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Support women for WHM and beyond

The Millerton News Editorial

It’s the year 2022 and statistically, a woman only makes 82 cents on the dollar compared to what a man earns. That’s according to www.payscale.com; the U.S. Census Bureau has the average working woman getting paid about 83% of what a man gets paid.

In honor of Women’s History Month (WHM), it’s a good time to reflect on women’s achievements and their growing experience in the workplace. It’s this compounded experience that we all hope will eventually garner them a fair wage assessment. Historically, women have not had the same access to education, training and job opportunities. Yet that situation has shifted slowly throughout the years, paving the way toward leveling the payscale. It’s also because of the way that both women and men were able to highlight such a historic issue in the past and continue to do so now in the present that hopefully it will be solved for future generations.

As women are moving into successful career positions, we’re hoping that their accumulated skills and experiences will equalize the average wage gap of $8,821 in the state of New York, which is the latest figure from the U.S. Census Bureau.   

New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon put it this way while promoting a celebratory Women’s History Month online event entitled, “Women in the Workforce: A Multi-Generational Perspective” on March 9.

“Women have made great strides in terms of equity in the workforce, but we still have a long way to go.”

Reardon called for “open discussion… to examine the issue and collectively come up with tangible solutions that will advance across New York State.”

Yes, discussing the problems that hold back the advancement of women is key. So, too, though, is taking action. As the state’s chief diversity officer, Julissa Gutierrez said prior to the same virtual event, “A diverse workplace is one that is more innovative, productive and representative of New York State.”

Yes, that sounds good. However, the importance of diversity is it not only elevates women in the workforce, it elevates people of all races, religions and ethnicities, etc., so that when anyone seeks and gains employment, everyone can be assured of equal pay, equal treatment and equal career paths going forward.

The other focus of WHM is a call for general respect to be given to women. As traditional roles start to change, culturally things must change to view women more fairly in their many capacities.

In a local town, a number of men and women have stepped forward to complain of women being treated unfairly. More than 15 complaints were registered with the Ancram Ethics Board during the past year-and-a-half.

Its chairman, Jack Lindsey, informed the Town Board of the problem in January. The Town Board then hired an attorney to launch an investigation; it’s expecting a report back by its April board meeting.

Town Councilmembers Bonnie Hundt and Amy Gold have formed an ad-hoc committee to look into finding solutions to what has been called a years’ long problem that’s gone under the radar. Hundt said many residents hesitated to speak out for fear of retaliation.

“There were people afraid to speak up before, who came out either in an email or at our Zoom meeting; 40 something people were there; five or six testified if you will, of their experience or what they witnessed,” said Hundt, speaking of the Town Board meeting at which Ancram residents spoke up after Lindsey reported on the Ethics Board complaints. “It was something seeing what was going on; it’s upsetting to even observe when people are disrespected or talked over or dismissed. That’s kind of the thing that’s really happening.”

Hundt went on to explain that a number of women in town, many of whom volunteer on municipal boards or committees, felt as if they have been disrespected, spoken down to, their work ignored or denigrated. It’s gotten to the point where many are considering no longer giving their time, energy and goodwill to the town so freely. That, said Hundt, would be a real loss.

“Some women in particular are considering dropping these positions because they feel they’re putting in time and are not taken seriously or their work is being dismissed,” said Hundt.

Diminishing someone’s work — whether male or female — is unworthy of another. Those who step forward to volunteer on our town and village boards, committees and other assorted groups should be propped up and supported, not torn down.

Here in the Harlem Valley we depend on our volunteers to make our communities vibrant and successful, and that certainly requires us to lean on the many intelligent, insightful, creative and capable women who live among us.

We would like to ask for our readers to consider during this Women’s History Month all that women have contributed throughout the course of history: From bearing children to raising families; to nurturing those in need in our communities; to volunteering at our churches and our temples; to nursing soldiers on our battlefields; to volunteering alongside Rosie the Riveter; to fighting in the suffrage, Civil Rights and countless other movements; to getting their educations; to joining the workforce; to discovering radium; to flying fly solo across the Atlantic; to jetting into space; to sitting on the Supreme Court; to serving as governor of New York; to being vice president of the United States.   

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