Women's Fund of Greater Chattanooga
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News from the Women's Fund

I am 49th and So are You

When the Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga launched our 49 to One framework, I obsessively devoured the data used to determine Tennessee’s ranking of 49th in the Status of Women. Of course I did - I’m an academic who believes that the strength of any persuasive argument lies in the empirical facts. But not this time, not with this report. 

Something changed as I became more invested in these data and in this report. I realized that these numbers are about me, my friends, my peers, my former students, and my neighbors. These numbers are the devastating realities of women living in Tennessee. I am one of those women. 

At first glance, one would assume that I am precisely the woman who is not reflected in the 49th ranking - I am a white, upper middle class, well-educated, married woman with consistent access to health insurance and a healthy credit score. The harsh reality is that many of the measures acutely impact minority women (gender age gap, educational opportunity) and women of lower socioeconomic standing (infant mortality, access to health care) in particularly egregious ways. 

But Tennessee’s 49th ranking means that my life is not reaching the potential that it could, that I am not empowered by my home state the way that all residents should be. Tennessee’s 49th ranking impacts us all. 

Did you know? 

Women in Tennessee earn 83.8 cents on the dollar compared to men, unless you look more closely at the data for women with bachelor degrees or higher. Those women in Tennessee earn only 72.3 cents on the dollar. That’s right - the more educated a woman in Tennessee is, the greater the gender wage difference she faces. 

Did you know? 

More women live in Tennessee than men, but Tennessee ranks 39th for the number of women in elected office. 39th. Of course, this may very well be due in part to the fact that only 47% of women who are registered to vote showed up and did so (still a higher percentage than men). It’s hard to be empowered to vote when you live in a state that clearly does not prioritize you and other people like you, but when we don’t ALL show up, it means that we do not have representation in our government. 

Did you know? 

According to the EEOC, 289 claims of workplace sexual harassment were filed by Tennesseans in 2017, and 230 of those were filed by women. In fact, last year Tennesseans filed 3% of the nation’s workplace sexual harassment claims. Workplace sexual harassment happens most frequently in male-dominated professions and workplaces - STEAM professions, construction, and management positions, as examples. 

Did you know? 

Tennessee ranks 30th nationally in suicide mortality. This means that more women in our state commit suicide than in 29 other states. White women are more than three times as likely to commit suicide as African American and Hispanic women. 

These data aren’t about other people. They are about me - a woman with multiple advanced degrees that distinguish me as being even less likely to be paid equally to a man in the same position; a woman without elected officials who I feel truly reflect my values and priorities; a woman who worked for years in male-dominated fields and recognizes that as jarring as the statistics for workplace sexual harassment may be, there are still so many women who still silently affirm the #metoo movement; a woman who has personally witnessed the suicides of vibrant women tearing apart families and communities. These data are all of us. 

I am 49th, and so are you. Please join us at the Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga as we work to improve the lives of all women in our state.

Jeannine Carpenter, Advocacy Specialist

Jeannine CarpenterComment
49 Isn't Good Enough for Molly

Did you see that adorable little girl who said “49 isn’t good enough for me?”  That was my daughter, Molly, who is in Kindergarten.  On the day of filming, her school closed because of the threat of a hurricane.  There was no time to reschedule the filming.  There was also no way that I could miss the filming.  I was in the position that so many working parents face: I needed to be at work but I didn’t have childcare.

I nervously decided to let Molly come to work and watch the video production.  I hoped that she would behave.  I loaded her up with snacks and books and told her to sit in the corner while community members and Women’s Fund Board members trickled in for filming.

To my surprise and delight, Molly’s presence was not only tolerated, but celebrated by every person who came in to work on the video.  People asked her questions, read with her, and helped her find me when she was lost.  Our videographers put her in front of the camera and gave her a line for the video. She loved it!  They loved it!  And I wish that I’d thought to include a child in the video because so much of the work of the Women’s Fund is focused on making a better, more equitable world for the next generation.

The moral of the story is this- that accommodating working parents in creative ways makes everything better.  The video is better with Molly in it.  The filming was more fun because she was there.  I am a happier and more grateful employee of the Women’s Fund because my board members helped me out and didn’t make me feel guilty for having my child at work.

It doesn’t always make sense to have children in an office.  But as the lines between work and life blur, it’s important that we recognize that the benefit of parents in the workforce outweighs the occasional and inevitable childcare glitch.

~Emily O'Donnell, Executive Director

Liz Tapp