The gender pay gap in the United States in 2006 by state. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
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Delicious Dialogue tackles the gender pay gap

Delicious Dialogue is a new series this semester at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) and is already covering important topics. The latest edition of the monthly series covered whether or not the government should “intervene to close the pay gap between women and men” or if “market forces [should] determine how much people get paid.”
Delicious Dialogue was suggested by Dr. Martin Tadlock, is currently organized by Caryn Nesmith and professor Kathleen Gibson-Dee and is supported by the Office of Academic Affairs. The goal of this series is to engage faculty and students at USFSP in a healthy discussion of issues that face the campus.

The gender pay gap in the United States in 2006 by state. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The gender pay gap in the United States in 2006 by state. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Dr. Rebecca Harris, instructor of economics at the Kate Tiedemann College of Business, and Kaya van Beynen, head of library research and instruction at the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library spoke at the event. For 30 minutes they held a roundtable debate constructing arguments favor and against the designated topic, making sure to point out that some of the points raised in their argument may not always reflect their personal views.

Beynen cited studies showing the 20 percent pay gap between men and women, stating that 12 percent of that comes from the choices women make throughout their career, specifically three main choices. Women are more likely to take lower paying jobs, work in lower-paying industries, and take more time off to have children and work part-time after having children. However, Beynen does not believe government intervention is a viable option.

“People should feel free to choose the industry and occupation that is best suited to their preferences and abilities.” Beynen said, “If that means that their colleagues who don’t have these workplace disruptions end up with a higher wage than they do, that might be considered fair.”In Harris’ counterpoint, she said that the pay gap is getting wider.

“Minimum wage laws dramatically affect women more than men because more women make minimum wage than men,” Harris said. “Twenty-seven states, including Florida, have enacted laws that preempt cities from including minimum wage laws.”

There are many laws that affect the pay gap, and Harris suggests that these laws push women to make career choices like taking time off for children. Many women working for minimum wage do not get parental leave. Additionally, childcare for infants in Florida costs an average of over $8,000. Another huge issue affecting women in the workplace is sexual harassment, which tends to push women out of their jobs. Harris said this issue needs more government assistance and regulation.

“Part-time workers can’t move up the scale,” Harris said. “It stagnates women in lower paying jobs that have ramifications throughout their careers. We don’t want to penalize women.” Following the debates, the floor opens up for questions and comments to engage the audience. Many of the comments focused on how education and time at school plays a large and important role in the lives of women.

Professor Jenifer Hartman from the USFSP College of Education recalled a time in high school where the female swim team at Talawanda High School in Oxford, Ohio was not allowed to get competitive, but the male swim team was. Going against the grain, she joined the male team, shaping how she interacted with peers. She was friends with the boys but missed out on what she called the best part of being on the team – the locker room interactions.
“I don’t think it was a mistake that I did that but it certainly wasn’t the experience that I wanted to have my senior year of high school,” Hartman said.

Being the only female on the swim team prepared her for more discrimination in her education. She got her masters degree in computer-based education and was one of the very few women in that program as well.
“I had male teachers and colleagues who said that one of the reasons I did really well in my classes was because I was attractive,” Hartman said, “That wasn’t very intimidating. To be in classes where I was the only female was like being the only one on the swim team.”Hartman wishes she and other women had more women role models to provide guidance and advice in these situations.

“It wasn’t easy, and not seeing any women as mentors is hard,” Hartman said.
This brings us back to the central theme of the discussion, women’s education. STEM fields are typically male-dominated, having a female mentor can help women get through the discrimination they face throughout their education.
This session was the final Delicious Dialogue for the semester, but students can expect more engaging topics in the fall.


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