April 20, 2008

Sports project misses the mark

In the Harford section of this Sunday's Sun was an article concerning the stadium project under way at Harford Technical High School in Harford County.

Work has started on a $3.5 million project to build a stadium with a turf field, install a baseball field and two practice fields and convert a baseball field into a softball field.

Considering the fact that several hundred students are denied admission to the vocational programs each year, this project seems to be missing the mark. Should the first priority not be to expand the size of the school to provide space for more students interested in entering one of the vocational programs?

When are we going to provide funds for the most important objective, which is to create opportunities for our students and not our sports fans.

Edward J. Sienkilewski, Retired Harford County Teacher

Unequal pay remains an issue

On behalf of all the hard-working women who live in Harford County, I am writing to bring attention to April 22, this year's Equal Pay Day.

According to the National Committee on Pay Equity's Web site, "Equal Pay Day originated in 1996 when the National Committee on Pay Equity wanted to create a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. The day, observed on a Tuesday in April, symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. Tuesday is the day on which women's wages catch up to men's wages from the previous week. Because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay. The wage gap is even greater for most women of color."

Women have been entering the work force at a steady rate, increasing from 18.4 million in 1950 to 66.9 million in 2006, yet their pay has not risen to that of their male co-workers.

In general, women earn 77% of what men earn for working the same job. Here are some additional shocking statistics reported by the Department for Professional Employees and the National Committee for Pay Equity:

Today most mothers--even those with the youngest children--participate in the labor force.

Nearly half of all multiple job-holders in 2006 were women.

Women are the majority of temporary and part-time workers. About 33 percent of families where children under 18 lived with their mother (with no father present) were below the poverty level in 2005. Among black single mothers, 42% were below the poverty line.

Some may think that the cause of this issue is women being unable to pursue an education because they are usually the primary care provider for their children or grandchildren, but this simply is not the case.

Women have been earning more bachelor's degrees than men since 1982, and they have been earning more master's degrees than men since 1981.

USA Today reported that women earned 58% of all post-secondary degrees in 2007. Despite this, women also earn less money at every level of education.

The Department for Professional Employees and the National Committee for Pay Equity report that for full-time workers aged 18 and older in 2005:

The median annual earnings of a female high school graduate was more than 34% less than that of her male counterpart.

The median annual earnings of a woman with a bachelor's degree was almost 31% (or $15,911) less than that of a similarly qualified man.

A woman with a master's degree earned 32% (or $21,374) less than a man with a master's degree.

The median annual earnings for a woman with a professional degree were $65,941 while men earned over $100,000.

A woman with a doctoral degree earned more than 29% (or $22,824) less than a similarly qualified man.

The implications of women earning less than men are far-reaching. Not only are women struggling financially while in the work-force, but in retirement they will receive less Social Security benefits and income from pensions because they earned considerably less money over the course of their careers. Also because they earned less, they were less likely to be able to afford to invest money in a 401K or 403b.

So what can be done to close the wage gap?

Businesses can help. Many employers may not realize that their pay policies favor men. By promoting pay equity, businesses can attract the best workers and create a work-force that feels valued.

The National Committee on Pay Equity offers a self-audit link to help businesses analyze its practices, www.pay-equity.org. Individuals can contact House representatives and members of the Senate and express their concerns about unequal pay.

The committee for pay equity also provides links to find out about current legislation on the topic of pay equity.

While I realize that many aspects of life are not fair, the reality that I will earn between $700,000 and $2 million less than my husband, brother, father, or uncle over the course of my work life simply because I am female seems to go a bit beyond unfair.

Lisa Tittle Chairwoman, Harford County Commission for Women

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