By Jessica Farrish
Women own nearly 30 percent of all businesses in the state, an increase of 22 percent since 1997.
West Virginia women also employ around 38,000 workers — but women are still paid 69 cents for every dollar that male workers in the state make, according to a recent study commissioned by the West Virginia Women’s Commission of the State Department of Health and Human Resources.
The figure, as reported by Women’s Policy Research of Washington, is below the national average of 76 cents earned by women for every dollar earned by a male counterpart, according to Tara Martinez, executive director of the West Virginia Women’s Commission.
“Our findings were bleak, to say the least,” said Martinez. “I don’t know what ‘it’ is, but we know that those are the findings of full-time, year-round work for women, compared to what men get paid.”
At a luncheon Wednesday with local business and community leaders, hosted by Kyle Group at Ambrosia Inn in Beckley, Martinez said that lower pay makes women more vulnerable to domestic and sexual violence — threats that West Virginia women face, in addition to pay inequality.
According to research, only half of West Virginia women are in the labor force, working or actively looking for work. Women in the state are also more likely than average to live below the national poverty level.
The Women’s Commission focuses on researching, educating and advocating for women’s concerns in the state, and Martinez said that the Commission is facilitating Women’s Day at the Legislature as another way of drawing attention to issues that are important to women in the state.
Sponsored by The Kyle Group, Girls Scouts of Black Diamond Council, Highmark West Virginia, American Heart Association, McKinley Carter, West Virginia Alliance of Family Resource Networks and other groups, Women’s Day at the Legislature gives women and girls an opportunity to advocate on behalf of issues impacting the state’s women.
Women’s Day offers a youth component for girls ages 13 to 18.
Deena Salon, a Girl Scout leader at St. Francis Catholic School, said she’s facilitating an effort for Girl Scouts in Raleigh County in the higher grades to attend Women’s Day at the Legislature.
“It’s such a critical issue,” said Salon. “We’ve got to teach our girls early on to be involved and learn what’s going on in their state, what affects them.”
Salon said younger women often have insights that inspire adults.
“Who knows what might come out of this?” she asked. “They may have an issue that’s weighing on them.
“We need strong women, and the Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council is all about building strong women.”
Salon urged other troop leaders to attend the event, adding that Scouts who attend will be eligible for public policy patches.
Martinez encouraged men and boys to get involved in advocating for women in the state, too.
“Cultural change is not just based on half of our population,” she said. “Women are there, women already demand equality.
“It’s time for men to demand it for women, too.”
Women’s Day at the Legislature will be held Feb. 11 at the Culture Center in Charleston and Feb. 12 at the Capitol.
The event is free for youth and $55 for adult registration.
Registration may be made over the phone to Sara Price at 304-558-0700.
More information is available online at www.womensday2014.eventbrite.com.
The Women’s Commission was founded in 1977.
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