Cover Story: Just the Facts

Ohio Women Get 69 Cents, Men Get $1

Jun 3, 1999 at 2:06 pm

It's a sad statement about women's progress toward equality. During the last century, the recognition of women as having roles that reach far beyond motherhood has brought new freedom, including the right to vote. An increasing number of women are pursuing higher education and climbing the ranks in the workplace.

Logically, it would follow that women have become men's equals. But they haven't. At least, not in Ohio.

And those who have been studying the matter say not to look for any quick fixes as the new millennium is ushered in.

"I think things are going to get worse before they get better," says Lea Webb, assistant to the women's studies director at the University of Cincinnati, which participated in a 1998 study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington, D.C.

The study measured the status of women across the nation. Ohio women ranked 35th in the area of equality in employment and earnings.

Making that matter more dismal, Webb says is that many women still don't realize that perhaps they are making less or that there is anything they can do about it like joining unions and supporting equal opportunity laws.

"We were really shocked by our ranking," she says.

Heidi Hartmann, UC women's studies director, says, "When all the figures were in, it was the situation in Ohio that surprised me the most."

Nestled in the heart of the Midwest, buffered from the progress of larger cities, Ohio's women are sheltered from the advances women have made elsewhere and are lagging in many areas of equality.

Women in America average 72 cents for every dollar men earn. For women in Ohio, that's 69 cents on the dollar.

Ohio is less diverse than most states in the nation. Minorities comprise only 14 percent of the population statewide as compared to 27 percent in the United States as a whole.

Translated into dollars, this means race discrimination is not lowering the pay rate of women in Ohio as much as in other states. Also reflected in these figures is a decrease in men's wages since the 1980s. According to the report, the average yearly income of women in Ohio is $24,700, for men, $35,700, with women falling slightly below the national average, men slightly above.

The report found that half of Ohio women's jobs are in the lower-wage areas of technical, sales or administrative support. Even in higher-wage jobs such as managers and professionals, women make less than men do. In 1995, women managers made 68 percent of their male counterparts' salaries.

"We found a real correlation between higher education and the presence of women in management," Webb says.

In education, specifically women over 25 with at least four or more years of college, Ohio ranked 43rd with about 18 percent of women with four years of college.

Education is but one of the spokes contributing to the cycle of inequality.

Examples of inequality are not hard to find in Cincinnati. Statistician Robert Johnson says women at UC, one of the city's largest employers, have taken the brunt of their sex.

Of the 334 full-time women faculty, at least half are paid less than their male counterparts, he says. In 1995, the U.S. Department of Labor demanded that UC correct its large-scale gender discrimination in pay.

Since then, one female employee has filed a lawsuit, and the court will decide on June 4 whether all female UC employees can be included.

The ability for women to achieve equality is many-layered from finishing college to finding child care.

In the past 30 years, women's participation in the labor force has increased from about 39 to 60 percent with mothers as the fastest-growing group in the U.S. labor market.

But, Ohio has a lower percentage of working moms than the nation as a whole, about 67 percent of mothers with children under age 18 are working. Mothers are more likely to be part-time workers than full-time in Ohio, possibly because of the lack of affordable, quality child care.

Depending on income level, child care accounts for 19 to 30 percent of a woman's income with those making more, paying more.

"I don't think we're seeing any university in Ohio committed to providing child care for their students," Webb says.

And without child care, it's almost impossible for a women to go to school or to work at a low-paying job.

Some women bring this all back to the most basic of rights, their reproductive rights.

Ohio women rate worst against the other states in this area, 45th in the nation. As defined by the study, these rights include access to abortion, treatments for infertility, health insurance plans that cover contraceptives and gay and lesbian adoption.

Ohio's rating is lowered by such abortion policies as government-mandated waiting periods, parental consent laws, the lack of funding in cases of rape, incest or threat to the mother's health as well as inaccessibility to abortion. Only 10 percent of Ohio's counties have an abortion provider.

"In Cincinnati we tend to forget there are a lot more rural areas that are included in the statistics," Webb says.

Issues of women's reproductive rights are closely linked to politics. And while they ranked worst in the former, they ranked best in the latter. Best still being average.

In political participation and representation, Ohio was 28th. Ohio has a female lieutenant governor, attorney general and speaker of the house, but of Ohio's 19 representatives, only two are women and neither senate member is female. Still, studies show support for female candidates is increasing among male and female voters.

Women have been the U.S. voting majority since 1964, and women register and vote in higher numbers than men.

Still, 24 million women in the United States are not registered to vote — a million in Ohio. So, if women have held the voting majority for so long, why haven't they done more for themselves? As we all know, politics are closely linked to money.

"Women have a lot less economic power," Webb says is the main reason why women have not been able to put their vote together for equality. "The Ohio legislature is very punitive toward women and their rhetoric on women's issues is very 1950s."

Webb says that some women don't vote on women's issues because the language used in them makes them seem threatening.

But the cycle is complex and without knowing all the factors for inequality, it's hard to stop.

"I do think there is a very meaningful and strong resistance against the inequalities," Webb says.

The mainstream media, she says, is no friend to women.

"Women in Cincinnati need to realize that the two daily papers have very conservative people on their editorial boards and that affects everything in their papers," Webb says.

She urges women to use alternative media and the Internet as their daily news source.

Jealous, Insecure Women Part of the Problem?

The cause of persistent gender inequities in the workplace is poorly understood. It is attributed to anything from the misogynist boss who doesn't believe a woman can do the work of a man, to the "testosterone," insecure or jealous woman who tries to keep her female competition down.

Polly Hager of Colerain Township, a single mother of two who answered CityBeat's survey, says she found herself a victim of a female boss.

"I was working at the world's second-largest insurance brokerage firm, and I had this horrible woman boss," Hager says, recalling how the boss liked to make her appear inept in front of other employees.

The harder Hager worked, the meaner she says her boss became.

"She had hurt my reputation so bad, there was no way I would ever succeed in the company," Hager says.

So when she had a baby, she didn't want to waste any more time there. Hager decided to abandon her career, and a friend started her in a house-cleaning business.

Hager now is self-employed, working her own hours and home to see her children before and after school. She's thankful that she doesn't have to deal with a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. day-care routine anymore, too.

"Rich people can afford someone good," she says. "But if you're not rich, you can't."

Hager says she still isn't sure why her boss treated her the way she did.

"I think it might have been a personality flaw," Hager says. "And she probably had a self-esteem problem."