Saturday, January 28, 2017
Peaks and Valleys: The Road Ahead
The last few months have been a trying one for women all over the world who are striving to eradicate sexism and misogyny. Last week, we witnessed the inauguration of a president who trivialized sexual assault, used thinly veiled sex stereotypes to attack his opponent, and embraced a staunchly anti-choice voting bloc. While Ivanka Trump has spoken up in support of paid maternity leave and other laws aimed to make the workplace more family-friendly, the Republican-controlled Congress is unlikely to pass any such legislation. On the other hand, Mr. Trump has demonstrated his commitment to the anti-choice cause by signing an executive order blocking federal funding to international NGOs that supply or promote abortion. These developments at the national level, combined with the failure of the incoming North Carolina leadership to negotiate the repeal of HB2 makes local action to promote gender equality all the more urgent.
Unfortunately, taking action at the local level is easier said than done, as I am discovering first hand with my work as a CSW fellow. First of all, most of the policy remedies that would most effectively combat the wage gap—fair scheduling ordinances, living wage laws, paid family leave and sick days—are all prohibited at the local level in North Carolina. North Carolina has what’s known as “Dillon’s Rule,” which states that local governments only have the powers specifically enumerated by state statute. This precludes any law a city or county might pass that would require private employers to guarantee their employees certain rights. However, the City of Durham can implement all of those policies for their own employees, and have already begun to do so. Durham County will soon provide paid maternity leave for their employees. Public employers can have a great influence on the overall labor market when they raise standards for their own workplaces.
On a more personal level, the quest to support the Cities for CEDAW movement with original research proved a much more overwhelming task than I expected. It was difficult for me to keep my research focused and pertinent to the task at hand. I was also frustrated by the simplistic level of analysis I was limited to because of the time constraints and limitations of my data. Most of my statistical analysis feels somewhat trivial and incomplete. However, I could not go more in depth without going beyond the scope of the project and many more pages past the 11-page limit. There will always be critics who are going to criticize the depth and methods of any report. Many of these people will be unsatisfied or unconvinced no matter how many more statistics you cite.
I must remind myself that the real purpose of this report is not to produce indisputable proof of the exact dynamics of the wage gap in Durham. The goal is to provide a model for the kind of formal analysis that the city and its partners should do in order to correct pernicious gender inequities in our communities. I need only to highlight the existence of the problem of the gender wage gap and to educate a general audience about it in such a way that inspires action. This will be the toughest challenge yet, but with the training of the WomenNC mentors, I think I will be able to create an effective presentation that will move people from complacency to action.