A new report shows that the status of women falls short
by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, June 28, 2007
Modern-day America seems to be under the impression that equality, in terms of equal pay and treatment for women and minorities, is a reality. Indeed, our country has had 43 years to get it right, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Yet if you’re a woman working in Los Alamos County, you’re likely to be paid 57 cents on the dollar of what the man with a comparable job gets paid in the office next to you. For the whole state, the gap is raised, although far from erased: Women in New Mexico are paid 75 cents on the dollar of what men are paid for comparable jobs—$25,700 a year to $34,200, pegging our state at 24th in the nation for the wage gap. This is all according to a new report by the New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women that looks at women’s equality on a county-by-county basis.
But the numbers don’t stop there. When the factor of race is added to the equation, the situation is even more disturbing: In New Mexico, white women make $29,500 to white men’s $42,000. African-American women earn $24,300 to African-American men’s $32,400. Asian women get $33,100 to Asian men’s $39,800. Native American women take $23,200 to Native American men’s $26,500. And, lastly, Hispanic women garner $22,100 to Hispanic men’s $27,600.
“Businesses need to take a hard look at their own policies,” says Kathi Brown, public relations specialist for the Commission, “and see how they’re compensating women employees as related to men.”
Corporate introspection is one of the reasons the Commission created the report, which was based off a toolkit provided by the national Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “People who want to see New Mexico succeed can use this as a tool,” says Brown. “Now that we know where we are, we can see where we want to be.”
“Where we want to be” includes more than equal pay—it includes seeing women in a higher number of elected political positions (Guadalupe County, for instance, doesn’t have any female politicians), receiving adequate health care (New Mexico has the highest rate in the nation of women without health insurance) and jumping above the poverty line (17.4 percent of women in the state live below the poverty line, compared to 14.3 percent of men).
But not all of the news is bad. New Mexico is above the national average when it comes to women-owned businesses—raking in 42,272 female business owners, up nine percent since 1997. “This is encouraging to hear,” says Brown. “Women are taking more entrepreneurship roles; they have more control over their financial security.”
Brown credits the many women-focused programs in New Mexico for the state’s success in this area, such as WESST Corp, ACCION New Mexico and the Small Business Administration, and says we need more efforts like these to see New Mexico’s position in the nation rise.
“New Mexico is making progress in a lot of areas,” says Brown, “but we’re still low on a lot of lists because other states are making progress as fast or faster. But that’s not to minimize the strides New Mexico has made.”
In order for the status of women to improve in the state, Brown says the issue needs attention from a variety of sources—policymakers, business owners, organizations and individuals. To view the Commission’s report and policy recommendations, visit their website at www.womenscommission.state.nm.us.