AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research. Founded in 1881, AAUW is open to graduates with an associate or higher degree from an accredited college or university, as well as students currently enrolled in college. Dues support the operations of the Dearborn-Michigan branch, founded in 1933, as well as the state and national organizations.
Thirty-two-year old Misty Copeland has become the first African-American, female-principal with the American Ballet Theater, a top-flight dance company. She has performed with them for the past 14 years, the last eight as a soloist.
Last week she starred in “Swan Lake,” the first African-American to do so. Cheers from the audience repeatedly stopped the show; then fans swarmed the stage door after the performance and crowd control had to be instituted. In her memoir published last year, LIFE IN MOTION: AN UNLIKELY BALLERINA, she stated, “My fears are that it could be another two decades before another black woman is in the position that I hold with an elite ballet company. …if I don’t rise to principal, people will feel I have failed them.”
Michael Cooper, dance reporter for THE NEW YORK TIMES observed: “If the company had not promoted Ms. Copeland, it risked being seen as perpetuating the inequalities that have left African-American dancers, particularly women, woefully underrepresented at top ballet companies.”
Within the leading ballet companies, being a principal dancer earns one status, bigger income and bigger roles, and a name in promotional print.
On July 1, 2015, Valerie Murphy-Goodrich assumes office as president of AAUW-Dearborn. She phoned yesterday from San Diego where she has been attending our national convention. Clearly, her attendance has had the desired effect! Her enthusiasm was infectious. Our branch makes a commitment to fund the president to the tune of $2,000 to attend, and the pay-off is guaranteed. (By the way, Valerie’s expenses are also guaranteed to surpass that amount!) So we need to be grateful for her financial contribution as well.
The national website has a good piece on what has sometimes been accomplished at conventions and how it assists leadership development. Here are their observations, edited for space.
Gathering women to talk about experiences and struggles in education, work, and life has been invaluable for AAUW members. Convention is one of the best places to learn about what other women are experiencing and decide how to band together. It’s a place where women’s voices are the priority.
- In 1923, the recently introduced Equal Rights Amendment was a contentious subject at convention; no consensus was reached.
- In the 1940s, the AAUW War Relief Committee worked for safe havens and new jobs for Jewish-women scientists fleeing Nazism.
- In 1959 Eleanor Roosevelt bolstered our dedication to global issues at the height of the Cold War.
- In 1963, U.S. Rep. Edith Green (nicknamed “Mrs. Education” for her work on women’s education and the Equal Pay Act) talked about the need to end sex discrimination in higher education.
- The 1970s brought the women’s liberation movement, including activist Gloria Steinem and anthropologist Margaret Mead to conventions.
- In 1971, delegates voted to support equal rights, and members drew up guidelines for universities to end sex discrimination on campus.
- In 1972, Congress passed Title IX.
- In 2009 , delegates passed one member/one vote to assure that every member has the opportunity to help decide AAUW’s future. (Sadly, Valerie reports that only a little more than 12% of the members voted this year!)
Today dealing with women’s issues is changing:
- Technology and social media allow electronic-grassroots protests.
- New skill sets allow members to react quickly and effectively to women’s issues. Feminists can spread the word on Twitter and Facebook.
- Tech-aided advocacy efforts still employ basic grassroots skills to lobby elected officials, to get women’s history into local classrooms and to fight for fair pay.
- The AAUW National Convention has become a place where members gather not only to exchange ideas but also to get training and resources to enhance skills.
The issues of the organization are urgent and evolving. Women learn from each others’ experiences. Empowering women and girls carries out the mission (research, education, advocacy and philanthropy) of AAUW everyday.
It’s good to know Valerie will have much to share upon her return!
Later today, the U.S. Senate will take an important vote to ensure survivors of sexual assault in the military can finally get justice.
I am an original cosponsor of an amendment authored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that takes responsibility for prosecuting sexual assaults outside the military chain of command. Far too often, members of the military are scared to report sexual assaults to their superiors who determine their career advancement. As a result, many of these assaults continue to go unreported, and a shocking number of victims do not receive the justice they deserve.
In addition to changing how sexual assault cases are processed, our amendment would give prosecutors new tools to punish those who engage in retaliation to intimidate survivors.
I will cast a loud “yes” vote in favor of this legislation on the Senate floor this week, and you can count on me to continue to support the strongest possible policies to assure that all allegations of wrongdoing are fully investigated and that survivors of sexual assault get the help and the justice that they deserve.
United States Senator
Ann Arbor engineer Sue Dean: “Michigan obviously needs to make some strides.” Ann Arbor resident Sue Dean is a notable exception to the rule in Michigan. With a 2008 master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan, Dean is a senior operations engineer for an Ann Arbor firm that makes holographic weapons sites. She also earns about twice the $49,449 median full-time wage attributed by census data to men in Michigan in 2013, the latest year available.
That puts her in a better space than most women who work full time in Michigan, who as a group earned on average just 75 cents on the dollar in 2013 compared with men who worked full time, according to a report by the National Women’s Law Center. It’s less than the U.S. average of 78 cents and places Michigan 41st lowest for women among the 50 states.
“Michigan obviously needs to make some strides,” Dean said. “I still run into people who have the old belief that a woman doesn’t need to make as much as a man because she isn’t the breadwinner.” ( Hispanic women struggle with just over half the pay of men.)
A gender wage gap would appear to have sweeping implications for families and children in Michigan, given that 284,000 Michigan families were headed by a single female parent as of 2010, according to the U.S. Census. According to analysis by the Michigan League for Public Policy, a Lansing nonprofit advocacy group, 28 percent of female-headed households in Michigan lived in poverty in 2012. And more than 40 percent of 315,000 low-income families in Michigan were headed by women.
The pay gap is wider for minority women. According to the report, African-American women earned 66 cents on the dollar compared with men in the state; for Hispanic women in Michigan, the rate was even worse, 57 cents.
While advocates for equal pay argue that gender gaps should be addressed by lawmakers and industry, critics say that studies showing wide wage disparities can be misleading. Take the statistic that women nationally make 78 cents on the dollar earned by men. That gap, critics note, ignores the fact that women in large numbers tend to go into career fields that pay far less than jobs in top-earning professions.
“The sexes, taken as a group, are somewhat different,” wrote Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, in a Daily Beast column in February. “Women, far more than men, appear to be drawn to jobs in the caring professions; and men are more likely to turn up in people-free zones. In the pursuit of happiness, men and women appear to take different paths.”
Sommers noted, for instance, a Georgetown University study of the college majors pursued by men and women. All but one of the majors in the highest-paying fields are dominated by men. (In Sue Dean’s major, electronic engineering, sixth in pay, 89 percent of students were male). Conversely, women dominate nine of 10 college majors that led to jobs paying the least amount of money.
Two years ago, a Washington Post fact-checking column took President Obama to task for citing a similar gender study in his State of the Union speech. The Post noted that other studies showed a narrower gap, including one that put the gender gap at closer to 5 cents on the dollar.
“There is clearly a wage gap, but differences in the life choices of men and women — such as women tending to leave the workforce when they have children — make it difficult to make simple comparisons,” the Post column stated.
Michigan remains below the national average in female to male earnings per $1 – as progress in closing that gap has leveled off in recent years. Female to male earnings by year for Michigan and United States:
2005 $0.70 $0.77
2006 $0.71 $0.77
2007 $0.72 $0.78
2008 $0.72 $0.77
2009 $0.72 $0.77
2010 $0.74 $0.77
2011 $0.74 $0.77
2012 $0.74 $0.77
2013 $0.75 $0.78 Source: National Women’s Law Center
Whatever the size of the gap, Jane Zehnder Merrell of the Michigan League, said that gender disparities – particularly for low-income female-headed households – is a prescription for ongoing family stress and crisis that can affect multiple generations. “The first thing is they can’t afford housing. When you can’t afford housing, you are forced into a situation where you are staying with relatives or friends, who often don’t have any more resources than you do.”
“Kids suffer,” she added. “What they talk about is toxic stress – the primary caregivers are often stressed themselves. Your primary person in the world is consumed in just trying to survive, not being able to focus on that child. It has long-term impact on academic achievement.”
And while more women in Michigan now have a post-high school education than men (45 percent women, 38 percent men), Zehnder-Merrell said too many women are still concentrated in low-paying jobs with little chance for upward mobility.
According to analysis by the National Women’s Law Center, U.S. women in 2013 held 95 percent of child care jobs, 89 percent of home health aide work, 88 percent of housekeeping jobs and 65 percent of jobs in food preparation and serving. Those jobs had median annual incomes in Michigan of $18,000 to $20,000 – about on par with the 2015 federal poverty level for a family of three.
A researcher with the National Women’s Law Center pointed to historic gains in closing the gender pay gap, progress many trace to passage of the federal Equal Pay Act in 1963, a measure that required employers to pay women the same as men for equal work. But she added that progress seems to have stalled. “We have made some strides since the Equal Pay Act was passed,” said Kate Gallagher Robbins. “But in the last 10 years, we’ve seen almost no change in the wage gap. We need to take some further actions. This isn’t going away on its own.”
According to the center’s analysis, U.S. women earned 60 percent of men in 1965, a figure that climbed to 65 percent by 1985, 74 percent by 1997 and 77 percent by 2002. But it has barely budged since then, standing at 78 percent in 2013.
Robbins credits Michigan lawmakers with raising the minimum wage last year, one of many steps she believes necessary to aid working women and help close the gap. (Though there are now efforts in Lansing to ban cities from making minimum wage hikes on their own).
Her organization backs a federal measure that would kick in a steeper increase, raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 and indexing it to inflation after that.
Equal pay advocates also back other measures to close the gap:
The Paycheck Fairness Act, a federal measure introduced in 2007 to give workers tools to combat wage discrimination and bar retaliation against workers for discussing salary information. It is stalled in Congress.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act, introduced in 2012, would ensure workers’ ability to bring large-scale, class-action lawsuits on pay and discrimination issues against employers. It is given little immediate chance of passage, especially in the GOP-controlled House.
In Michigan, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, backs a measure that would allow Michigan employees to accumulate paid sick leave, and would give workers paid time off to recover from illnesses or care for a sick family member, responsibilities that often are borne primarily by women. While advocates say that could be of critical help to female-headed families, GOP lawmakers in control of the state Senate say the measure would stunt job growth.
Equal pay advocates argue that differences in career choices represent only part of the explanation for why men earn more. As many studies have noted, women typically assume a higher share of family responsibilities than men.
Analysis by the Pew Research Center indicates that women continue to sacrifice career opportunity and pay for such family priorities. That appears to have significant impact on career earnings. Its 2015 survey found that 39 percent of working mothers said they had taken significant time off from work to care for a child or family member. That compared to 24 percent of working fathers. More than 50 percent of the women said being a working parent made it harder to advance in their job, compared with 16 percent of men.
A report this year by the American Association of University Women found that the gender gap only grows with age, with women earning about 90 percent of what men make until age 35. After that, women fall to making 75-80 percent of men’s pay.
And even though the number of women working in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields has grown, that trend may have stalled as well. A 2013 Census Bureau analysis of women in STEM occupations noted that progress in employing women has been uneven since the 1970s. It found that employment of female engineers grew from 3 percent in 1970 to 13 percent in 2011, while employment of female computer workers grew from 14 percent in 1970 to just over 30 percent in 1990, before falling to 27 percent in 2011.
“By 2011, women’s representation had grown in all STEM occupation groups. However, they remained significantly underrepresented in engineering and computer occupations, occupations that make up more than 80 percent of all STEM employment female engineers is rising,” it stated.
Minority females are particularly underrepresented in engineering and other sciences. According to the National Science Foundation, black and Hispanic women account for just 2 percent of women working in engineering and science fields in 2010. Detroit native Amber Spears, a 24-year-old African American, is proud to count herself among that number. She has a 2012 bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Michigan and a 2014 master’s degree in engineering from the University of Texas. She is employed as a civil engineer with NTH Consultants, Ltd., based in suburban Detroit.
Spears credits her career to exposure as a seventh grader to the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program, a nonprofit program aimed at broadening participation among minority youth in STEM fields. She continued with the program through high school, earning a scholarship to the University of Michigan.
Her career path could also serve as a counterpoint to the argument that women make less because they choose to enter professions that simply pay less. Advocates for equal pay argue that while this may be so, young girls are too often still given the message that certain professions are a man’s province.
“I do think it starts very early,” Spears said. “There is definitely a cultural box you can be put in. A lot of times it boils down to what you are exposed to in your own community.”
Gloria Thomas, director of the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan, said outreach efforts like that the program that benefited Spears need to be expanded.
“There has got to be the will and the desire to make a change,” Thomas said. “It’s still unusual for women of color to find a mentor for their career. That all leads to upward mobility and we still have challenges there.”
Dean, the Ann Arbor engineer, took a more circuitous path to her career destination, aided by some encouraging words from a male work colleague. About 18 years ago, she was doing administrative work at an Ann Arbor startup firm, earning about $10 an hour. An engineer at the firm encouraged her to look into engineering. She had only a high school degree at the time.
“He coaxed me. He convinced me it was possible to be a late-in-life student,” recalled Dean, 51. Taking classes at night at first while she continued her job, Dean earned an associates degree from Washtenaw Community College and an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan in 2003.
Dean said her firm, L-3 Communications EOTech, is trying to expand its staff of female engineers. But she noted the firm recently posted two job openings, one for an engineer technician, the other a test engineer. She said the openings attracted about 80 applications, all but four from men. The jobs went to two men. And for that, she puts some of the blame on women. “I don’t understand why we don’t get more applications from women,” Dean said.
Citizens of Dearborn are products of the legacy of Henry Ford. On acreage donated by him, one attends schools and colleges named for him and other members of his family. The hospital named for him has a large presence in this community. The corporation named for him employs a substantial percentage of the population. A labor force and management produce his products. He was celebrated for coming up with the five-dollar day and disparaged for employing Harry Bennett’s so-called “Service Department to bust” the union at the Battle of the Overpass There is an historic museum and village here because of him. His thread knots this community together. And like anything tied up in knots, twists and turns need be threaded with care.
One more thing needs to be mentioned. There are increasing numbers of engineers in the Detroit area due to the automotive industry, and Ford Motor Company has invested large sums in STEM education.
This Tuesday evening at our Installation Dinner, leadership passes from three current officers to new officers for program vice president, administrative vice president and president. This will be an auspicious day for the Dearborn Branch as connections to the University of Michigan-Dearborn hover over the ceremony.
For two decades of her life, Ellen Judge-Gonzalez was a part-time, non-traditional student trying to maintain a work-life balance among her responsibilities to school, work and family. She holds degrees from UM-D and Wayne State. She is the Director of SOAR and lectures in speech and interpersonal communication at UM-D. Program Vice-president is a position that is key to any AAUW branch. It demands an inquiring-creative mind and an ability to discern programs of educational value. Finding venues is another challenge. Doing all of this with few funds just adds to the mix. Ellen Judge-Gonzalez has stepped up to the task and will do an outstanding job for us.
Judy Berry-Buck was born and raised in Dearborn and is a graduate of University of Michigan-Dearborn. Her work experience includes retail management; so she knows how to balance both books and people! At Ford Motor Company, she worked in Training and Development, Leadership Training and Orientation Management; so Judy Berry-Buck is perfectly suited to become our Administrative Vice-president. She substituted for a very busy Chris Hilbush, who was dealing with family obligations, at the book sale and has been learning the ropes ever since. Judy is knowledgeable about the mission of AAUW and is well-positioned to assume her new responsibilities dealing with the distribution of monies from the Branch-and-Community Fund. Judy is thoughtful, considerate and generous.
Valerie Murphy-Goodrich has worked in human resources in a number of settings. Most recently, she was the Human Resources Administrator for the City of Dearborn. In addition to implementing training and development programs, she developed the first, employee handbook for the city. Some of her job functions included recruitment and hiring, employee relations, handling grievances, investigations and policy implementation. Her work as Human Resources Director for the University of Michigan-Dearborn included working with the Affirmative Action Office on diversity issues. In addition, she is erudite about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Her work in conflict resolution is also extensive. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn where she also taught as a lecturer. She is a past president of the Michigan Public Employers Labor Relations Association and Dearborn Rotary. Valerie is cultured, cultivated and courageous as well! As president of the Dearborn branch of AAUW, Valerie will preside at meetings, enforce the bylaws, and function as our administrative and executive officer. She will guide the development of branch objectives.
The Dearborn Branch wishes each of them personal success, as well as success for our branch. We trust their terms of office will provide them individual satisfaction, and we offer wholehearted congratulations to each!
The Nominations Committee included: Chair Sally Barnett,Kim Foo, Mary Harrison, Ellen Judge-Gonzalez and Valerie Murphy-Goodrich.
Many manicurists have been exploited and suffer illnesses caused by the chemicals with which they work. Because so many workers are undocumented immigrants, they fear authorities and rarely speak up. After an investigative article appeared in last week’s New York Times (See our branch Facebook page to read it.), Governor Andrew M. Cuomo decided to tackle wage theft and health hazards endured by laborers in nail salons. By taking on such exploitation, Gov. Cuomo strikes a blow against human trafficking!
Here is an brief overview of his action plan.
1. Salon-by-salon investigations will be conducted.
2. Protecting manicurists from dangerous chemicals will begin.
3. Workers will be educated of their rights in a multilingual-education program aimed at Asians.
4. Nail salons who fail to pay workers back wages, or are unlicensed, will be shut down.
5. Salons will be required to post signs informing workers of their rights, including the fact that it is illegal to work without wages!
This frontal assault on unfair labor practices and wage theft can help alleviate part of the human trafficking problem. It appears to be a plan other governors could emulate.
The industry has been an entry point for immigrants who have suffered exploitation as they labor over others’ hands and feet.
- New rules demand that manicurists must wear gloves to reduce the risks of contracting fungal infections and warts as well as to protect them from chemical burns.
- Hospital-style masks will be required in an effort to prevent exposure to dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde, chemicals used in nail products that are linked to leukemia and fetal defects.
- To reduce the chemical fumes, ventilation will be required.
- Salons will have to be bonded to ensure that workers can eventually be paid if salon owners are found to have underpaid the workers. Salon owners have traditionally hidden assets when found guilty of wage theft.
- An education campaign to inform workers they have the right be compensated fully, regardless of their immigration status, and encourage them to report mistreatment.
Please consider contacting your elected officials to do something similar in MIchigan!
We have a modern labor force, but we don’t have modern workplace policies to match. Women are now a full 50% of the labor force for the first time in history, and three-quarters of moms are now in the labor force. Yet despite this monumental change, our public policies are stuck in the Stone Age. The U.S. lags behind most other industrialized nations when it comes to access to paid family leave, sick days and affordable childcare. This hurts our families, our businesses and our economy.
- Childcare shouldn’t cost more than college—particularly when parents need safe, enriching places for children to be so they can work. But it does.
- Everyone should have a chance to get better when they’re sick. Eighty percent of low-wage workers don’t have access to a single paid-sick day.
- Having a baby should not be a leading cause of poverty, a time when income dips below what’s needed for food and rent. Only 13% of people in the U.S. have access to paid-family leave after a baby arrives, a policy which is the norm in the rest of the world.
- Being a mom is an even greater predictor of wage discrimination than gender. All women should receive fair pay; yet women, and particularly moms and women of color, experience wage discrimination each day.
Michigan voters just KISSed-off Proposal One.
Note to LEGISLATORS, KISS. To solve a problem, “Keep It Simple Stupid.”
Backers of Proposal One spent: $8.7 million in support. Opponents of Proposal One spent: $195,527, a mere pittance in comparison!
This time money didn’t talk. Voters balked.
No question Michigan residents don’t pay enough for road repairs when compared to other states.
No question that fuel consumption is dropping due to fuel-efficient cars.
No question that over a quarter of bridges in Michigan are obsolete.
No question that road conditions are increasing tire wear and damage to vehicles.
Proposal One was muddled and murky. Instead of focusing upon a single crisis, it took on schools, cities, mass transit and the state general fund.
Michigan citizens have witnessed substantial business-tax cuts. Michigan’s dwindling middle class heaves more-and-more of the State-tax burden onto its aching-breaking backs.
Michigan citizens have witnessed Lottery funds go from backing education to disappearing into the black hole of the General Budget.
LEGISLATORS could have raised just the State sales tax by one percent. Instead they muddied everything by trying to raise taxes on wholesale fuel, raising vehicle-registration fees and restoring tax credits for low-income workers. To be effective, proposals should be written in clear, concise, coherent language.
Note to LEGISLATORS: Make roads a priority in the State budget. Make contractors accountable for their work. Do the job we, THE ELECTORATE, elected you to do. Strive to regain OUR trust. Get rid of the gimmicks. Stop the shell games. Stop Michigan’s race to the bottom. Demonstrate integrity for genuine long-term gains.
Common sense has devolved into an oxymoron for too many state officials!