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

 
 

From biomolecular research to oral cancer immunotherapy, here are three research projects to watch out for in Houston. Photo via Getty Images

Research, perhaps now more than ever, is crucial to expanding and growing innovation in Houston — and it's happening across the city right under our noses.

In InnovationMap's latest roundup of research news, a couple local scientists are honored by awards while another duo of specialists tackle a new project.

University of Houston professor recognized with award

Mehmet Orman of UH has been selected to receive an award for his research on persister cells. Photo via UH.edu

Mehmet Orman, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering has been honored with a Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation. The award comes with a $500,000 grant to study persister cells — cells that go dormant and then become tolerant to extraordinary levels of antibiotics.

"Nearly all bacterial cultures contain a small population of persister cells," says Orman in a news release. "Persisters are thought to be responsible for recurring chronic infections such as those of the urinary tract and for creating drug-resistant mutants."

Previously, Orman developed the first methods to directly measure the metabolism of persister cells. He also developed cell sorting strategies to segregate persisters from highly heterogeneous bacterial cell populations, and, according to the release, he will be using his methods in the NSF research project.

Houston researchers collaborate on oral cancer innovation

Dr. Simon Young of UTHealth and Jeffrey Hartgerink of Rice University are working on a new use for an innovative gel they developed. Photo via Rice.edu

Two Houston researchers — chemist and bioengineer Jeffrey Hartgerink at Rice University and Dr. Simon Young at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston — have again teamed up to advance their previous development of a sophisticated hydrogel called STINGel. This time, they are using it to destroy oral cancer tumors.

SynerGel combines a pair of antitumor agents into a gel that can be injected directly into tumors. Once there, the gel controls the release of its cargo to not only trigger cells' immune response but also to remove other suppressive immune cells from the tumor's microenvironment. The duo reported on the technology in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.

SynerGel, combines a pair of antitumor agents into a gel that can be injected directly into tumors, where they not only control the release of the drugs but also remove suppressive immune cells from the tumor's microenvironment.

"We are really excited about this new material," Hartgerink says in a news release. "SynerGel is formulated from a specially synthesized peptide which itself acts as an enzyme inhibitor, but it also assembles into a nanofibrous gel that can entrap and release other drugs in a controlled fashion.

In 2018, the pair published research on the use of a multidomain peptide gel — the original STINGel — to deliver ADU-S100, an immunotherapy drug from a class of "stimulator of interferon gene (STING) agonists."

The research is supported by the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Welch Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology.

Texas Heart Institute researcher honored by national organization

Dr. James Martin of Texas Heart Institute has been named a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors. Photo courtesy of THI

The National Academy of Inventors have named Houston-based Texas Heart Institute's Dr. James Martin, director of the Cardiomyocyte Renewal Lab, a senior member.

Martin is an internationally recognized developmental and regenerative biologist and his research is focused on understanding how signaling pathways are related to development and tissue regeneration.

"Dr. Martin has long been a steward of scientific advancement and has proven to be a tremendous asset to the Texas Heart Institute and to its Cardiomyocyte Renewal Lab through his efforts to translate fundamental biological discoveries in cardiac development and disease into novel treatment strategies for cardiac regeneration," says Dr. Darren Woodside, vice president for research at THI, in a news release. "Everyone at the Texas Heart Institute is thrilled for Dr. Martin, whose induction into the NAI as a Senior Member is well-deserved."

Martin has authored over 170 peer-reviewed papers in top journals he holds nine U.S. patents and applications, including one provisional application, all of which have been licensed to Yap Therapeutics, a company he co-founded.

The full list of incoming NAI Senior Members, which includes three professionals from the University of Houston, is available on the NAI website.

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