Monday, August 13, 2001

Ohio women earn low end of pay

The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — Census data show Ohio women earning far less money than men and less, on average, than most women in America, a newspaper reported Sunday.

        The Plain Dealer reported that experts attribute the disparity to several social forces, including the part-time status of many working women. But they also see cause for concern.

        Increasingly, a woman is not only a worker but also a family provider.

        “We are a tradition-oriented state,” and work often follows traditional roles, said Mareyjoyce Green, director of the Women's Comprehensive Program at Cleveland State University. “But now we know this inequity in income is affecting families all over the state.”

        The U.S. Census Bureau found that working women in Ohio earned a median $17,873 in 2000, meaning half made more and half made less. The figure is $13,407 less than the median income of Ohio men, which was $31,280, and $1,123 less than the median income of women nationally.

        In only five other states did women have a lower median income.

        “Women tend to flow in and out of the labor market, in accordance with life cycles,” said George Zeller, senior researcher for the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland.

        A working woman might step out of a career to have a baby, for example, or to attend to family, lessening her job tenure and earning power.

        “I was an accountant in my previous life,” said Julie Himmelman, of Leroy Township in Lake County, who earned in the mid-$40,000s before leaving the work force six years ago to raise her family. She and her husband agreed early in their marriage that one of them would stay home with the kids.

        Now Ms. Himmelman, a mother of three, earns about $2,500 annually doing record-keeping for her church.

        At times, income disparity can be blamed on unequal pay for equal work. One claim handled by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Cleveland office was resolved in 1998, when nine women split a $21,000 settlement after proving that the trucking company that employed them paid male dispatchers more than female ones.

        Another factor is low-wage jobs.

        The Census survey found 25 percent of Ohio's working women involved in “office or administrative support occupations,” or clerical jobs. It also found 19 percent of Ohio working women in service jobs, like health care support and food preparation.

        Men dominate higher-paying unionized fields like construction and trucking.

        “Why does a female 18 years old major in preschool education, and the male goes into business? We'd all like to know,” said Toby Parcel, an Ohio State University sociologist.

        Census income figures also show that in 2000, less than 3 percent of women had an income of $65,000 or more, while 12.5 percent of men did.


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