November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving … For All Members of Our Family

Thanksgiving is an American family holiday. We celebrate it to mark our gratitude for the blessings we receive. Individually we express our thankfulness for family, friends and food. It is also a time we gather to catch up on our busy lives.

In many homes the meal begins with a prayer or acknowledgement of what we are grateful for and the many gifts that we share. I am thankful for a purposeful life. Every day I work with people who are envisioning their future, and I help them figure out how to get there. I guide people into amazing careers and help them negotiate the terms of their employment.

We live in a country that embraces diversity, welcomes immigrants, and promises equal opportunity for all of our people. Sometimes it doesn’t work out so equally.

This week I watched as three hopeful graduating candidates received offers of employment from the same company at vastly different salaries. Each came to me independently to tell me about their offers. The salaries were all low for candidates with their qualifications. But the company offered $8,000 less to the woman than they offered the men. I could not see a marked difference between two of the candidates. Assessing the parameters of the positions – title, responsibilities, and location, all offers were substandard, but the one offered to the woman was ridiculously low. All of the candidates are now negotiating their salaries.

This is not an isolated incident. In 2012 Catherine Bracy researched salaries and gender distribution in Silicon Valley tech firms for the National Partnership for Women and Families. The NPWF pushes for vigorous enforcement of employment discrimination laws and expanded job opportunities for women. According to Bracy, women make 49% of what men make in Silicon Valley. 2012 national data from the US Census Bureau shows women making 77% of what men make - the same percentage difference as in 2005. Things are not getting better.

This is a disturbing national problem. Unequal pay hurts American families. Since the 1970’s, it has required two wage earners to support a reasonable middle class family life style.

A while back, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, data showed that at the entry level, male college graduates typically receive more than female college graduates. According to the National Organization for Women, "If women received the same wages as men who work the same number of hours, have the same education and union status, are the same age, and live in the same region of the country, then these women’s annual income would rise by $4,000 and poverty rates would be cut in half. Working families would gain an astounding $200 billion in family income annually."

Lest you think women receive less because women are less educated or less skilled… The American Council on Education now reports that 57% of enrollment in American colleges and universities is female. This trend predates the year 2000.

Can young women make it in technical Disciplines?

Young women account for 56% of all advanced placement exam candidates. The data shows that young women comprise 58% of advanced placement students in biology, 47% in chemistry, 48% in calculus AB, and 40% in calculus BC. (Source: National Center for Women & Information Technology).

California State University, Sacramento reports 56.8% female enrollment in 2012. But the enrollment in engineering and computer science is dismal. Nationally women made up 18.2% of enrollment and 18.4% of new graduates in engineering. Not an impressive statistic. Worse, at CSUS women only make up 12.9% of the enrollment in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. (Civil engineering enrollment is 21.2%; Computer Science enrollment is 10.5%; Construction Management enrollment is 6.8%; Electrical/Electronic Engineering enrollment is 10.2%; Mechanical Engineering enrollment is 9.5%).

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges in 1965 women made up 6.9% of medical school graduates. Common wisdom back then was that women just weren’t cut out to be doctors. Really? In 2012 women made up 47.8% of medical school graduates.

Provided the right opportunities, role models and encouragement, women really are capable of being at parody in science and technology… where there are tons of high paying jobs.

The US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports the high tech industry will add 778,300 new computer science jobs by 2020. Architecture and engineering occupations are projected to add 252,800 new jobs. Salaries in these fields are the highest of all majors paying from $70,000 to $90,000 nationwide. I am seeing offers of $150,000 for new college graduates. These are the high demand, high paying occupations.

Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for our many blessings and it is also time to share all of the bountiful gifts of our nation equally and work on boosting the income for families from both partners.