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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 


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For the week of August 22 - 28, 2001

  Opinion Column

Idaho pays women ‘stoop labor’ wages

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Ah, sweet silence from Idaho’s political and business establishments when another infamy was added to the list of unneeded honors.

The Census Bureau reports that Idaho working women are paid less than in other states — averaging about $12,500 a year, or half what men are paid.

How can this be when workplace equality supposedly is de rigueur?

Simple. Women who need income will endure this slight, and employers who choose so will pay what they can get away with, since Idaho’s male-dominated establishment seems satisfied with its attitudes toward women.

A few hemmers and hawers blame an anomaly — Idaho women quit work to have a family or work part-time.

Surprise: women in other states also quit jobs to have families or work part-time.

If I seem especially intense about this, it’s because of a special admiration for working women, especially those who juggle homes and work.

I saw my mother raise two sons and work full-time while my father was in and out of veterans’ hospitals with World War I injuries. When she dropped dead at 83 years old after a full week in the office, she’d worked for the same company for 59 years, rising from clerk to vice president.

A woman, Verna Burke, gave me my first flying lesson at 14 in a Florida pasture. I took commercial and instrument flight tests from a woman FAA examiner, Mary Gaffaney, then the world’s champion aerobatics pilot whom men refused to compete against.

As a newspaper publisher, many of my editors and my executive assistant were women because of exemplary skills. My boss until her retirement was a woman, Nina Pulliam, widow of the newspaper’s founder, who had helped build the nation’s 17th and 18th largest morning and evening newspapers.

I recently completed a magazine profile of Barbara Barrett, wife of the CEO of chip-maker Intel, but also one of the most widely traveled American businesswomen-lawyers who’s met upwards of 100 of the world’s political leaders and just ended a two-year term as president of the International Women’s Forum. She also was a Reagan appointee — No. 2 at the now disbanded Civil Aeronautics Board, No. 2 at the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as a Defense Department adviser on women in the military. As a teenager, she supported a widowed mother and five siblings, then earned three degrees in college.

My spouse was a successful real estate broker in Arizona.

Over the years, I’ve watched women move rapidly into so-called men’s traditional fields — airline jet captains and military combat pilots, astronauts, physicians, politicians in city, state and national office; judges; presidential Cabinet members, even presidential and vice presidential candidates. One of the U.S. Air Force’s select U-2 spy plane pilots is a woman. The first female U.S. Supreme Court associate justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, was an Arizona state senator when I first met her in 1972.

And so it goes with remarkable women, despite obstacles that would discourage lesser men.

Part of the problem for Idaho women may be that a discredited Stone Age philosophy survives — that women belong at home, not in the work place.

If Gov. Dirk Kempthorne truly believes Idaho has a special place in the sun, as he preaches, he needs to lecture employers about the virtues and values of paying women their worth, not stoop labor wages.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.