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Candy bar sale used to illustrate a point about gender wage gap

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

Buying a candy bar at the Harrison County Courthouse Thursday was a little more expensive for men than it was for women.

During lunch hour, the Business and Professional Women's Club of Harrison County charged men $1 for PayDay bars. Women only had to pay 73 cents.

Although it might seem unfair at first, club members used the sale to illustrate a point: On average, women still make less money than men for doing the same work.

"What it boils down to is that women make 73 cents of every $1 men make." said Elizabeth Warner, president of the club.

"That adds up to a quarter of a million dollars over a lifetime."

The quandary left women's club members across the country Thursday asking, "Where's my 27 cents?" They wore buttons bearing that question throughout the day.

Both the City of Clarksburg and Harrison County issued proclamations declaring May 11 "Equal Pay Day." That is a significant date for women in America, Warner said.

"According to the Census Bureau, May 11 is the day the average woman has to work to to equal the 1999 salary of the average man," she said.

The 27-cent gap is an average for all women. The gap is even wider for black women at 37 cents and Hispanic women at 47 cents, she said.

Some jobs have less of a gap than others, she said. Teaching is among the smallest, but it still exists.

Other jobs have larger gaps.

"It's even wider in the legal profession," said Warner, an attorney for the Public Defenders Office of Harrison County. "For white females, it's about 30 cents (in the legal profession)."

And the situation has changed little since the 1963 Equal Pay Act, she said.

"It's changed about a half-cent a year," she said.

The continuing wage gap is not only an issue that should be of concern to women, Warner said.

"This is a family issue," she said. "Most families need two incomes today. When women make less money, families make less money."

Club members intended to raise awareness that the wage gap exists still today. But that is only the beginning. Awareness of the problem is not enough, she said.

"Part (of the solution) is teaching girls to be more assertive," Warner said. "They should be taking the math and science classes in school.

"But eighth grade is when girls start to lose interest. Before then, girls make better grades than boys."

Some private schools have had success in segregating classes between girls and boys, said Dreama Sinkkanen, president-elect of the club.

That is another possible way to begin solving the problem, she said.

Members of the Business and Professional Women's Club meet the fourth Tuesday of each month on the second floor of the Harrison County Senior Citizens Center, Sinkkanen said.

The club is open for anyone who supports the goals of the group, including men.

More information is available from Sinkkanen or Warner at the Public Defenders Office at 627-2134, or on the Internet at www.bpwusa.org.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404.

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