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The Status of Women: Why It Still Matters

Jessica Kozma Proctor

Member, North Carolina  Council for Women and Youth Involvement

President, North State Solutions

In a perfect or perhaps slightly less imperfect world, we wouldn’t need to compile data on the economic, physical and educational health of our state’s women.

In fact, we wouldn’t even need the North Carolina Council for Women.

A slightly imperfect world, one where we could rest assured that women were physically safe from abuse, that their dollar meant a dollar to a man rather than .80 cents. A world where household chores were split, working women had access to dependable childcare.

But let’s face it, that’s a world we don’t know yet.

In less than a week, the North Carolina Council for Women will release its 2018 Status of Women report, an annual benchmark for the council and staff.

Its findings aren’t going to shock you: yes, there’s pay inequity, particularly among occupations requiring MORE education. Women are growing as entrepreneurs. Yet still, women in rural areas endure a sobering reality: caring for multigenerational relatives, depressed wages, cycles of poverty clamping children to the dreadful downward economic and cultural spiral of their mothers and grandmothers – downward, not upward.   

The Status of Women Report brings a reality to this plight – and the growth – of women in North Carolina. Though unmatched (yet) with qualitative data to compliment this quantitative effort, this album tracking the health of our state’s women is probably the strongest platform we can build to shape women’s public policy in North Carolina.

I believe our public officials on both sides believe in the slightly less imperfect world where women’s futures can be shaped by the talents, work ethics and aspirations they themselves possess, rather than public policy prop-ups or get back in the kitchen cultural mores. But down here in the field, where 51 percent of our state’s population earn 4/5 to a man’s dollar and continue to shoulder invisible super cape roles of caregivers, community contributors, unrecognized home economists, balance it all contributors to the economy and just plain moms, that world is far from reality.

Being 23 years into my own career, I can write today that I have first-hand experienced the overlooked and ignored systemic boulder of sexism, and more times than once.  It’s harsh reality, but a real one. My personal goal: to make sure my daughter can live and thrive in a world where she won’t be expected to give more professionally while earning less. Until that perfect world arrives, information is the power. As for our issues facing North Carolinian women, we’ll take all we can get.