NCCU students, staff discuss state of women in North Carolina

Aug. 31, 2013 @ 06:14 PM

Women in the Triangle make 79 percent of men’s wage earnings. Sixty-four percent of women in the Triangle metro area are working, and 171,000 women in the Triangle are at or near the poverty line.

Those facts, part of the N.C. Council for Women’s “Status of Women in North Carolina” presentation at N.C. Central University Thursday, made some women in the small crowd shake their heads or murmur in disapproval.

The N.C. Council’s report was shared with an audience of NCCU students, faculty and staff at the Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute on campus, and Chimi Boyd-Keyes, director of the NCCU Women’s Center, led the discussion.

“This affects all of us,” Boyd-Keyes said to the diverse crowd. “I really wanted them to share the data, but this is also a call to action.”

The N.C. Council for Women is an advocacy agency within the N.C. Department of Administration that monitors and visits shelters and services across the state that serve women. The council is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Boyd-Keyes added that the university has its own organization that ensures workplace equality and that the needs of female students and employees on campus are met. The “NCCU Council on the Status of Women” is looking for more people to join its 15-member executive board.

“It’s all about what’s next. What now?” said Kesha Lee, NCCU director for student disability services, after listening to the presentation. She said the data helped dispel any pre-conceived notions, such as  that instances of teenage pregnancy are increasing in North Carolina.

That number is actually declining, with only 49.7 births now per every 1,000 N.C. women from 15 and 19 years old.

But especially in regard to the gap between North Carolina men’s and women’s wage earnings, “it’s just a reminder that we still have work to do,” Lee said.

In the Triangle, computing, architecture and engineering, which are dominated by men, are top career fields, according to the council’s report. Women who’ve earned bachelor’s degrees or higher make on average $20,000 less a year than their male counterparts.

“Our issues are not just women’s issues, they’re issues for families. They’re issues for the community,” said Tara Minter, a research assistant with the N.C. Council for Women.

Encourage women to run for office, she said. Encourage employers to remedy wage gaps.

“Do not underestimate the power of your voice,” Minter said. “…There are many good things about what’s going on with women. We’ve come a long way, we’ve come a lot further. It’s about advocacy.”