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Women’s History Month reminds us there’s still work to be done

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From The Editors Desk Emily WootenAs the month of March winds down, so does Women’s History Month, the annual month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. Although strides have been made, there is still work to be done.

I recently read an article about a New York City woman that went viral for tweeting about her fight for equal pay. The 25-year-old writer had seen a job listing for a full-time position with her company that pays as much as $90,000 more than what she makes as a contractor in the same position. Had a salary transparency law that went into effect in New York City last October not occurred, she would have never discovered the salary disparity. Evidently the salary transparency law in New York City has resulted in more of an awareness of the gender pay gap.

The gender pay gap in the U.S. hasn’t changed much in the last two decades, according to the Pew Research Center which reported that in 2022 women, on average, make 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, results similar to 2002 when women made 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. And data shows that the numbers are even worse for mothers, women of color and all women as they age.

March 14 was Equal Pay Day this year, the symbolic day dedicated to raising awareness of the gender pay gap. In the U.S. the date symbolizes how far into the [following] year the average median woman must work in order to have earned what the average median man earned the entire previous year. The exact day differs each year. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Equal Pay Day for Black women will not come until July. For moms, Equal Pay Day does not come until August. For Latina women, Equal Pay Day does not come until October and for Native women, Equal Pay Day is not until November.

Throw in the ubiquitous “pink tax” and it is not difficult to see why women could be bitter. Not familiar with the pink tax? It’s the tendency for products marketed specifically toward women to be more expensive than those marketed toward men, with many of the affected products being pink. Some examples include disposable razors, shave gel, bath soap, body lotion, shampoo and deodorant. It has also been seen in clothing and children’s toys.

AAUW is an organization that promotes higher education for young women, champions equal opportunities in education and works to narrow the gender pay gap. Its mission is to enhance gender equity for women and girls through research, education and advocacy. AAUW members, supporters and staff work on local, state and federal levels to support laws and policies that enable women’s success.

Dr. Alena Pace of the Huntsville AAUW and Mrs. Leland Best of the Beaumont AAUW were instrumental in establishing a new branch in East Texas – the Polk County branch – in 1981 and 1982. The charter members were teachers, librarians, home economists and county agents. The branch has expanded to include doctors, lawyers, college professors and administrators. All members have been actively involved in the community at one time or another.

The Polk County branch of AAUW is a proponent of higher education for young women. Though small in number, the branch early on established a scholarship for local high school graduates funded by an annual book sale. In 2015, a combination bridge luncheon and silent auction became the branch’s new fundraiser and continues to be a successful event, allowing the original scholarship of $150 to grow to $3,000 plus.

Over the years, the Polk County branch of AAUW has organized numerous projects, including a workshop for middle school girls on career opportunities, voter registrations, assistance for the annual empty stocking program and the provision of needed supplies for SAAFE House. The local branch also supports AAUW’s national legal and education funds.

The Polk County branch of AAUW meets at 11 a.m. on the third Monday from September through May in the fellowship hall of the First Presbyterian Church located at 910 N. Washington Ave. in Livingston and goes to lunch afterward. New members have found the local branch through the AAUW Texas website (aauw-tx.aauw.net), this newspaper and through word of mouth.

A member myself, my involvement with the organization has afforded me the opportunity to make new friends, create networks and gain awareness of an array of areas and topics. I currently serve as the vice president for membership so if you think you might be interested in joining, please contact me and I will assist you.      

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