Pay, education deficits hurt women in Kansas City
The Kansas City Star
Check your pay stub lately?
If you are a woman, it may be significantly less than what a man with comparable skills would be looking at. As if that isn’t galling enough, the gender pay gap in the Kansas City area is worse than the national average.
Surprisingly, the gap is greatest for those with the highest education levels. Full-time working women as a whole earn 73 cents for every dollar a man earns here, while nationally women earn 77 cents to the dollar paid men.
We know this because of a revelatory study by the Greater Kansas City Women’s Foundation that deserves scrutiny by leaders and citizens — and actions to solve the problems outlined.
The worse-than-national-average pay disparity is the first shocker. There are more.
One-fourth of area women do not have an education beyond high school. That deficit will hinder a woman’s lifetime earnings. With two-thirds of poverty-level households headed by women, the lack of education plays out in a dearth of opportunity and higher community costs for social services.
We must figure out how to educate more women and men locally. One-third of men are similarly undereducated. Unprepared workers face a lifetime of challenges and a far greater risk of needing expensive public aid.
There are ways to help, if lawmakers can be convinced that more investments in targeted aid can eventually lead to more employed citizens who will boost the economy.
Missouri limits women’s access to work by ranking 48th in child care subsidies; Kansas ranks 30th. It takes good child care for a mother to feel comfortable entering the workforce and staying in it. It takes good child care to help prepare children for success in school and a shot at a better adult life. The region also ranks miserably in flexible work schedules and extended-hour child care.
Financial challenges, especially for single working mothers, make obtaining more education or job retraining difficult. Many cannot afford to go back to school, or afford the extra child care required to cover school and a job.
Better educated, financially literate working women with access to affordable child care will improve the region’s economy.
The pay disparities are insidious. Underpaid women will have a much harder time over their careers amassing savings for a secure retirement. The pay gap compounds over the years.
There is one bright spot to the report. Agencies can use the new data to bolster grant requests or bids for government help to improve the lives of under-educated, underpaid women. The strongest bids for funding must demonstrate need. There’s no doubt now about the need in this community.
Elected officials, business leaders and nonprofit agencies have to be at the table working out answers. For starters, companies can review their payrolls and begin repairing pay disparities among women and men in like jobs with similar qualifications.
The reports, part of an important series supported by the Beth K. Smith Fund for Research, stakes out the problems. The Women’s Foundation, created to help promote equity and opportunities for women and girls, promises to offer an action agenda for employers and the community in January.
This isn’t a “women’s” problem. It’s a community shame. The inequities should not stand.