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G-Sync: "It's our time . . ."


Patricia Arquette delivered the shot heard around the living room as she accepted her Oscar, bringing many in the audience (and everywhere) to their feet. Publisher and Lifestyle Editor Tommy Allen joins the growing number of individuals in our nation asking that we close the wage gap now.
Over my last month as the publisher of Rapid Growth, I have had a lot of time to reflect and observe the city in ways never before afforded me.
 
Somewhere between my time in San Francisco (where I learned a lot about small business love in the face of gentrification) and the growing local excitement about the national release of the Grand Rapids-made film, Buzzard by Joel Potrykus, staring Joshua Burge, it hit me that it was time to watch the Academy Awards.
 
With each passing year I think this will be the last time I'll watch Hollywood's anointed read their thanks off the back of a napkin. I settled in on the couch for what can best be described as an endurance run as TV viewers as we were treated to an award show clocking in longer than Gone With The Wind.
 
Staying true to stereotypical form, many of the acceptance speeches, filled with tiny little colloquialisms aimed squarely at the replays airing on the next morning news shows, also puzzled viewers with jokes that went flat, like Sean Penn's offhand "green card" comment (meant to be an insider joke, except a few million were not in on it) and the sappy-at-best supporting actor winner J K Simmons's speech urging us to "call your parents." 
 
All in all, it was pretty standard fare except for a few other key speeches that were mining some real gold among all the lame'.
 
In an era when we can go cynical much too fast, many of the other speeches from those winning an Oscar for the first time reminded me of the importance of empowering a next generation's dream to become a possibility. Even in the snub of Selma became a bridge to a new beginning, as the film still won best song, Glory, and the film's mere existence is testament to the historic struggle for civil rights, beloved by audiences even if it wasn't officially recognized by the academy.
 
But to me, the real break-out performance in an acceptance speech was bittersweet as Patricia Arquette, in her closing moments, delivered the shot heard around the living room, bringing many in the audience (and everywhere) to their feet.
 
"To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights," said Patricia Arquette, upon accepting an Oscar for her supporting role in the film Boyhood. "It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America."
 
And she is right. It is about "time." Our time.
 
Each year, we, as the people of these great states, are asked to step up and perform many great things in the name of making our nation better than it was before. We have all made sacrifices together as Americans. Even when it is very difficult, somehow we find a way to accomplish the impossible. Arquette was challenging us to rise up and not let this moment pass again. But now, nearly a two weeks later, the news cycle is moving on right as Women's History Month is about to take off.
 
Luckily, even as attention moves away from the red carpet, those of us on the ground who work locally haven't forgotten about this issue. Even as our city begins to celebrate Women's History Month this March, we still find that, for all the work our mothers, sisters, and "girlfriends" conduct in the work place, when the chips are down, the gender gap is not closing fast enough for the amount of women entering the workplace.
 
And do not think for second that this wage gap is simply a poorly educated woman's problem affecting our averages. According to the 2014 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a high school drop out has a smaller percentage wage gap between a man and a woman than all the other areas of education. (Source: http://www.dol.gov/equalpay/regions/2014/national.pdf) In fact, the category where we find the biggest divide occurs for women holding a bachelor’s degree and higher!           
 
Maybe we are not listening, have grown tired of the battle of the sexes, or just need a new way of approaching the well-worn statistics regarding the more than 20 percent gap that women are experiencing in the workplace. 
 
Last March, after three successive editorials on the powerful lives of women who have passed through our city making their mark on history, I turned from my pen to my video camera to ask local women currently living and working in West Michigan what we can do to make it better for the next generation of women.  
 
Their responses were inspiring and yet very diverse. One theme emerged in the video The Great Work Begins: They want more opportunities for women.
 
And while the gap may not be closing up fast enough for many women, many women are not waiting for men to clear the way for them. More and more women of West Michigan are venturing out to networking events, showcasing that they can play in any field, from startups to the board room. A growing number are starting their own businesses here with the help of organizations who are committed to their success. Female entrepreneurs are learning if they cannot close the pay gap, then they can build a company where they can set an equal pay scale. In the coming months, Rapid Growth will highlight these successes, important as they are for our region's economic health. 
 
In the meantime, putting my design thinking hat on, I want to reach out to you, my audience of concerned individuals, to help me by collaborating on a proper and fitting graphic that illustrates the following story problem:
 
The government calculates that 2,087 hours equals one year of pay. So if a woman, who has been hired to perform the same job as man and yet is only getting paid on the average 79.2 percent of the man's wage, is in fact being paid for only 1,653 hours. How many additional hours per year is a woman required to work in order to log a full year's pay? (Because I'm nicer than your high school trigonometry teacher, I'll give you the answer: 434 hours.)
 
In short, given the numbers above and all things hoping to be equal, women work an average of 54.25 days a year without being compensated under the current gap for their labor. So draw up what that looks like and post it to our Facebook page, because that's a lot of time.
 
It's her time I'm addressing today. It's time.
 
The Future Needs All of Us.
 
Tommy Allen
Publisher and Lifestyle Editor
Rapid Growth

This week many of our choices take us to new heights and some project them. It's all in G-Sync Events:Let's Do This!
 
Lifestyle Editor's note: A big thank you to the Grand Rapids Public Library, Hook a Sista Up, and a host of other women who assisted me in presenting this look at an important topic. Thank you, women of Grand Rapids, for your support and allowing me the space to be your voice again this year.

Photo credit: The young girl in this photo from 2009's Kissing Booth at ArtPrize will entire the job market in a decade. Will we be ready for her?

 
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