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Minnesota National Guard welcomes guests to Women's Equality Event

CAMP RIPLEY - Several guest speakers from around the state joined soldiers and airmen of the Minnesota National Guard July 20 at the Hangar Conference Center on Camp Ripley.

Service members from multiple units attended the event focused on issues surrounding women's equality and the necessary steps to take in moving forward to improve these issues.

"It's about reducing barriers of not only the group but for those that are not aware of their own personal barriers," said Air National Guard Master Sgt. Theresa Mensinger, manager of the Diversity Special Emphasis Program.

The topic of discussion ranged from the gender pay gap and the common roles women play in areas of the workforce. Many women, according to recent polls, seek caregiver or service oriented jobs that often fall in the lower wage range as opposed to careers held by men.

Other causes for the gap include supervisor's bias, choice of occupation and number of hours worked as factors contributing to the differences in female wages.

"Minnesota leads the nation with 79 percent of women within the workforce, but over 60 percent of low-wage workers are women," said Barbara Battiste, director for the Legislative Office on the Economic Status of Women.

"This isn't a new topic," said Brig. Gen. Neal Loidolt, commander of the 34th Infantry Division. "We have an advantage of being paid the same regardless of our gender here in the military, but we need to recognize the limitations affecting our fellow soldiers."

Both men and women were encouraged to participate in confidence building exercises given by Patty Tanji, president of the Pay Equity Coalition of Minnesota. These exercises were used to allow strength and creativity which can be used as tools for advancement in the workplace. The increase of awareness in one's own self and the abilities that can be reached are the first steps in seeking a better career field.

"This is about building communities ... get out there with your ideas and start creating companies," said Rep. Ron Kresha of Legislative District 9B.

Kresha encouraged the strengths we have in each other as a way to reduce the barriers of gender in the work place. Legislative initiatives to increase skilled laborers and workers can only go so far. "The steps needed to take are individuals seeking better training for better jobs," added Kresha.

"It's time to take the lid off and share the great talents we all have, both men and women," said Sen. Paul Gazelka of District 9.

Aug. 26 will mark the anniversary of women's suffrage and the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.