Breaking Barriers: A new champion for women emerges


There's an infectious energy in the city of Columbus.

From innovation and technology to the booming real estate market, to the desirable food scene, the city is truly becoming a destination the rest of the country is talking about.

But even as the excitement around the Columbus grows, there's one area where we still fall behind the national average. It's just one of the topics on First Lady Shannon Ginther's mind.

Ginther said, "We've made a lot of progress, but the Columbus specific data does still show us that we – in the issue of pay equity – are below the national average."

While women continue to break barriers and make great strides in the workplace, gender inequality, specifically when it comes to pay, is still a challenge.

The average working woman in Columbus makes 78-cents for each dollar a man makes. That's three cents lower than the national average.

"The mayor talks about this all the time. The economic prosperity is only as good as everybody together. Not just the haves and the have-nots. And so we have to focus on who are our have-nots and starting to change that story," Ginther explained.

With that focus in mind, the first lady introduced the city to her premier project: the Columbus Women's Commission. Ginther is working to empower women by advancing their economic well-being.

"We know we have more than 52,000 women, you know as the single head of household (in Columbus)," Ginther said.

In a community where two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women, the need for this commission is evident.

"Columbus does not like being an average city. We strive to be above average, and everything we've seen around pay equity is that corporations are…you know large businesses, small businesses, corporate, non-profit...this community is ready to have this conversation and change the story," Ginther said. "Women drive the economy. In this community, in all communities, women make the spending decisions for families. So three cents on every dollar is three cents that's potentially injected back into this economy. So it is a big deal."

So far, 45 businesses have joined the conversation, and the communication has been pretty candid.

“I'm really excited for women in this community that we're ready to have this conversation," Ginther said.

The 18-member commission is made up of a diverse group of leaders, men and women, from the public and private sectors as well as non-profit organizations. Their function is to bring awareness to the unique needs and challenges facing women in Columbus and to advocate to create change.