Mind the Gap: Women fall victim to inequalities in pay, health care, and more

Iowa Writers Collaboration. Iowa Readers and Writers Linking.I was in elementary school the first time I learned the phrase, “Mind the gap.” I must have been 9, maybe 10 years old, and I was obsessed with the London public transport system, particularly the Underground.

I had never been to England, let alone on a train, so it’s hard to say why this was such a big deal for me. I would cycle to the library after school and study travel books in the hope of seeing the British on “the tube”, riding the rails. I was young and naive. Do not judge.

One of the most iconic aspects of the subway is the PA announcement that alerts passengers to “mind the gap” as they get on and off the train; the “gap” in question is the space between the train and the platform. Sliding could be dangerous, as a passenger named Lilian East discovered in 1958.

East was injured in the fall and sued the London transit system, alleging that she received no warning about the breach before boarding the train. Get into minnie smith, a platform attendant who worked at the station where East fell. Smith, whose job it was to warn passengers to “watch out for space” several times an hour, testified to the incident, helping London Transit win its case.

Smith later told a London newspaper that she “had a strong voice by nature”, so strong, in fact, that “my husband used to say he couldn’t say a word against me”.

Women are falling into the gaps

Even the strongest warnings don’t stop women from falling into the loopholes. Every day, women fall victim to gaps in income, health care, education, child care, and even divorce.

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Let’s start with the income gap. the International Labor Organization (ILO) found that globally, women are paid 20% less than men, earning 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Women are doing lower paid and less skilled jobs. They are underrepresented in decision-making roles and do almost three times as much unpaid work as men. At this rate, it will take more than 250 years to close the wage gap.

And the healthcare gap: For years, women have reported not getting medical attention or the care they needed because of their gender. Maternal mortality rates in the United States they are among the highest in the world. WMen are less likely to be insured, and many work essential jobs or jobs with little or no sick time. That’s scary when you consider that women are also more likely to experience prolonged symptoms after COVID.

Let’s not forget the gap in women’s reproductive rights. When roe v. Wade was voided In June, women lost their nearly 50-year federally protected right to choose, paving the way for states to limit or ban abortion altogether. Many of those states have enacted trigger laws that could limit access to contraception, as well as vital health care for the mother.

Oh, and if you’re a mom, you’ve probably fallen into the pandemic gap. More than 2 million women left the workforce during the pandemic: some of their jobs simply disappeared, while others were forced to decide between having a career or caring for children or other committed family members.

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With schools closed during the pandemic, many moms have stepped into the role of teacher so their kids won’t be left behind. It has been reported to be could take several years so many of those students catch up after months out of the classroom.

Child care is perhaps the widest gap. According to childcaregap.org, there is about a 32% difference between the supply and demand for child care in the United States. In Iowa, the gap is 15.1%, which means that for the 173,400 children in need of care, there are only 159,310 slots available. Many families do not have access to child care or simply cannot afford it. Even more puzzling, the Iowa Capital Dispatch recently reported that the state of Iowa decided not to invest $3 million to get $30 million in federal money that would have gone toward basic child care. It’s a loss to Iowa families.

And finally, there is the divorce gap. As if navigating single parenting and the legal system wasn’t difficult enough, the guardian informs that men actually become wealthier after separation, experiencing a 30% increase in income, while women see a 20% decrease in theirs. The gap is widened if time is taken out of the workforce to care for children at home. Returning to the working world, your earning potential could be stunted by the gap in your resume.

With all these issues women face, it’s no wonder why we keep yelling, warning others. Because until we have gender equality, really, all we can do is worry about the gap.

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I spent a few days in Chicago last week and stopped at one of my favorite tourist attractions while in town: the American Writers Museum. There isn’t much more to it than a single story of photos and biographies, quotes and recordings, exhibits and engaging exhibits that tell the story of the people who paved the way for writers to write.

I made my way through a Chicago celebrity exhibit titled “Visionaries + Troublemakers.” This was in the title on the main screen:

“Chicago writers are visionaries, unafraid to try something new. The city is one of the cradles of realism, an approach to writing that elevates the ‘everyday’ to art. Chicago poets, novelists, journalists and other writers have found inspiration in everyday people, tell their stories and turn the way they speak into art. C.Hicago writers are troublemakers too… with a humanistic bent. They have shed light on injustice, questioned authority, and articulated bold new visions for a better world. Chicago writers are change agents.”

May we all be “troublemakers with a humanistic bent.”

This column was originally posted by Jody Gifford’s blog, benign inspiration. It is republished here via the Iowa Writers Collaboration.

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