UNO Documentary: Happy Raptor Distilling and the wage gap

Editor’s Note: Despite New Orleans’ vibrant culture and colorful traditions, there are many barriers that prevent women from succeeding as both mothers and business owners. Filmmaker Kelly Witters explores the social and legal obstacles that female business owners must overcome, interviewing Meagen and Mark of Happy Raptor Distilling for an inside look at business culture in the Big Easy.  

 

What: Happy Raptor Distilling, LLC

 

Film by: UNO student and documentarian Kelly Witters

 

Editor’s Note: NolaVie partners with students of UNO professor László Zsolt Fülöppairing them with artists, non-profits, environmental groups, and cultural entities to facilitate a live curriculum that results in a short documentary. This documentary short was made Kelly Witters, a student in the Film and Theatre Department at the University of New Orleans, about Happy Raptor and the wage gap.

|Read the full transcript of the interview below|

[Full transcription of Kelly Witters]

How much do you really know about the gender wage disparity in America? Did you know the first strike for equal pay for women was in 1918? In 1963 John F. Kennedy signed a bill called the Equal Pay Act which made it illegal for employers to pay men more than women performing the same job, and yet, more than 50 years later, the gender wage gap still exists. In 2019, women are fighting to be recognized in the workforce while still trying to have families at home.

[Full transcription of Meagen Moreland-Taliancich]

Even though I guess it sounds silly to say that I was surprised, because I’ve certainly been a woman moving through the business community in Louisiana for

almost a decade now, but now as an owner of a business I get a lot of questions and assumptions that my husband and our co-owner Peter would never encounter. The ones that stick out the most, and they are all from well-meaning people, that’s the other thing, it’s like it’s really interesting to kind of get this other glimpse of our society. One of the biggest questions that I get is “Oh do you work for your husband now?” which doesn’t really make sense because we’re co-owners of a business and it’s usually asked by people who know me and know my professional background. I’m also the majority owner of the company. The three of us are all, we all share the title of co-founder and co-owner. I’m the chief brand officer so I handle everything under the sun related to marketing, branding, public relations, media relations you know you name it. I’m also running day-to-day operations as the business manager, right now. The fact is that it’s really difficult to live in Louisiana as a woman in general and that’s not a conversation that a lot of people want to have. 

[Full transcription of Kelly Witters]

Only 4.9% of businesses in the state of Louisiana are owned by women. Women are 5% less likely to receive a small business loan and are given 80% of the capital men are given when looking for funding.

[Full transcription of Mark Taliancich]

I feel like it is really easy for people to dismiss her contribution to the business and her importance in the business. Right now, there is no way that we could get

done what has to get done without her. She is the driving force that is pushing

us towards our opening and towards getting the millions of things done that we need to get done and so it’s a little frustrating, or a lot frustrating, when somebody addresses her like like she’s working for me, which is ridiculous!

[Full transcription of Kelly Witters]

The US has no federal paid family leave policy, so this decision is left up to

employers. Some mothers are protected by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows for 12 weeks of leave without pay, a period of time most new mothers in Louisiana can’t afford to go without a paycheck. 

[Full transcription of Meagen Moreland-Taliancich]

It can be very scary place to live. For example, I got pregnant with Zeke. Zeke was born at Tora Hospital and in New Orleans more women die in childbirth than any other state in the United States. I just find that Louisiana is a difficult place to live for women, especially women who want to disrupt, and that’s for a lot of reasons. 

Medically it can be very dangerous. We make, what is it, 61 cents on the dollar now, and that’s white women. It’s something significantly less for women of other races. You know there’s just a lot of restrictions and professional opportunities, but my husband is in Louisiana and we are really proud of that. I’m really excited to live in New Orleans. I think it’s one of the most exciting and most interesting places you could ever live and raise children, but the more and the longer I lived here, the more I felt like the only way I was going to be able to get the things I

needed like equal pay, maternity leave, a fair say in my own professional future

was to really invest in building our own business and being an equal shareholder

in that enterprise. 

[Full transcription of Kelly Witters]

Louisiana is ranked last out of the states in the US for equal pay. Women earned sixty cents to every dollar a man earns compared to the national average of 80 cents on the dollar. According to the Institute for women’s policy research, women will earn the same as men in the year 2058, but in Louisiana, they predict that year to be 2115, more than 50 years later.

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