Kansas women still face workplace inequality

Kansas women "still have a lot of barriers to break down" for workplace equality. Kathleen Marker, YWCA Northeast Kansas CEO, and Fatima Perez-Luthi, The Grind Coaching and Consulting founder and CEO, discuss gender-based financial inequities.



April 9, 2024 - 2:42 PM

Fatima Perez-Luthi, the founder and CEO of The Grind Coaching and Consulting and manager of a local financial literacy program, discusses the child care calculations many women must make before entering the workforce. Photo by Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector

TOPEKA — It’s 2024 and the gender pay gap still exists.

And Topeka-based advocates for women’s financial empowerment warn that child care shortages in the state are worsening the issue.

During a recording for the Kansas Reflector podcast, YWCA Northeast Kansas CEO Kathleen Marker and Fatima Perez-Luthi, the founder and CEO of The Grind Coaching and Consulting and manager of a local financial literacy program, discussed gender-based financial inequities.

“We still have a lot of barriers to break down,” Marker said. “Women need to really take hold of their value and say, ‘This is my value in this workplace, this is what I bring, and I could do more. But here are the barriers that I have.’ I think those need to be open and honest conversations with their employers to be able to say that, and it needs to feel safe that they can do that, and employers need to be open to that. Because women do bring a lot of value to the workplace.”

On average, women who worked full-time in 2022 made 84 cents on the dollar paid to non-Hispanic white men, the U.S. Census estimates.

Breaking wage disparities down by race, AAUW looked at 2022 earnings and calculated Latina women earned 52 cents for every dollar, Black women earned 66 cents per dollar and white women earned 74 cents per dollar.

In Kansas, the gender wage gap is around $10,746, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. For managers, one of the largest listed occupations in the state, median male earners in management took home $81,515 whereas female earners only took home $56,188.

Marker emphasized the importance of fixing these inequalities as a tool against financial abuse. Financial abuse, such as controlling finances so that one partner can maintain power and control over another, can trap women, Marker said.

“A lot of times the reason that a woman might not leave an abusive relationship is because of financial security and saying, ‘I’m not going to have any assets. I’m not going to have any job skills that I’m going to be able to have the kind of income that I’m going to need to survive, maybe myself and my children,’ is what is holding someone back from being able to leave a very abusive situation sometimes,” Marker said.

Affordable child care, elder care and care for people with disabilities are all factors that block women from staying in the workforce.

United WE, an nonprofit organization dedicated to improving women’s economic and social status, used feedback from Kansas women to pinpoint some of their most pressing issues. The organization’s 2022 survey of 536 women across Kansas found that more than 50% of them were responsible for child care.

In a state where only 46% of children are receiving child care services, and an additional 85,000 child care slots are needed, the lack of child care providers is a significant obstacle.

“One of the biggest barriers is child care,” Perez-Luthi said. “But it also comes when we’re taking care of our parents, and the cost of that — a lot of times women are required to leave their jobs because they just can’t make enough to pay or sustain the child care costs or the caregiving cost of their parents or their loved ones.”