In our local daily newspaper for September 5th (yes, the actual hold-it-in-your-hand variety), a small article caught my eye. The First Lady of Japan says she has such a busy schedule that sometimes it is up to the prime minister to wash the dishes or take out the garbage.

Akie Abe is a big supporter of the “womenomics” policy of promoting women’s advancement. She says Japan needs this policy because women are under-represented in senior-level positions in companies, government, and universities. She contends that Japanese women have long been discriminated against in salary and promotion decisions.

Sound familiar? It should actually. As much as we have made great strides in the US with respect to these same issues, much still remains to be done. According to 2012 Census Bureau data, in Oregon, home to Futureworks LLC., men earned $47, 402 annually compared to $37, 381 for women.

That’s 79 cents on the dollar and adds up to a wage gap of $10,021 per year. Not a perfect comparison because, yes, it’s true that many women are stuck in low-paying jobs but is that really because they choose those jobs or are those the jobs they can get?

In construction, an industry abounding with high-paying jobs that don’t require college degrees, the percentage of women employed is barely 2.6 % of a total 7+ million jobs. Why would that be you might well ask? In addition to the stereotypic thinking that construction is “a man’s world”, another significant factor has emerged.

According a recent report issued by the National Women’s Law Center, a major constraint is pervasive sexual harassment of women at work sites. Well, what can you expect from construction workers you say? Not so fast. What about members of the US Congress?

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand reveals in a new book that a number of her male colleagues made remarks to her after the birth of her second child ranging from warning her not to get “too porky” to “not lose too much weight because I like my girls chubby” while squeezing her waist. Wow, REALLY?

While Senator Gillibrand was inclined to attribute this behavior as coming from older men who didn’t know any better, I think a more proactive approach is needed. All of us, male and female, highly skilled and educated or maybe not so much, owe it to our selves and to each other to move the dial on gender equity. Men and women both contribute to the perpetuation of the problem, even if it is inadvertently, so we must all be committed to finding solutions.

And meanwhile, does anyone know a good handyman, er, handywoman?

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