Women of Influence and the gender gap

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I ran into Jane Young last week and let it slip that she had been selected as one of the Business Journal’s Women of Influence this year.

The recognition doesn’t come easily, so landing on the list is a fairly high honor and requires a lot of hard work at the office and in the community.

As you might expect, Young, a financial planner and president of the downtown Rotary, was happy to get the news.

Rather unexpectedly, she then asked when the Business Journal might start producing a section highlighting Men of Influence.

The gender wars, it seems to me, have been dying down for some time in this country. But Young’s question reflected an egalitarian attitude that I found, well, inspirational, if not aspirational.

As Young and I discussed, if there’s a silver lining in the downturn, it’s in the advances made by women in the workforce.

According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, the earnings gap between men and women is at a record low.

Women earned 82.8 percent of the median weekly wage of men in the second quarter vs. 76.1 percent in the same period 10 years ago.

That’s the good news.

A USA Today analysis this week of BLS figures revealed more good news in the figures, but some bad news, too:

The median weekly wage for black women rose 8.8 percent between 2000 and 2009, while wages for black men dropped 2.4 percent.

Women 35 to 44 saw wages rise 11.5 percent compared with a 1.2 increase for men.

More women are assuming high-paying jobs in accounting, law and medicine, while men are increasingly taking on lower-paying posts as bank tellers and librarians.

See what I mean about the bad news? While it’s great to see the gender wage gap shrink, the problem with these stats is that just as women are improving their lot, men are not.

The recession, of course, is partly to blame. More men than women lost jobs in the downturn because the manufacturing and construction industries were among the hardest-hit.

Other trends are at work, too, including one that has seen more women entering college today than men.

But, as Carrie Lukas at the Independent Women’s Forum put it: “It’s not good news for women to have men making poor economic progress. … If men lose, that doesn’t mean that women win.”

In a way, that’s what was behind Young’s question.

How can we continue casting our spotlight on the women who are leaders in the community, she wondered, and not do the same for the men?

It’s a generous and good-hearted notion. But frankly, men have had the spotlight for long enough. In spite of the many advances made by women in this country, men continue to dominate corporate boardrooms and political life, the two venues where power and influence are wielded most.

When the day arrives when there’s greater balance in those arenas, we might, in fact, consider a Men of Influence special publication.

Until then, I hope our readers will be content with our Women of Influence. You can also look forward to next year, when we’ll introduce a new special report on the 50 most influential people (of both genders) in the Pikes Peak region.

As always, in coming up with our Women of Influence list, we tried hard to identify women who had made a difference in their workplace and in the wider community. Along with Young, you’ll find heads of private businesses, nonprofits and government figures.

Congratulations to this year’s field. We’re looking forward to celebrating your success at our Women of Influence event Oct. 28.

In no particular order, here’s the list of this year’s honorees:

Jill Gaebler, development director, Greccio Housing.

Zelna Joseph, CEO, SET Medical Clinics.

Dee Vazquez, community relations manager, Pikes Peak Library District.

Jocelyn Colvin Wall, senior VP, American National Bank.

Ann Fetsch, former owner of Colorado Classics Furniture, Operation 6035 volunteer.

Shirley Martinez, equal employment specialist, Colorado Springs Utilities.

Paula Miller, executive director, Pikes Peak Library District.

Sallie Clark, El Paso County Commissioner.

Donna Guthrie, co-founder Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival.

Jere Martin co-founder Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival.

Jane Young, financial planner, Rotary president.

Linda Mojer, executive director, Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce

Susan Presti, community relations manager, Colorado Springs Utilities.

Col. Nina Armagno, group commander, Peterson Air Force Base.

Debbie Miller, president, Woodland Park Chamber.

Janet Suthers, executive director, Colorado Springs Leadership Institute.

Beth Roalstad, executive director, Women’s Resource Agency.

Barb Furr-Brodock, senior development officer, United Way.

Joan Gurvis, managing director, Center for Creative Leadership.

Marcy Morrison, Colorado insurance commissioner.

Kathy Loo, philanthropist, artist.

Paulette Greenberg, co-founder, Greenberg Center for Learning and Tolerance.

Susan Edmondson, executive director, The Bee Vradenburg Foundation.

Marcia Jackson, director, SACHS Foundation Research.

Leslie McGinn, executive director, American Heart Association.

Nancy Saltzman, motivational speaker.

Kathryn Young, Colorado Springs City Clerk.

Lisa Dailey, president, Lisa M. Dailey law firm.

Pat Ruffini, executive director, Colorado Springs Teen Court.

Lonzie Symonette, chaplain, Pikes Peak Hospice.

Allen Greenberg is the editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at 719-329-5206 or allen.greenberg@csbj.com