North Carolina ranks No. 11 in women’s equality

By: By Erin Smith -

ELIZABETHTOWN — Wednesday marks the celebration of a unique day. Not a national holiday, but it is Women’s Equality Day.

In a study conducted by WalletHub, North Carolina ranked No. 11 in the country for women’s equality. According to a release, “Our data set ranges from the gap between female and male executives to the disparity between women’s and men’s unemployment rate.”

Some highlights of the study include such things as rankings on earnings gap, work hours gap, educational attainment gap, entrepreneurship gap and political representation gap. In North Carolina, for the 2015-16 session, there are 13 women serving in the N.C. Senate and 26 women serving in the North Carolina House for a total of 39 women — or 23 percent of the membership — according to North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research.

In terms of political representation in Bladen County, Commissioner Delilah Blanks is the lone female serving on the Bladen County Board of Commissioners, while the Bladen County Board of Education boasts of Chairman Ophelia Munn-Goins and Board member Bonnell Walker. In Elizabethtown, Mayor Sylvia Campbell and Councilwoman Paula Greene serve on the town council. Town Commissioner Sarah Jane Benson serves on the Bladenboro Town Board and, in East Arcadia, there are four women commissioners: Rhonda Hall, Carlee Carter, Pamela Graham and Lillian Graham. In Tar Heel, Angela Hall serves as town commissioner.

Other nuggets gleaned by the WalletHub study rank North Carolina as No. 15 in earnings gap, No. 15 in hours worked, No. 1 in educational attainment gap, No. 16 in entrepreneurship and No. 21 in political representation gap.

“I think the numbers prove that North Carolina is continuing to improve it’s attempts to assist the women minority in education and entrepreneurship. Our State has great leaders like, N.C. State Secretary, Elaine Marshall for example. Secretary Marshall has been fighting for women to receive fair treatment in education and business for 19 years here in our state,” said Charlotte Smith, owner and operator of CAB Marketing.

According to Wikipedia, Marshall has the distinction of being the first women elected to serve as Secretary of State in North Carolina.

Smith said that while she has been successful with her business endeavors, there are still times when she sees distinct differences.

“Being a woman owning two businesses, I can’t say that I haven’t seen differences in support for a male owned business verses a woman owned business. My husband also has a business and he has received a lot of support. I’m very grateful he has received the support I believe he deserves; however, sometimes I’m left scratching my head because the support wasn’t offered to me. Of coarse it may be me comparing apples to oranges,” said Smith.

She added that when she proposed starting her own business, she initially was discouraged from doing so, but Smith said she moved forward with plans to create her business and it is still thriving in Bladen County.

“I’m still going strong almost three years later in large part due to the support of other business owners having faith in me. I believe more support for women being treated equally is always a great topic to keep at the forefront, along with improving equality for other minorities,” said Smith.

Wells Fargo City Executive/Manager Judy Harrelson said that women in business is the fastest growing segment of the community and she shared some interesting about her company, Wells Fargo. Harrelson said that at Wells Fargo, women make up about 60 percent of the company’s workforce. She added that of those, about 40 percent are either executives or managers.

“Wells Fargo has supported a diverse community especially women, since it was founded in 1852,” said Harrelson.

She said in the early days of Wells Fargo, the duties of the women were to do things like prepare shipments of gold and loading them onto the stage coach.

Harrelson added that financial education in the community is so important and especially for women and their children. Harrelson said that both Wells Fargo and herself have an interest in contributing to financial education in the community.

“I feel women contribute and are collaborative in the workplace and energize the workplace they work for,” said Harrelson.

Sandra Cain of Bladen County Cooperative Extension said that more women are taking on leadership roles more than in the past.

“We are seeing more women in leadership roles and positions that were male dominated,” said Cain.

She added that, for example, in years past, the field of agriculture was one where more positions were held by men than women. Cain pointed out that has changed with more crop agents and livestock agents that are female.

Bladen County Livestock Agent Becky Spearman said, “There are a lot more women in agriculture even at the university and in jobs.”

She added she became interested in agriculture as career choice because of her childhood days spent on her grandparents’ farm.

“I grew up on farm. Both sets of grandparents had a farm and I would spend summers and weekends working there,” said Spearman.

She said as a livestock agent she works with livestock farmers on such matters, as best management practices, foraging, and waste management to name a few things. Spearman said she is also working with some farmers regarding row crops.

Erin Smith can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

By Erin Smith