Women's pay report

Seven women from the Bozeman for CEDAW Initiative Steering Committee gave a report Monday in front of the Jeannette Rankin statue on Babcock Street. From left are Meghan Lockner of HAVEN, Lei-Anna Bertelsen, Jan Strout, the Rev. Lindean Barnett Christenson, Stephanie McDowell, Lauren Gette-King and MSU student Cameron Doran.

Even in a college town like Bozeman that sees itself as progressive, more work needs to be done to achieve equality for women and protect women’s human rights, says a group seeking to end barriers and discrimination.

Seven women seeking Bozeman’s adoption of a Women’s Bill of Rights presented a report Monday outlining problems women here face, from unequal pay to lack of childcare and domestic violence.

They called for the city commission to adopt the international Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and to create a task force to come up with an action plan with local solutions.

“It’s not ‘Poor us, we have all these problems.’ It’s ‘We can do something,’” said Jan Strout, co-leader of the group, Bozeman for CEDAW, and president of the Montana chapter of the National Organization for Women.

They spoke in the shadow of the statue of Jeannette Rankin, the first U.S. woman elected to Congress and Montana’s only woman in Congress, outside the Human Resource Development Council office lawn on Babcock Street.

The group is putting out a voter guide for the November city commission election, when votes will be held for mayor and one commissioner’s seat. They also will host a candidates’ forum Oct. 30, at Montana State University’s Procrastinator Theater.

The group went to the city commission in May 2018 seeking support for the Women’s Bill of Rights. The commission had earlier adopted an equal pay resolution for city employees and a controversial “non-discrimination ordinance” protecting city residents no matter their gender identity.

But even with a large turnout of supporters, an endorsement from the Gallatin Valley Interfaith Association and 1,700 petition signatures, the mayor and commissioners have declined to take up the CEDAW resolution, Strout said.

So the supporters have been gathering data to show the problems women face in Bozeman and Montana. They combed through more than 40 reports, from annual police reports to labor, health and domestic violence reports, to compile data on the barriers women here face.

“We’re hoping now we have more evidence, so they’ll take it seriously,” Strout said.

The report says women still earn unequal pay. Statewide Montana women of all education levels earn 69.8% of what men earn and women with graduate degrees earn 73.3%, said Lei-Anna Bertelsen, organizer of the Women’s March and a CEDAW steering committee member, citing state Labor Department figures.

Some 93% of people who sign up for job training as certified nursing assistants are women, and starting pay for that job is $14.25 an hour. But 100% of those signing up for commercial drivers licenses are men, and their starting pay is $22.50, according to the local Career Transitions.

Of the top 25% highest-paying jobs at the city of Bozeman, 92.3% are held by men, vs. 7.7% by women, according to the city’s 2019 equal pay progress report.

Compounding the problem is that there are only enough day care providers to serve 33 percent of the Montana families that need childcare.

“We are in a childcare desert,” Bertelsen said.

Hundreds of women face violence, the report said. Bozeman city and MSU police received nearly 900 calls of gender-based violence in 2016 and 2017. The vast majority, 78%, were domestic violence calls, with smaller numbers of stalking, rape and dating violence reports.

In all 13 % of local residents report being the victims of intimate partner violence.

The group found a lot of frustration trying to find hard data on the status of women and girls, Bertelsen said. That means, she said, that the problems women face often remain “invisible.”

Stephanie McDowell, executive director of Bridgercare, said every developed nation adopted CEDAW as the Women’s Bill of Rights 40 years ago, except the United States. So now women’s rights advocates are working to get U.S. cities to adopt the measure. About 80 have done so or are in the process, Strout said.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2633. Follow her on Twitter @gailnews.

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