The year of the Arizona woman

The year 2018 is being called the year of the woman in America. In Arizona, women are taking it to heart.

Last month, they glittered in the primary elections, and the state is about to elect its first female U.S. senator. Their economic power and influence is also rising. Arizona recently ranked among the highest in the nation for growing women’s economic clout, and is ahead of much of the country in pay equity with men and starting new businesses.

Women aren’t doing it alone, experts say.

“The results of the primary speak to how accepting the business community is and to the activism and support from both parties who put so many women on the ballot for high level positions,” said Joseph Broschak, Associate Professor of Management & Organizations for the Eller College Management at University of Arizona.

Women’s rise in power is aided by a strong network of private and public organizations that provide training, assistance and loans, said Mesha Davis, CEO of the Arizona Foundation for Women that mobilizes resources and funding to benefit women and children.

Heightened awareness in the past year also helped make this the year of the Arizona woman, she said.

“The #MeToo movement is really helping women feel they can have a voice if something inappropriate happens to them in the workplace,” Davis said. “More companies are saying they can’t allow this. Even men are saying, ‘It’s about time.’ “

Women ownership is growing in almost every industry in Arizona including STEM companies, said Kathy McShane, assistant administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Female owned businesses now generate $1.7 trillion in revenues annually for the nation, according to the State of the Women-Owned Businesses Report that was commissioned by American Express OPEN and based on U.S. Census surveys of businesses.

In Arizona, they generate $24 billion for the economy but lag behind the nation in sales and number of employees. While inequities remain, particularly for minorities, Arizona women are gaining in three key areas:

Gender pay gap  

Women are closing the pay gap in Arizona faster than many other states, according to recent data compiled from the National Women’s Law Center in Washington D.C.

Arizona now ties 13th with several other states in gender pay equity. Women make 82 cents to every dollar a man makes. On average, they earn $8,420 less per year than men. New York has the best gender equity at 89 cents. Louisiana is last at 70 cents.

Arizona politics

Arizona is near the top in the country when it comes to female representation at the state level. Women now make up 40 percent of the state legislature, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

It could be one of the first states to even the score if women succeed during the general election Nov. 6.

At the federal level, Arizona is about to elect the first female U.S. senator as Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema are facing off to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.

Almost half of the candidates running for U.S. senate and house races are women including more head-to-head female matches including Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick and Republican Lea Marquez Peterson in the 2nd Congressional District, and Republican Debbie Lesko and Democrat Hiral Tipirneni in the 8th Congressional District.

“More women are participating in politics, not just running for office, but joining campaigns, giving money, giving training,” said ASU professor and author Mary Margaret Fonow, who has done extensive research on women in the workplace. “I think women are concerned about pay equity, family leave, health care, the basic issues, and they’re not seeing the kind of progress they would like economically.”

Business ownership   

Arizona ranks tenth in the nation for increasing women’s economic clout and growing women-owned firms in the past decade, according to the American Express OPEN report.

An estimated 202,900 women-owned businesses employ 147,000 employees in Arizona, the report shows. Latina owned firms are one of the fastest growing sectors.

Women entrepreneurs here continue to catch up in industries like construction and are dominating in others like health care, food services and janitorial, said Robert Blaney, Arizona District Director for the SBA.

“We’re the fifth largest city in the United States and growing so there’s lot’s of opportunity for people here to be successful if you work at your business.”   

Victoria Harker

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