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Women Earn As Much As Men, But It Takes 3-1/2 Months Longer

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Friday, nearly four months into 1997, women’s wages for 1996 will finally catch up with what men made last year.

For every $1 that men make, women make 71 cents. “It’s disgusting. Women need to work through April 11, just to earn what men earned during the calendar year of 1996,” said Zina Pierre, director of communications for the U.S. Department of Labor. “And yet, when we go to the grocery store, we pay the same price for food as men.”

Although the gap between men’s and women’s wages has narrowed, women still earn less than men for the same work. It happens on the assembly line, where women earn $306 a week for the same job that pays men $396. And it happens in law practices, where female lawyers average $958 a week and their male counterparts average $1,171.

In an effort to increase awareness and challenge employers to “pay fair,” women across the country will observe Pay Equity Awareness Day on Friday. It will be the first national campaign to close the wage gap.

Many people have said it, but now women mean it: Show us the money.

A second observance, dubbed “Economic Equity: Realities, Responsibilities and Rewards,” is set for June 5 in Fort Worth and five other sites in the U.S., said Pierre and Elizabeth Branch, chairwoman of the Fort Worth office of the Commission on the Status of Women.

“Pay inequity is a concern for all of us,” Branch said. “But my focus has not been so much on the inequity as it has been on getting people of color into the job market.”

Not surprisingly, women of color experience the most severe pay inequities. Black women earned 64 cents and Hispanic women earned 53 cents for each dollar a white man earned in 1996.

“Fair pay is one of the main concerns of working women,” said Kelly Jenkins, program coordinator of the National Committee on Pay Equity, a private nonprofit coalition of women’s and civil rights organizations and labor unions. “Even when we can break through the glass ceiling, we’re still not getting equal pay for equal work.”

Much of the wage gap, Jenkins said, occurs because women are concentrated in traditional female-dominated jobs for which wages are still low.

For instance, in 1995, 60 percent of all employed women worked in technical/sales, service and administrative support/clerical occupations. Only 29 percent of women worked in the higher-paying managerial and professional fields.

“Women account for more than half of college students, yet we don’t always get a fair return on our education,” Pierre said.

College-educated women earn only $794 more per year than white men who have never taken a college course, and $14,217 less than college-educated white men. By contrast, college-educated black women earn $2,558 less than white male high school graduates. College-educated black and Hispanic women earn $17,549 and $14,779 less, respectively, than their white male counterparts.

Even among recent college graduates, women earn 15.7 percent less than men.

And yet, according to the National Academy of Sciences, one-third to one-half of the wage differences between men and women cannot be explained by differences in experience, education or other legitimate qualifications. -Tips from the pros

To illustrate how to get a fair return on your efforts, we asked North Texas women for tips on negotiating a raise:

Barbara Childress, 48, Richland Hills police chief; salary about $45,000

Document your performance throughout the year.

Be prepared to discuss what you’ve accomplished and how it affected the company.

Be aware of other ways to increase your benefits package beyond salary.

Karen Perkins, 58, executive director of the Women’s Center of Fort Worth; salary about $52,000

Women believe that if they work hard, someone will notice. Make sure your boss knows what contributions you’re making. Don’t allow someone else to take the credit.

Never say you need a raise. Everybody needs a raise. Be prepared to tell the boss how you have contributed.

Form a network and help each other become visible.

Know what the pay scale is.

Jayne Lipe, 60, executive vice president at Overton Bank and Trust Co., six-figure salary

Never say that you need a raise or that you’re underpaid because you’re a woman. It’s off-putting. Claim your worth, not your needs.

Be assertive but not obnoxious. It’s been my experience that most people who ask for a raise are male.

Muriel Yu, 60, associate professor of social work at the University of Texas at Arlington; salary about $40,000

Get the best salary when you interview for the position, because that’s when you hold the most leverage.

Consider the entire package, because sometimes the fringe benefits surpass the salary in value.

Be persistent. If you fail the first time, ask again and again.

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