Category Archives: Press

AAUW Op-Ed Highlights the Issue of How Student Debt Impacts Women – June 22, 2017

AAUW NCCWSL scholarship recipient and former AAUW Students of Manoa treasurer Dionne Malia Infiel and Ardis Eschenberg, Ph.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs at Windward Community College, co-signed this Island Voices column in the Honolulu Star Advertiser on June 22, 2017 about the issue of student debt and how it impacts women.

Read it here,  though if you aren’t a subscriber to the Star Advertiser, read it below!

Bigger debt, lower wages hamper female college graduates
By Ardis Eschenberg, Ph.D., and Dionne Malia Infiel
June 22, 2017

Women attending colleges and universities have come a long way. The good news is that now 57 percent of students earning bachelor’s degrees from American colleges and universities are women. Currently in the U.S., 44 million borrowers hold about $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loans.

Unfortunately, according to research by AAUW (American Association of University Women), women take on larger student loans than do men, resulting in two-thirds of the outstanding student debt or more than $833 billion held by women. Coupled with the gender pay gap (women earn 26 percent less than men), women take longer to pay back their student loans than their male counterparts. A lower salary means less income to help with debt repayment.

A new report, “Deeper in Debt: Women and Student Loans,” recently published by AAUW (, gives an analysis of federal government data. It shows 44 percent of female undergraduates take on student debt, while 39 percent of male undergraduates take on debt. At every degree level, women take on more debt than men.

AAUW advocates ways to help women and other minorities resolve this issue by safeguarding and expanding Pell Grants for low-income students, as well as providing nontraditional students the resources they need — on-campus child care, for example — to successfully complete college degrees.

Windward Community College is one local institution working to provide just such a resource. Grant funds were secured to create a child care center — two rooms: one infant and one toddler — currently under construction to be completed by March. It will hold eight toddlers, six infants and be conducted in Hawaiian language. A luau fundraiser recently raised money for furniture and other expenses. Now, funding needs to be secured for the positions needed to run the center. Legislative support for these positions is critical to answering the needs of all our student parents and addressing the needs of female students, who are disproportionately saddled by student debt.

Solutions to the student debt problem should also include supporting income-driven repayment approaches that reflect borrowers’ realities. And our support for students should address the additional costs they face beyond tuition. Congress can also end the harmful causes of the gender pay gap by passing legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Pay Equity for All Act to aid in the economic security of women.

Receiving scholarships from AAUW and other foundations can offset some of the loan burden, but the bulk of funding comes from grants and student loans.

On June 15, the AAUW Honolulu Branch participated in Lobby Day on Capitol Hill as part of the AAUW National Convention. Thirteen members of the branch asked our Hawaii representatives in Congress to support protecting and strengthening federal financial aid programs such as Pell Grants, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and Income-Driven Repayment. These programs are critical to the success of women in higher education and can help to curb the student debt burden they experience.

U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa and Joanna Amberger Pen Op-Ed for Equal Pay Day

U.S. House of Representative Colleen Hanabusa and AAUW Honolulu’s Joanna Amberger called for gender pay equality as well as enabling the federal government to investigate and enforce existing laws, in recognition of Equal Pay Day in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Island Voices section on April 7, 2014.

Read it here, or if you don’t have a subscription:

Not just a women’s issue
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and Joanna Amberger
April 7, 2014

The recovery of the American middle class begins with good-paying jobs, but that cannot happen if women continue to earn less than they deserve.

The American Association of University Women’s research report, “The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap (2013),” reveals that, even 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, women in Hawaii on average can expect to be paid only 82 percent of what their male colleagues are paid.

Equal pay isn’t just a women’s issue; it is a family and community issue. Women represent half of the paid workforce, and two-thirds of women are either the primary- or co-breadwinner for their families. Women also make up more than two-thirds of workers earning minimum wage.

In other words, increasing the minimum wage and pay equity present enormous implications not just for women, but also for working families, communities and the nation. In this economic climate, we cannot ignore such a critical issue.

As a member of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa co-sponsored legislation that would increase the minimum wage to $10.10. She also is a co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, to ensure that woman receive what they deserve: equal pay for equal work. Data continually supports the notion that fair pay affects everyone in the family. A recent study conducted by the AFL-CIO and the Institute of Women’s Policy Research found that if married women were paid comparably to men, they would see an almost 6 percent rise in their families’ incomes. That extra income could go a long way for the families of Hawaii.

Equal Pay Day, observed this year on April 8, is the symbolic day when women’s earnings “catch up” to men’s earnings from the year before. Because of the wage gap, it takes an extra three months for women to earn the same amount as men earned in 2013. Let’s celebrate this year by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would update the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by closing significant loopholes that exist in the law. It would also prohibit retaliation against workers who disclose their own wages to co-workers, and give employers and employees the tools they need to end unequal pay practices.

Another important step in ensuring pay equity is protecting workers’ rights to discuss their pay, and increasing our capacity to track earnings of different demographics over time. President Barack Obama is being urged to sign an executive order banning retaliation against the employees of federal contractors for disclosing or inquiring about their wages.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports that nearly half of all U.S. workers are either forbidden or strongly discouraged from discussing pay with their colleagues. This often prevents women from knowing that they are being paid less than their male colleagues, and therefore prevents them from being able to challenge discriminatory practices. If the president were to sign this order, more than 20 percent of the U.S. workforce would be able to discuss their salaries without the fear of losing their jobs.

Alarmingly, there is currently no mechanism for federal enforcement agencies to detect widespread wage discrimination, so the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is being urged to quickly finalize and implement its compensation data-collection tool to monitor average starting pay, raises and bonuses, minimum and maximum salaries, number of workers by gender, race, age and ethnicity, and other important data.

We must ensure that our workplace policies truly embody the spirit of aloha by demonstrating that all people are equally valued for their contributions.



Joanna Amberger Featured in Star-Advertiser’s Island Voices

AAUW Honolulu President Joanna Amberger was featured in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Island Voices on June 9, 2013, discussing the pay gap and AAUW’s report, “The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap”.

Read it here, or if you don’t have a subscription:

Gender pay gap still a problem for women
Joanna Amberger
June 9, 2013

We don’t like to talk about money, so it takes a research report like the American Association of University Women’s “The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap” (2013) to reveal that, even 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, women in Hawaii on average can expect to be paid only 82 percent of what their male colleagues are paid.

The gender pay gap is personal. For my own profession, I’ve chosen one of the hardest old boys’ clubs to try to break into: finance. According to AAUW’s report, this is the occupation with the biggest gender pay disparity, and I see the evidence firsthand.

The broker dealer I use publishes an internal ranking of the top 150 representatives. A survey of that list shows only six women named, with not one in the top 10. That’s a pretty steep professional hill to climb! I’ve got my climbing gear on and I’m scaling that mountain, but there’s no reason that mountain should be so steep in today’s age.

Women’s roles have changed dramatically since the Equal Pay Act was signed into law in 1963. Women today are working to support themselves and their families. A majority of women are in the work force, and in 6 out of 10 families, women are the primary or co-breadwinners. Hawaii families can scarcely afford to have our women earning less simply because our elected officials refuse to redress the injustice of paying workers based on gender instead of their skills and performance.

Yes, women’s roles have changed, but only marginal strides in closing the gender pay gap have been made in the 50 years since the Equal Pay Act. Since 1970, the gender pay gap has closed by only 17 percentage points, to an average of 77 percent nation- wide.

That’s because the Equal Pay Act has loopholes that make closing this gap difficult. The law hinders employees’ ability to learn about wage disparities and to evaluate whether they are experiencing wage discrimination. It doesn’t have any provisions preventing employers from retaliating against employees who ask about wages or share their salary information. And it makes it too easy for employers to pay different wages to male and female employees performing the same job without providing a legitimate business reason.

We need to update this important legislation to give the current generation the tools it needs to continue to close the gender pay gap. The Paycheck Fairness Act in Congress would do just that. It would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, prohibit retaliation against workers who disclose their own wages to co-workers, and give employers and employees the tools they need to end unequal pay practices.
Lucky we live Hawaii. Our elected officials understand the importance of this legislation to the people of Hawaii.

Let’s get the Paycheck Fairness Act passed for Hawaii. Let’s make sure our mothers, sisters, wives, aunties, daughters, nieces, grandmothers and granddaughters are treated with the respect they deserve and are paid a fair, equal wage for the work they do.