplace? I think not,” Polangin said. “They’d probably think you lost 77 percent of your mind. Then, why is it acceptable for women to earn 23 percent less than men? It simply isn’t.”

Polangin encouraged women to stand together and take action to create changes in the gender pay gap for their children and grandchildren.

Lisa Ransom, director of public policy for the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity and a former congressional staff member, also spoke as a panelist. Ransom said preparation is her focus, including career and technical education for women, formerly known as vocational education, an alternative to a college education.

Ransom said the world’s economy has changed the way the world works, and the definition of a postsecondary education has also changed.

“CTE training and certifications are not only critical in closing the gender wage gap,” Ransom said, “they are necessary to ensure economic security for women and economic competitiveness for our nation.”

An individual with a CTE-related associate degree or credentials will earn an average of $4,000 to $19,000 more per year than an individual with a humanities associate degree, according to statistics Ransom cited from a U.S. Department of Education survey.

While CTE jobs grow, Ransom said, the workforce is not growing. By 2020, the country will be short 5 million workers with the necessary post-secondary credentials for CTE-related employment and other fields. Women account for fewer than 1 in every 4 students pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers and 1 in 6 students pursuing manufacturing, agriculture, architecture and construction.

Shayla Adams, 27, spoke about what she said she continues to work on in her life: a balance between work and life.

A graduate of Duke University and a U.S. history teacher at Phelps High School in northeast Washington, D.C., Adams said she became “a better steward of my time” when she mapped out the time she spent on work-related activities and personal activities.

“What this meant was really deciding not to do activities that were time zappers,” Adams said. She determined which activities were in line with her short- and long-term goals, and she decided not to attend any that were not in line with her goals.

Katiana Lambert, president of the Prince George’s County chapter of Mocha Moms, immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti when she was a child. She said she came to the forum to share her challenges and the lessons she has learned from them.

“Every family is unique, and it’s up to you to make what you feel is the best decision for your family,” Lambert said about a woman’s decision to work or be a stay-at-home mother. She suggested that women considering staying at home think about whether it makes sense to still work part time, and she encouraged stay-at-home mothers to maintain professional contacts, remain active with a professional organization and continue to update their skills with training.

Kim Mozingo, president of The Conwell Group, a U.S. Air Force veteran and a mother of four, said she found it difficult to be a stay-at-home mother for 10 years. She said she felt that something was missing.

“And I found what was missing in my life, what had been missing was me,” said Mozingo, who lives in Charlotte Hall. She was doing everything she could to make everyone else happy. Mozingo said women judge other women based upon how balanced their own lives are.

Stacie Burch is assistant director of the Teacher Education and Childcare Institute at Anne Arundel Community College.

She said today’s young professionals are the first generation who were raised in child care, and experts are examining what quality child care is and the effects of being raised in child care.

Child care is the space between the rock and the hard place, Burch said, and children are suffering for it. Child care providers do not make enough to attend college. The importance of early childhood development education is to aid parents and child care providers.

In closing remarks, Hoyer mentioned the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

“What [the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.] did was raise our consciousness of what we were doing,” Hoyer said.