Delaware women join forces to work for pay equity | New York News

By RACHEL SAWICKI, Delaware State News

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) – “Who is opening a business during this time?”

It’s a question Lanice Wilson often asks about starting a juice bar in the midst of a pandemic. Her response: She had a hunch that this was a place she needed to establish, and what better time to focus on immune health?

“The Juice Joint hasn’t just been a space for mentorship and collaboration, but it’s like a hub for people to come back and network,” Ms. Wilson said. “I’m so aware of bringing people forward with me.”

President and COO of The Juice Joint on the Wilmington Riverfront opened her site in July 2020 and has been kept afloat with grants from the Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund and First State Community Loan Fund of True Access Capital.

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However, nothing was as supportive as the “sisterhood” she found with other female business owners.

“From my experience as a black woman, it’s been a challenge,” Ms. Wilson said. “We tend to overcompensate and work harder because we feel like we have to prove something. I can stand right next to someone or work as hard as someone and not get the same pay.

According to 2022 data from the Delaware Office of Women‘s Advancement and Advocacy, women in Delaware earn an average of 83% of men’s median earnings. Women of color face a worse deficit: Black and Hispanic women earn 68 cents for every dollar earned by a white man, while white women earn 82 cents for every dollar. And yet, a 2018 study by Hive, a New York-based productivity platform, found that women not only do more work on average, but they are assigned 55% of all tasks.

Take Tamara Earl, who went to Johnson & Wales University North Miami for her culinary degree and then worked in a hotel/restaurant environment, where she said it was extremely difficult to earn the respect of her male counterparts.

When the cost of living in Miami became too expensive, she moved to Delaware and launched Delectablez, a line of vegan dishes like flatbreads, pizzas, pancakes and baked goods. Ms Earl connected with Ms Wilson via Instagram and now wholesales her products at The Juice Joint.

“A lot of people don’t expect you to be resilient,” Ms Earl said. “To continue and overcome the obstacles. I don’t know what I would do without (Ms. Wilson). Anything I asked of her, she would give me if she had the answer.

Ms. Wilson reiterated that small business women crave teamwork.

“If we don’t support each other, who will?” she says. “The thought that I’m working so hard to get here, and can’t afford to let somebody come and bring me down, we don’t accept that here. We’re all confident and we’re all talented. We have we all have something to give, we learn and we feed each other, and I’m so grateful to have this brotherhood.

To highlight the importance of women-owned businesses in the first state for Women’s History Month, Ms. Wilson and Ms. Earl were joined by Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., and new director Delaware Small Business Administration district manager Michelle Harris Wednesday at the Juice Joint.

“This sorority network is information sharing, Ms. Harris said. “Everyone has different access points to get this information, but when we’re in a group together, talking to each other and sharing with each other, that’s when you can really start to relate to each other. benefit each other.”

Representative Blunt Rochester added that women have had to unite and support each other throughout history.

“The challenges of understanding the system are still there,” she said. “So even when people like us come into these places (of power and leadership), it’s important for us to try to find ways to connect people.”

Connecting people is Sara Crawford’s daily job as Program Director for True Access Capital’s Women’s Business Center. She said the way to close the gender wage gap is to ensure that women have access to finance and that their business models are sustainable and strong.

“It’s also how our communities create jobs,” said Ms. Crawford. “That’s another thing that’s really strong in small businesses that people don’t talk about. When someone has a big vision, they’re not just doing it for themselves, they’re impacting someone else’s family and putting food on their table. You want to make sure your family unit is strong, and they’re secure, and they’re getting the income they need, so they’re higher on the pay scale.

Rep. Blunt Rochester said passing legislation is also key to closing the wage gap.

“We need to make sure there’s transparency in how people get paid,” she said. “And the reality in the marketplace is that people are having a hard time finding people to work with. But if you want to recruit me, then pay me. Legislation that will raise Delaware’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 was passed last summer.

Melanie Ross Levin, director of the OWAA, said the minimum wage can be classified as a women’s rights issue.

“There are some laws that people don’t see as a women’s issue, like minimum wage, but the vast majority of minimum wage earners are women,” she said. “I also insist on an intersectional view of everything. I don’t just want data on women. I want data on black women, Asian women, and Hispanic women. »

Caregiving is another source of inequity in the workforce, according to Ms. Ross Levin. She said that due to the disproportionate level of these types of responsibilities in the home, the high cost of childcare and the lack of paid leave, female carers are less likely to stay in the workforce.

There is, however, “good progress” in Delaware, she said. Legislation passed in recent years includes bills requiring state employees to receive equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender; that prohibit salary secrecy by prohibiting employers from preventing employees from disclosing their salary; and which prohibit employers from taking adverse action against an individual because of their reproductive health care decisions and responsibilities.

Most notably and most recently, the Healthy Delaware Families Act would create a statewide insurance program that would allow Delaware employees access to up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave through the state holiday pay trust fund. This bill has passed the State Senate and is awaiting debate in the House of Representatives Committee on Health and Human Development.

However, much remains to be done, noted Ms. Ross Levin.

“We are always told that nothing is more important than early childhood education, but early childhood educators earn close to minimum wage, the majority without benefits,” she added. “And in terms of training, they need more training than a truck driver, but a truck driver makes a lot more money. So it’s not about training. It’s the value we give to women’s work.

“Caregivers are discriminated against and face barriers that translate into lower wages. There is the maternity wage penalty, where mothers earn less than fathers, and (this) has a huge impact on a family’s ability to earn enough money.

Nicole Neri, Regional Administrator of the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, explained that even in fields that are evenly divided between men and women, such as higher education teachers, and in professions where women fill most roles, such as nursing or teaching, women do not make up the majority or even an equal share of senior management and higher-paying positions.

And those differences can start during the hiring process. According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, both male and female faculty members in scientific fields judged a female student to be less competent and less worthy of employment than a similar male student, and she was offered a smaller starting position. salary and less career mentoring.

This indicates a trend towards occupational segregation, where women are concentrated in certain occupations offering lower wages. These female-focused fields have also been the hardest hit by the pandemic.

“In 2020, women saw more negative employment effects partly because of this overrepresentation in entertainment, retail, education and childcare,” Ms Neri said. “Women make up 93% of the child care field, but only 3% of electricians. We really want to create more equitable education and training opportunities for women in their non-traditional fields.

A recent Department of Labor report found that segregation by industry and occupation cost black women about $39.3 billion and Hispanic women about $46.7 billion in lower wages than white men in 2019. Ms. Neri believes those numbers are much higher now. , since the fields that have suffered the most during COVID-19 are dominated by women, concluding that these women, especially women of color, have been most affected by the toll of the pandemic on the workforce .

Those jobs weren’t counted in the post-pandemic pay data because they remained vacant, so Ms Neri said officials won’t really know the current state of the pay gap until those women return to the work.

In addition, pay inequalities remain pervasive, even despite record high university enrollments for women and historically low numbers for men.

According to the nonprofit National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, spring enrollment for men across all industries fell 2.8% in 2019, 1.8% in 2020, and 5.5% in 2021. female enrollment decreased 0.8% in 2019, increased 0.5% in 2020, and decreased 2% in 2021. At the end of the 2020-21 academic year, women made up 59.5% of students, men 40.5%, according to the data.

There is also evidence that women graduate at a higher percentage than men. Data from the US Department of Education shows that 65% of women who enrolled in US four-year universities in 2012 had graduated in 2018, compared to 59% of their male counterparts.

“I have multiple degrees and am a certified project manager,” Ms. Wilson said. “But guess what? Now I make smoothies for a living and I’ve never been happier.

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