CHARLOTTE, N.C. – N.C. Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue is dedicated to promoting technology as an economic development tool and to improving the status of women in the state. Indicative of the strength of that dual commitment, she spoke to members of the Charlotte chapter of Women in Information Science and Engineering (WISE) recently despite having hand surgery earlier in the day.
“I guess you could call me the bionic woman,” Perdue quipped to more than 40 attendees. “But it is important to have an (technology) organization that wraps around old and young folks, especially women folks.”
In Raleigh, she helped begin the first chapter of WISE, an initiative of North Carolina technology Association.
Perdue said there are 225 companies in North Carolina that identify themselves as technology firms and which have approximately 42,000 employees. The state also ranks first in the nation in terms of creating new biotech companies.
“It’s important to maintain that lead,” she said.
Perdue further noted that the creation of the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis will contribute significantly to that effort. So will the opening next month of the Charlotte office of the N.C. Biotechnology Center, which will be located on the UNC Charlotte campus and led by Margie Benbow. “Margie will light a fire for biotech in this region,” she said.
The focus on technology — in all its forms — must remain the economic development compass of the state if it is to achieve world competitiveness and become a global player, Perdue told the audience.
Education is the key. “My goal is to have the best educated workforce in the world and the single best economic development strategy you could ever have,” Perdue said. To achieve that, she explained, the state must educate children about hard work and innovation and how to think outside the box and question how things are.
She added, “Classrooms need to be equipped from ceiling to floor with technology. If North Carolina is to be competitive, we better put technology in the classroom.
“We as taxpayers need to be willing to make it happen and challenge school boards to make it happen,” Perdue added. “It’s important not to cut taxes if it means cutting teachers’ salaries.
“My goal is to make North Carolina the most wired state in the country so our people can access learning from the cradle to the grave. With learning and knowledge, everything is possible. But we have got to dream big and work hard.”
Perdue also encouraged WISE members to volunteer in the classrooms and be mentors to young women and girls. “Together, we can change the face of education in this state.”
Perdue also spoke of what needs to be done to make women full participants in the state’s future. “Pay equity is still an issue for me in North Carolina,” she said. She noted that women in the state earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, yet women earn college degrees in greater numbers.
“We learn more, but don’t earn more,” she commented. “We owe it to the state to fix that. And equal pay is not a women’s issue, but a family issue.”
Perdue noted that according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, North Carolina ranks fifth nationally in terms of growth in new women-owned business with a 24 percent rate over the last two years.
Now in her second term, Perdue was first elected lieutenant governor in 2000. She previously served two terms in the N.C. House and five in the Senate. With a Ph.D. from the University of Florida, she has been a public school teacher and a director of geriatrics at a community hospital.