Disrupt the Status Quo for Women in North Carolina


I recently began a small workbook titled: “Do Disrupt: Change the status quo. Or become it.”

It’s timely for us to be talking about changing the “Status Quo,” which is Latin for “existing state.” From wellness to economic empowerment, a series of reports released by the governor’s office reminds that the existing systems affect the lives of women in North Carolina, including employment, pay, reproductive rights, education, poverty, health, and political participation.

The 2019 Status of Women in North Carolina: Health and Wellness Report’s key findings show that North Carolina’s mortality rates for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and breast cancer have decreased since the 2013 report. Yet the state ranks 9th highest in stroke mortality among women – and even worse in rural counties with limited access to health care facilities. Medicare expansion could provide some relief, but lawmakers can’t seem to settle on a bi-partisan solution. More than 70 percent of North Carolina’s counties are rural, and 57 percent of the state’s workforce is comprised of women. The report says, “Closing the health insurance coverage gap would bring $4 billion into the state’s economy, create thousands of jobs, and expand access to health care for 500,000 people. This will bring tens of thousands of new jobs, help rural hospitals stay open, and ensure that North Carolinians are healthier.”

Another recent report, The Status of Women in North Carolina: Employment and Earnings, found the number of women in the labor force decreased from 2002 to 2016. This report presents data and policy recommendations to improve the status of women in North Carolina in several key areas. Women in North Carolina still earn an average of $8,600 less than men. The good news is the gender earnings ratio narrowed from 73.7 percent in 2002 to 80.9 percent in 2016, but without any major changes in education, training, and employment laws, equality will not be realized until at least 2026.

What does “disrupting the status quo” look like?

One example came last month. To shrink the wage gap, Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order prohibiting state agencies from asking for salary histories when hiring. In a statement, Cooper said, “Women have strengthened our state and our country for generations, but an unfair wage gap continues to hurt women workers, especially women of color.” This bold move acknowledges that reviewing salary histories of job applicants leads employers back to the cycle of unequal pay.

The data supports the notion that we can help women advance by supporting their businesses, expanding publicly funded child-care, education, providing benefits to low-wage workers and making sure that women have access to paid internships, training, apprenticeships, and to higher salary occupations that have traditionally been filled by men.

We recognize that most women didn’t need a government report to prove that the systems in place will continue to block or delay our progress. But this data provides the perfect opportunity to pause and ask…what are you doing to disrupt the status quo?

If you are looking  for opportunities to disrupt the current state of our state.  Make sure you are registered to vote and find opportunities to get involved in local and state political systems.  Look for women’s organizations aligned around issues important to you such as passing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), reproductive rights, racial equity, women’s health, and economic equality.  Put your thoughts, suggestions, and rants into an article for Women AdvaNCe to publish by emailing jo@womenadvancenc.org or like and share articles from our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages. Disruption requires interruption of North Carolina’s status quo so that women can look forward to better news in future NC Status of Women Reports.  

Antionette Kerr
Leadership Team
Women AdvaNCe

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