Calling for progress

Equal Pay Day is nothing to celebrate without forward action

According to the American Association of University Women, women are losing $500 billion each year because of the gender pay gap. Pexels

National Equal Pay Day, which symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year, falls on April 2 this year and marks a 56-year effort across the nation to have employers address the gender pay gap and provide equal pay for equal work.

That effort is now, closer than ever, to reality as the U.S. House of Representatives, in a heartening move this week, passed the bipartisan Paycheck Fairness Act, authored by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and co-sponsored by newly elected Texas Congressman Colin Allred.

The act, among other things, would require employers to prove that pay disparities exist for legitimate job-related reasons, prohibit employers from relying on salary history in determining future pay, provide assistance to all businesses to help them with their equal pay practices and recognize excellence in pay practices by businesses. It would also get rid of rules imposed by employers that prohibit workers from talking about their salary, so women are permitted to ask how much their coworkers are making and find out if they are underpaid.

This legislation is a leap forward in closing the persistent and woeful gender pay.

Statistics show that although more women, nationally, are receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees compared to men, and are equally qualified for the work as their male counterparts, they continue to receive about 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, and women of color earn even less (e.g. Black women earn 63 cents for every dollar and Hispanic women earn just 54 cents for every dollar). At this rate, without any affirmative or proactive changes, it will take another 51 years for women to catch up to men's wages.

In Texas, the outlook around women's pay and the gender gap is grim.

According to the Texas Women's Foundation, in Dallas County, women made almost 93 percent of what men earned, compared to just about 70 percent in Collin County and a little more than 76 percent in Denton County.

According to the American Association of University Women, women are losing $500 billion each year because of the gender pay gap. U.S. corporations suffering those kind of financial losses would send shockwaves through our economic system.

If women made the same pay as men, they would not only be able to better care for their families, but put aside more money in their retirement or pension funds, pay off college loans and mortgages, and enjoy better healthcare and a healthier lifestyle. Research by the Texas Women's Foundation has shown that if working women in Texas were paid the same wages comparable to men, the poverty rate would be reduced by 51 percent.

Companies should not just support the Paycheck Fairness Act, but also become assertive about equal pay and gender diversity, and treat them as an integral part of their business strategy. In order for businesses to truly benefit from the myriad of backgrounds and experiences in our global economy, we must ensure a level-playing field for women and other underrepresented employees. Then and only then will our nation's workplaces and businesses truly thrive. Mr. President and senators — let us pass the Paycheck Fairness Act now.

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Mandy Price is the CEO and co-founder of Dallas-based Kanarys Inc., a web platform that incorporates data and AI to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

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Building Houston

 
 

Ty Audronis founded Tempest Droneworx to put drone data to work. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

Ty Audronis quite literally grew up in Paradise. But the Northern California town was destroyed by wildfire in 2018, including Audronis’ childhood home.

“That’s why it’s called the Campfire Region,” says the founder, who explains that the flames were started by a spark off a 97-year-old transmission line.

But Audronis, who has literally written the book on designing purpose-built drones — actually, more than one — wasn’t going to sit back and let it happen again. Currently, wildfire prevention is limited to the “medieval technology” of using towers miles apart to check for smoke signals.

“By the time you see smoke signals, you’ve already got a big problem,” Audronis says.

His idea? To replace that system with real-time, three-dimensional, multi-spectral mapping, which exactly where his company, Tempest Droneworx, comes in.

When asked how he connected with co-founder Dana Abramowitz, Audronis admits that it was Match.com — the pair not only share duties at Tempest, they are engaged to be married. It was a 2021 pre-SXSW brainstorming session at their home that inspired the pair to start Tempest.

When Audronis mentioned his vision of drone battalions, where each is doing a specialized task, Abramowitz, a serial entrepreneur and founder who prefers to leave the spotlight to her partner, told him that he shouldn’t give the idea away at a conference, they should start a company. After all, Audronis is a pioneer in the drone industry.

“Since 1997, I’ve been building multicopters,” he says.

Besides publishing industry-standard tomes, he took his expertise to the film business. But despite its name, Tempest is a software company and does not make drones.

That software is called Harbinger. Audronis explains that the real-time management and visualization solution is viewable on practically any device, including mobile or augmented reality. The system uses a video game engine for viewing, but as Audronis puts it, “the magic happens” on the back end.

Harbinger is not just drone-agnostic, but can use crowd-sourced data as well as static sensors. With the example of wildfires in mind, battalions can swarm an affected area to inform officials, stopping a fire before it gets out of hand. But fires are far from Harbinger’s only intended use.

The civilian version of Harbinger will be available for sale at the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024. For military use, Navy vet Audronis says that the product just entered Technical Readiness Level (TRL) 5, which means that they are about 18 months away from a full demo. The latest news for Tempest is that earlier this month, it was awarded a “Direct to Phase II” SBIR (Government Small Business Innovation Research) contract with the United States Department of the Air Force.

Not bad for a company that was, until recently, fully bootstrapped. He credits his time with the Houston Founder Institute, from which he graduated last February, and for which he now mentors, with many of the connections he’s made, including SBIR Advisors, who helped handle the complex process of getting their SBIR contract.

And he and Abramowitz have no plans to end their collaborations now that they’re seeing growth.

“Our philosophy behind [our business] isn’t keeping our cards close to our vest,” says Audronis. “Any potential competitors, we want to become partners.”

The company was just the two founders until five weeks ago, when Tempest’s size doubled, including a full-time developer. Once Tempest receives its SIBR check, the team will grow again to include more developers. They are currently looking for offices in the city. As Audronis says, Tempest Droneworx is “100-percent made in Houston.” Paradise may have been lost, but with Harbinger soon to be available, such a disaster need never happen again.

Dana Abramowitz and Ty Audronis co-founded Tempest Droneworks. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

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