The Lives of Women (Editorial)

This week Arkansas Business makes a special effort to seek out and recognize women whose success — in business, in the political arena, in nonprofits — has made them influential characters in our state. A special effort is appropriate because, even in the 21st century, the pages of this publication are much more likely to be populated by men.

That’s still the nature of business everywhere, and even more so in Arkansas.

Women have made progress, according to periodic reports from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, but not much. Instead of ranking 50th (among the states and the District of Columbia) when it comes to employment and earnings, as women in Arkansas did in in 2000, they had moved all the way up to 49th by 2010.

The median pay for an Arkansas woman working full time in 2010 was barely 80 percent of the earnings of the median American woman. It seems almost a waste of time to compare the earnings of women in Arkansas to that of men — women working full time earn less than men everywhere — but that was almost a bright spot. Arkansas women earned 76.3 percent of the median for Arkansas men, which was closer to parity than in 18 other states. (Unfortunately, Arkansas men were tied for last place in earnings with the men of South Dakota.)

Arkansas ranked 47th for the percentage of women (24.5 percent) who are employed in managerial or professional occupations — the type of people most often featured in Arkansas Business. But that’s actually pretty good considering our state ranked 50th for the percent of women who have college degrees (19.2 percent). Thank God for West Virginia.

We don’t expect women to choose the business world as often as men to. Women face different choices in life. But when we look at the women and girls in our lives, let us make sure we are preparing them for the lives they choose.