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.

It's crucial for Houston to prepare the next generation's workforce to succeed and fill jobs with capable talent. Educational First Steps/Facebook

Recent studies have shown that nearly half of students enter college with an undecided major and as many as 70 percent of students change their major at least once during their four-year program, and it is predicted that by 2030, there will be a deficit of 7.9 million tech workers alone.

In order to better prepare the future workforce, schools are encouraging career exploration through hands-on experience. The Village School has created educational partnerships throughout Houston to offer students options to find their interests and better prepare them for postsecondary success.

Educational partnerships

Students are prone to changing their majors because often they will go into a field with an impractical idea of what a specific career actually entails. With partnerships between education and industry, Houston is able to better equip students to enter college with a realistic view of what to expect in their major.

While career-focused partnerships are beneficial for students, they also play a huge role in recruiting valuable skilled talent for years to come. A good impression, good mentors and great experience goes a long way when students start job searching.

Tuning into Houston's workforce

High school is the time for students to explore different career options. When students are placed in an internship program as early as the high school level, they are able to see exactly what the day to day looks like while building a foundation of professional development as they start to think about their future. It's important for students to have a realistic vision of what a career looks like.

There are numerous businesses in Houston that are working with high school students to help them gain experience.

For example, a few of the businesses that have partnerships with The Village School include Houston Methodist Hospital, Pimcore, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and Cisco. Students are able to gain experience in a variety of ways including:

  • Working alongside surgical technicians and experience open-heart surgery and quarantined situations
  • Learning from cancer researchers who study nicotine addiction in children and the effects on brain development
  • Leveraging data analytics to develop software helping internal team members organize calendars at a leading SAP company

All students finished their internship with a better understanding of the workforce and the skills necessary to perform in a professional environment.

Finding opportunities for everyone

If students don't attend a high school that offers internships there are still opportunities to gain experience. Many businesses are open to job shadowing or having students volunteer a few hours a week to gain experience over the summer months. The opportunity for experience is out there and available and these opportunities will continue to grow and become more accessible for all students. Houston families and businesses must work together to ensure students know their options before entering college.

Educational partnerships benefit both students and the community. It's crucial for Houston to prepare the next generation's workforce to succeed and fill jobs with capable talent. Students are able to see that while they may not think they are interested in a specific field there are opportunities within the field that match their strengths and interests.

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TeKedra Pierre is the internship coordinator at The Village School.