Women's Policy Forum 2018 Emerging Issues Symposium
"Closing the Gender Gap: Its Effects on Women, Families and the Economy"
October 19, 2018
Fifth Annual Emerging Issues Symposium Focused on "Closing the Gender Gap"
Nearly 200 attendees braved the rain to attend the 5th Annual Emerging Issues Symposium held Friday, October 19. The half-day symposium featured a packed lineup of accomplished speakers, including the headliner, Rebecca Henderson, CEO of Randstad Sourceright who spoke on "Closing the Gender Gap."
Before the keynote began, Cathy Holt, chair of the 2018 Symposium, delivered an updated report on the status or women in Tarrant County, with a study underwritten by Dallas Women's Foundation. The study revealed that Tarrant County women earn 82.2 cents on the dollar compared with men, which is a smaller gender wage gap than Texas and the nation overall. Women's earnings vary substantially by race and ethnicity, with white women having the highest earnings and Hispanic women having the lowest earnings.
In her keynote address, Henderson detailed how the wage gap still exists even after the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963. In 2018, Henderson said women still earn 20% less than men on average, with African American women earning 38% less and Latina women paid 46% less.
Henderson said that women are a powerful contributor to our overall economy. Women can drive innovation and effect change. But she added, "when we don't have pay parity, women lose their voice."
One of the practices she advocated is stopping the practice of asking about salary when hiring, as that practice can keep women in a lower salary than men. Many states have outlawed that question. For those states, like Texas, that haven't outlawed it, she recommended answering with a question such as "What do you think the job is worth?"
She also promoted finding both male and female mentors for younger women. "Find the men with daughters. They will push and mentor women to ask for more." Henderson said women are conditioned to not ask for more and not to apply for a job if they don't fit all of the requirements. "Apply for it anyway," she suggested.
Henderson challenged the business community in their role providing paid family leave, flexible work policies, gender targets, and mentorship or leadership programs.
Math not Myth – the Realities of the Gender Gap
Dr. Dena Jackson and Lauren Blitzer of the Dallas Women's Foundation presented information on how the wage disparity affects single women and millennial women. Dr. Jackson related that the wage disparity also leads to a wealth gap, especially for single women. "Lack of wealth impacts not just women and their families, but our entire community," she said. In addition, Blitzer presented data that shows Baby Boomers had twice the wealth of young adults today and for women, especially women of color, the picture is even worse.
Alfreda Norman, Senior VP of the Dallas Federal Reserve, addressed the challenges faced by women of color in the workforce. She said women of color suffer doubly from issues of gender and race. The wealth gap is significantly higher for families of color. Norman advocated for more training about unconscious bias affecting race and gender disparities in hiring. "When Millenials come work for you, they will want to know" about policies aimed to eliminate racial and gender disparities.
Tracey Rockett, professor of professional practice, Neeley School of Business, TCU, spoke about the broader impacts of wage inequality. She mentioned some ways to turn the tide, including monitoring board appointments, required family leave, increasing minimum wage and providing adequate childcare support. She also suggested aligning school days with workdays, so that working parents don't struggle with after hours care.
Changing the Gender Paradigm
Allison Tarpley, CFP, senior resident director for the Merrill Lynch Wealth Management office in McKinney, Texas, relayed her personal experience working in the Bank of America umbrella. She listed some of the ways Bank of America is working to aggressively bring women into parity through many programs aimed at supporting women in their financial goals, including providing industry-leading benefits such as paid parental leave, child care supplements, back-up care, adoption support and many others.
B. C. Cornish, attorney and women's advocate, spoke of her years of experience practicing law and how she sees the issues up close. "When I'm working on a divorce, I can see what the wage gap does." She spoke about the Equal Pay Act enacted in 1963 and Title 7 which prohibits discrimination for gender, but how each protection has very narrow definitions that can be hard to meet. To win a case, a woman must have the exact responsibilities, with exact effort.
As Robin Pinkley, Ph.D in SMU Cox School of Business, was unable to attend, Tracey Rockett presented her information on negotiating. She said women and girls are less likely to negotiate from a position of strength and be persistent and assertive in their negotiations. The result over the lifetime of a career can be devasting - causing women to work many more years than men just to reach the same retirement goal. The difference in gender negotiating styles is less about competence and more about confidence.
Call to Action
Jennifer Trevino, Chief Development Officer at Girls Inc of Tarrant County and former City Council Candidate, spoke about how voting can change the face of power. Trevino serves or has served in multiple civic roles and serves as a role model for those who want to get involved.
Susan Alanis, City of Fort Worth Assistant City Manager, offered some concrete options for getting involved with the City of Fort Worth, including advisory boards, commissions and task forces. She expressed a desire for new faces and encouraged women to get involved, especially on the new Task Force on Status of Women, which is forming in late January 2019. The task force will focus on pay equity, and quality, affordable early childhood education.