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Times are a-changing, but not enough

POSTED June 5, 2012 9:03 p.m.

As both high school and college graduates don their academic regalia and stand before family and friends in a public display of triumphant, it’s easy to read the enthusiasm and optimistic outlook on their faces. These newly-minted grads are ready to take on the future – whatever it may hold.

Ask any graduate what their future plans are and you will hear a mix of altruistic goals like curing cancer and finding a solution for world hunger and down-to-earth plans such as earning a teaching credential or business degree.

This optimistic outlook is a characteristic of all graduates — no matter their race, gender or background — and has been through the ages. What has changed, however, from the time of my mother’s high school graduation (around 1964, sorry mom!) and my daughter’s graduation in 2009, is the career expectations of female grads.

In my mother’s time, young women graduating from high school usually had the same goal in mind — marriage and family. Even the women who chose to go to college were planning on eventually getting married and putting a hold on their careers to raise a family.

Out of all the female high school grads I’ve talked with over the past few years, not one has said to me her future plans were to find a husband, get married and raise children. Am I concerned that a large decrease in the birthrate will put the human race in danger of extinction? No.

The reason for my apathy towards the potential lack of a next generation is due to my firm belief that young women still want a family, they just also want a career. This change in priorities has been reflected in the multitudes of professional women in all industries.

In Turlock, we have a woman in the city attorney position and a female president of the Chamber of Commerce. There is a multitude of women-owned and ran businesses in town and female physicians ready to cure what ails you.

There is no limit to what a woman can achieve in our society — except for equality in pay, according to a new report released by the Democratic Policy & Communications Center.

According to the Joint Economic Committee, women in California, on average, earn almost 91 cents for every dollar paid to men.  As women make up 46 percent of the workforce in California, it’s astonishing to me that there is still wide-spread discrimination against almost half of the people working in the state. The national average of what women are earning is 77.4 cents for every dollar paid to men.

A 2006 study by economists Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn found the gap between men's and women's wages has not changed much in recent years and much of the wage gap cannot be explained by differences in occupations or education or skill level — a common argument for those saying women choose to take less-paying jobs.

How can there possibly still be anti-women-in-the-workforce feelings in the year 2012?  Americans elected the first African-American president in 2008, for heaven’s sake! Well, believe it.

The U.S. Senate had the chance to improve the status of women in the workplace on Tuesday, and chose to pass. The Paycheck Fairness Act failed to gain the 60 votes it needed to move forward on Tuesday. The act would require employers to demonstrate that wage gaps between men and women doing the same work have a business justification and are truly a result of factors other than gender.   The bill would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers.

The bill would create federal grants to improve women’s salary negotiation skills and changes parts of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to protect women who take initial steps in filing an unfair pay complaint. It would give workers stronger tools to combat wage discrimination, and help ensure more adequate compensation for gender-based pay discrimination.

It’s now up to President Obama to save the act with an Executive Order to go around Congress.

I guarantee that the recent female graduates will not be okay with earning a percentage of what their male counterparts make for the same work. What kind of message are we sending to our daughters?

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