Mississippi’s Leaders Failing Mississippi Women
We’ve been hearing and reading a lot about issues that matter to women lately. Perhaps it’s because, for the first time in our history, a woman holds the Presidential nomination for a major party. Or, maybe it’s because her opposition appears to be a guy whose concept of women is, shall we say, Neanderthal at best. Whatever the reason, the eyes of the country and the world are now focused on American women.
I want to focus on Mississippi women for a minute. Specifically, let’s look at their financial well-being.
In Mississippi, more than 201,000 households have women as the sole or primary breadwinner, according to Sarah Fink, Director of Workplace Safety for the National Partnership for Women and Families. Of those households, 39 percent, or 78,038 households, are living below the poverty level.
Here’s one reason why: On average, a woman in Mississippi makes $9,289 less annually than a man, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. This computes to a deficit of 23 cents per dollar for women when compared to a white, non-Hispanic man. In other words, a white, non-Hispanic woman working in the same or comparable job, makes 77 cents for every dollar her male counterpart takes home.
For African-American women in the state who hold full-time, year-round jobs, the disparity is even more dismal, with women earning 55 cents for every dollar that a white, non-Hispanic man earns.
Imagine: If the wage gap were eliminated in Mississippi, a working woman could provide 77 more weeks of food for her family, nine more months of mortgage and utility payments or more than nine additional months of rent. These figures are also according to according to the National Partnership for Women and families.
It would seem that this situation would be regarded as a bona fide crisis by our state’s leaders. It would seem. You’d think that they would be doing everything possible to empower Mississippi women to provide for their families and gain equal footing on a career path. You’d think.
However, all we have to do is just look at the reactions of those leaders to their presidential candidate’s most recent outrageous statements about women, and you’ll understand why the welfare of Mississippi women has gone largely ignored at our State Capitol.
Indeed, Governor Bryant, Lt. Governor Reeves, the rest of the Republican statewide elected officials and even our entire Republican Congressional delegation essentially gave Donald Trump a pass. “Locker room talk,” they say. “Boys will be boys.’ they say. And, even though their colleagues all over the country are disavowing and distancing themselves from Mr. Trump, the Mississippi contingent has remained steadfastly loyal.
Is it any wonder that Mississippi’s women are in such financial straits? Or, that their families are suffering?
What does the steadfast approval of Trump by Mississippi’s entire cadre of Republican elected officials and party officials say to women in Mississippi?
Remember, these are the same leaders who condone an offensive state flag, pass legislation designed to oppress our brothers and sisters because of their sexuality, and deny medical care to our working poor. How can we expect them to pay attention to wage discrimination in the Mississippi workplace? But, somebody certainly needs to pay attention or we risk losing a generation of our best and brightest young women.
The real impact of this wage gap is felt daily in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Mississippians. Yet, Mississippi’s state economist Darrin Webb said he hasn’t studied the economic impact the wage gap has on the state because “no one has requested any kind of analysis like that.” And, just who would be in a position to request such an analysis? Governor Phil Bryant and Lt. Governor Tate Reeves.
As for me, I’ll be back again, for the fourth year in a row, submitting a bill to require equal pay for equal work in the State of Mississippi. Let’s hope it fares better than it has previously. This is the 21st Century and Mississippi women deserve to be treated as equals. I am more willing than ever to work with the Legislative leadership to usher in a new era of economic equality.