When my husband was elected mayor of Columbus, I was presented with a host of opportunities for lending my voice to important city and regional causes. Many “first spouses” join numerous boards and weigh in on many subjects.
For me, the path was clear: My goal was to better the economic position of women in Columbus. That had been my passion long before Andy — Mayor Ginther — ran for office. I have worked in health and health care administration for the majority of my career, so I have a great understanding of some of the challenges women face.
Helping women succeed
Working toward this goal, Mayor Ginther and I formed the Columbus Women’s Commission and seated the first commissioners in January 2017.
The commission is tasked with bringing awareness to the unique needs and challenges facing women in Columbus, and to convene, impart knowledge, catalyze, build partnerships, recommend solutions and advocate to create change in this community, with the belief that all women have the opportunity to succeed.
One of the first focus areas of the commission is pay equity. Currently, women in Columbus earn 78 cents to every dollar a man earns, while also participating in the workforce at a rate of 63 percent. This puts Columbus even lower than the national average of 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
Women of color experience even greater disparity on a national level. African-American women earn 63 cents for every dollar a man makes, while Latina women earn 54 cents.
A pledge from employers
On Nov. 2, the Columbus Women’s Commission launched The Columbus Commitment: a pay equity pledge for area employers. The voluntary pledge helps employers expand their use of best practice solutions to tackle the wage gap effectively and learn from one another.
Pay equity is not only the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. To compete effectively, companies need to explore and implement pay equity to hire and retain diverse talent.
I am excited to report that we have many early adopters of The Columbus Commitment, including the City of Columbus, OhioHealth, Nationwide and the Columbus Urban League. Our goal is to have 25 employers committed by January 2018, and 125 by the beginning of 2019.
Investing in women strengthens the economic backbone of our community. Empowering women begins with eliminating implicit bias and leveling the playing field. Moving the goal line from equal pay for equal work to 100 percent pay equity is the fuel that will make our community thrive.
For me, I am focused on the women and girls here, in our community. We have such an opportunity right now to impact the economic vitality of women and girls.
Shannon Ginther is the Chair of the Columbus Women’s Commission and the Columbus First Lady. Shannon has worked in health and health care for the majority of her career, including at the Ohio Departments of Health and Insurance, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and now at OhioHealth. Her focus with the Columbus Women’s Commission is to better the economic position of women in the community.