Category Archives: Press

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Professional development will enable women to ascend, Oct. 20, 2019

AAUW Honolulu Career and Leadership Development Grant recipient Sara Ward penned this op-ed about the importance of professional development for women.

Read it here or if you aren’t a subscriber to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, read it below.


Column: Professional development will enable women to ascend
By Sara Ward

Oct. 20, 2019

It’s been a very long time since women were a novelty in the workplace — but why does equality still elude our workplaces?

Nationally, women make 20% less than men do on average. In your place of work, chances are the women make 82 cents on the dollar that a man, who’s doing the same job and with the same experience, makes on the average. That number is from AAUW’s most recent research into the issue, “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap” (from 2018’s U.S. Census Bureau numbers). That pay disparity increases for women who are minorities.

In Hawaii, AAUW’s research on gender wage-gap numbers, also from the Census, found that the state was above that average in 2015 with 84 cents to every dollar a man made on average. But in 2017, women made just 81 cents to every dollar a man made; in 2018, it was 83 cents.

In a state where the cost of living is unbearably high to begin with, any kind of pay disparity — especially one tied to gender — is too much.

It’s been estimated that at the current rate of progress, the gender wage gap will close in 2105. That’s not a typo. But even if the gender wage gap was eliminated, women in the workplace face even more hurdles.

Women also face the challenge of advancement in their careers. Nationally, less than 29% are executives, according to AAUW’s 2016 study, “Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership.” The numbers are even worse for women of color, comprising less than 4% of executives and managers.

This is why just addressing the gender wage gap isn’t enough. Women need to take the issues of wage equity and representation in upper management as intertwined and symbiotic.

Hawaii’s made progress in addressing the wage gap through recently passed laws that allow employees to talk about how much they make without fear of retaliation or ask for salary history.

But C-level executives shouldn’t just pat their backs and call it a day. They must examine their employee pool and their management teams and take an honest look at their policies regarding pay and advancement. Even companies with corporate cultures that think of themselves as progressive have implicit bias that underpays women and holds them back from contributing fully as senior management members.

Researchers have found stereotypes associated with leadership are overwhelmingly masculine and this shapes subconscious promotion decisions that skew toward men, even if people claim to have no bias toward which gender is in charge.

Grooming the next generation of leaders is always an important responsibility of any company’s leadership. But in many cases the continuing education for additional training and certification overlooks women. The opportunity to attend important networking events like conferences and conventions, which help build the professional relationships so important to becoming an effective corporate leader, often go to men.

I am lucky to work in theater production. I’ve worked as a volunteer, a child actor wrangler, line prompter, set changer, props designer, box office manager, officer manager and now assistant executive director.

It’s a profession I feel passionate about. However, I’m even luckier to have worked for people, and to continue to work for people, who recognize the contributions I bring to my job and nurture my potential with management responsibilities.

The faith and opportunities my superiors have shown me and given me in my career are true blessings. However, I do realize that many women, who are deserving of being managers or executives, are often overlooked.

Companies across Hawaii should ask themselves if they are doing enough to give the women in their organizations the opportunity to reach their full professional potential.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Hawaii must protect access to full reproductive health care — July 8, 2019

AAUW Honolulu Career and Leadership Development Grant recipient Amber Granite and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii state director Laurie Field penned this op-ed about a woman’s right to choose in Hawaii and what more needs to be done — especially given the current political climate.

Read it here or if you aren’t a subscriber to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, read it below.


Column: Hawaii must protect access to full reproductive health care
By Amber Granite and Laurie Field

July 8, 2019

Given the all-out attacks on reproductive health care by the federal government and states across the country, the words, “lucky we live Hawaii,” have never been more true.

Hawaii was the first state to legalize abortion before the landmark Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, and has been a consistent leader in the reproductive rights movement since then. A recent article by The Washington Post highlights the widening gap in abortion laws around the country and called out Hawaii as a state with a number of protections in place to ensure that abortion remains safe and legal.

However, Hawaii people still face barriers when seeking abortion care. People on islands without a provider and those who live in rural and geographically isolated areas face more challenges accessing services. While Hawaii has good laws, we can do better to ensure that these laws have meaning in practice as well as policy. The recent actions in Alabama and Missouri served as a good reminder about the importance of being vigilant in protecting our rights and promoting access to life-saving care.

In the last month, Alabama essentially eliminated abortion access and threatened to imprison doctors for life if they perform the procedure, and the last abortion provider in Missouri faced losing its license due to state law. Other states, including Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Utah, Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi and Iowa, have passed restrictive laws that only serve to limit women’s access to safe, legal care and force a challenge to Roe v. Wade and snap into focus the work we must do to protect safe and legal abortion.

Actions across the country in support of abortion rights and access have been taking place because of these attacks on abortion rights. In Hawaii, supporters rallied, waved signs and took action to demonstrate their support for abortion rights at the new Honolulu Planned Parenthood health center. These supporters are in the strong majority here in Hawaii and across the country.

Polling indicates that 7 in 10 Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. The Pew Research Center found that 58% of all Americans say abortions “should be legal in all or most cases.” The same poll found that a clear minority — only 37% — support restricting abortion in all cases.

The AAUW and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii support increased spending for reproductive health and Title X, the nation’s only family planning program, which provides life-saving preventive care such as cancer screenings, STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing and treatment, and other critical care. We also support preventive care through the Affordable Care Act, which mandates birth control coverage. These programs, along with sex education and increased access to care will help to maintain the current historically low abortion and unintended pregnancy rate.

Access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, is also key to achieving economic security. Preventive care and sex education, the majority of Planned Parenthood’s work, help people have control over their health, their lives, and their future.

While Hawaii’s laws protect our right to reproductive health care, legislation must be advanced to ensure those protections are fully guaranteed. The time is long overdue for people to make their voices heard and demand abortion access, reproductive health care and education, and bodily autonomy.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Equal pay law should be improved — Jan. 30, 2019

AAUW Honolulu members Younghee Overly and Susan Wurtzburg penned this op-ed about what issues regarding pay equality still need to be addressed in the new state legislative session.

Read it here or if you aren’t a subscriber to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, read it below.


Equal pay law should be improved
By Susan Wurtzburg and Younghee Overly

January 30, 2019

The AAUW, a nonprofit headquartered in Washington, D.C., with a Hawaii state organization and six local branches, is committed to promoting women’s equality in education, work and leadership. AAUW-Hawaii is active in supporting state legislation to diminish the gender pay gap.

A recent success was the passage of Senate Bill 2351 (Equal Pay) in the 2018 legislative session, which was signed into law (Act 108) by Gov. David Ige on July 5. Act 108 now mandates that employers may not request previous salary information from job applicants. This should help women to avoid taking a gender penalty into new employment.

Given this history, one might ask: “That was 2018, but what is happening now?” We would direct attention to the recent flurry of bills introduced at the state Capitol: On Jan. 24, state Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson, House Committee on Labor and Public Employment chairman, introduced HB1192, “relating to equal pay,” while Sen. Brian Taniguchi, Senate Committee on Labor, Culture and the Arts chairman, introduced the companion bill, SB1375.

These two bills are important for women and ethnic-minority workers in Hawaii, who are paid less than white men, based on full-time employees’ median wage data. Women as a group are paid 81 percent of what white male employees in Hawaii get, and women of color receive still lower wages. These numbers are worse than in 2015, when women’s pay was 84 percent of men’s in Hawaii. These data are from American Community Surveys, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, and appear on the AAUW-National website, along with other resources.

With the worsening of women’s salaries in Hawaii, it is important to pass this year’s equal pay bill to drive improvements. The bill focuses on “pay transparency,” the definition of paid work, and “protected classes,” among other issues. None of these are particularly sexy topics, but they are all fundamental for achieving a fairer workplace environment in Hawaii, so women, and those who live with, or care about women should pay attention and submit supportive testimony.

“Pay transparency” deals with just that: allowing employees to understand how potential and current employers set wage rates for different types of positions. Currently, employers do not have to provide a salary range in job advertisements. This means that employees may face gender penalties in job offers received. This is one of the many factors underpinning the current gender differences in salaries identified across the U.S.

The definition of “work” allows wage comparisons across job types and industries. There has been a move to use the term “substantially similar work” on the mainland. This allows for a more thoughtful consideration of salaries, based on the examination of the actual tasks, rather than just the job titles.

We know that bias and stereotypes of employers affect the wages of people perceived to be different from their colleagues. Naming differences, as “protected classes” is a way of shielding people from employment harm, and providing them with legal redress when they are harmed. For this reason, an expansion of “protected classes” to include “gender identity or expression, arrest and court record, or domestic or sexual violence victim status,” among others, is important, and a welcome step forward in a time of increased hate crimes and discriminatory actions.

Greater attention paid to factors diminishing women’s pay packets in comparison to those of their male colleagues results in a happier work force. These types of laws benefit employers as well as employees, in moving Hawaii toward a more gender- equitable work environment.