OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An interim study was held Monday at the Capitol to look at ways to improve outcomes for women in Oklahoma.
A study earlier this year by WalletHub painted a picture of the Sooner State that is not kind to women.
It said that Oklahoma is the worst state to live in for women in all of the United States.
On Monday morning, leaders in business and health care spoke about their experiences and statistics to highlight what the legislature can work on to create meaningful legislation.
“It starts with the conversation, identifying the problem, and I think today was a good start for that,” said Lauren Mingee, founder/CEO of Quintessa Marketing.
At Quintessa, 60 percent of the staff is made up of women. Mingee said that she is willing to overpay for the best talent to create the best team, and to bring down the wage gap between men and women.
“We want them to feel and be involved in our vision, and we want them to feel like this is their home,” said Mingee, talking about her employees.
Brent Kisling, Executive Director at the Department of Commerce, said that women make 74 cents per every dollar that a man makes in Oklahoma, while the national average is 80 cents per dollar.
The top four industries for women in Oklahoma are:
- Health care services
- Financial services
- Food services
He said that most of the positions are low-wage jobs.
Erika Lucas is the founder of StitchCrew and Vest, both are companies that work to provide capital for women entrepreneurs. She would like to see wages rise for essential workers.
“Those are critical jobs,” said Lucas. “Caregivers, health care nurses, we shouldn’t be paying them less than other professions when they’re so critical and crucial to our economy.”
Lucas, Kisling, and Mingee all mentioned health care as another area for improvement. They said women cannot achieve the best economic outcomes if childcare and maternal health care is in poor shape statewide.
The former president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, Dr. Mary Clarke, said that there are only 44 birthing hospitals in all of Oklahoma.
Last week, KFOR reported that Oklahoma only had 16 counties with full access to maternal health care.
“There’s no way to improve access if you don’t have the availability for women to go to these places,” said Clarke.
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority was at the study to present more statistics.
56 percent of the adults on SoonerCare are women, said OHCA.
When the idea was presented to increase the minimum wage for the low wage workers, Lucas talked about the importance to do that without jeopardizing the resources lower income Oklahomans receive with SoonerCare.
OHCA, along with Governor Kevin Stitt’s H.E.L.P Task Force, recommended expanding the income threshold to allow more Oklahoma mothers on SoonerCare.
Interim studies are designed for lawmakers to hear from industry experts. State senators and representatives then work on legislation based on the recommendations and information provided.
Senator Jessica Garvin said she created this study because of the WalletHub report from earlier this year. The state senator from Duncan wants Oklahoma to be a place where women thrive.
She called women’s issues a focus for men and women from all backgrounds.
“These are not Democratic issues, these are not Republican issues,” said Garvin, in her closing remarks.