Ladies Rest In Peace Til Next Year

April 26, 2002
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Women's History Month, celebrated in March, functions much as Black History Month in February, providing at the least the names and faces left out of history books and off local landmarks. While community tributes and a scattering of speeches fill some of the void, the shame is that opportunist companies give more to the public relations effort than to the individuals who are the subject of celebration. Such as it is these "months of celebration" are little more than headstones marking the graves of afterthought.

Indeed, the issues so important to nearly 48 percent of the workforce — women — are reburied until same time next year. Statistically business owners are likely aware that women are earning less than 78 cents for every dollar paid to males; that women are disproportionately represented in part-time employment and as such are not likely to have fringe benefits — like health care insurance — and most likely to be paid minimum wage.

The Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon area is represented by many, many women of achievement and distinction. The largest manufacturers, banking institutions, accounting and law firms are not. Even while area businesses take pride in counting the women on the management team or those provided "partner" titles, it is not good enough. One has to look hard to find women who are a CEO, president or managing partner. It is incomprehensible that the parents of young women — just this year — had to go to court to find equal playing time and place for their daughters, more almost 30 years after the issue was "settled." One also wonders if this is the year Grand Rapids could elect a woman mayor.

Certainly the attention brought to the issue of gender equity and pay equity have helped boost the numbers, but the point here would be to disband the "celebration" because it is (someday) unnecessary.

Grand Rapids Business Journal would first advise employers to just do the right thing. While we wait, it also is suggested that the dollars spent to pop champagne corks and hand out plaques is better used for paychecks — and donations to Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women.

It is statistically true that women have been forming their own businesses at a new record number. The "most educated generation (which obviously included women)" doesn't have to bash their heads on the glass ceiling too many times before realizing they can better run their own business. To those women, our congratulations for such courage. But not many of the rank and file has the financial wherewithal or "angel" capital to do so.

GROW fills a very big void in educating, training, mentoring and follow up services to women who want to open their own business. As K-12 education catches on in prompting youngsters beyond "traditional" careers, the GROW program also will need to build upon its resources and expertise. The group must be ready.

As always, it's the money, and the opportunity to make it.

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