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A Women’s Economic Agenda Must Help Women and Families Succeed

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Members of the House of Representatives at the introduction of the Women’s Economic Agenda in July, 2013.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Members of the House of Representatives at the introduction of the Women’s Economic Agenda in July, 2013.

Women are half the workforce, and families depend on women’s income more than ever before. Mothers are breadwinners or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American families. Yet women typically are paid less than their male counterparts, are more likely to work in minimum-wage and low-wage jobs, have fewer opportunities to advance in their careers, are more likely to go without the health care they need, often lack the affordable and high-quality child care they need to work and support their families, and are more likely to live in poverty. The challenges of unequal pay and low wages that many women face--especially women of color--are compounded by the additional responsibilities many mothers bear, particularly single mothers. About four in ten single-mother families are poor, and six out of ten poor children live in families headed by women.

Despite women's dramatic increases in work experience and educational attainment, they are profoundly overrepresented in the low-wage workforce, as documented by the National Women's Law Center's groundbreaking report, Underpaid and Overloaded: Women in Low-wage Jobs. Women make up two-thirds of the low-wage workforce overall and make up a larger share of the low-wage workforce than their male counterparts, regardless of their education level, age, marital or parental status, race, ethnicity, or national origin. Half of the women in the low-wage workforce are women of color; close to one-third are mothers; and more than one-quarter are 50 or older. The report highlights the challenges they face--and outlines an agenda to address those challenges.

Recognizing that when women succeed, their families and the economy prosper, some legislative leaders are taking action to create opportunities for women in the workplace. New agendas – one proposed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the other by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand – aim to address the economic challenges facing women and their families in the 21st century. In June 2014, President Obama convened a White House Summit on Working Families to shine a spotlight on these issues. The National Women’s Law Center applauds these efforts because investment in women’s economic security is vital for women and their families.

These agendas include policy proposals and legislation that NWLC has championed over the years, including equal pay for women, raising the minimum wage, supports for pregnant and parenting workers, paid leave and predictable schedules, tax credits that help working families, high-quality affordable child care, job training and other supports for women workers, and access to health care. These policies are crucial for women and their families, and especially important to women in low-wage jobs. A large majority of Americans support policies like these.

Below are resources from NWLC relating to economic success and security for women and their families.

Equal Pay and the Wage Gap

Women working full time, year round typically make 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts –for African American and Latina women, the gap is even larger. And over the past decade, the wage gap has barely budged. NWLC supports policies like the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would give workers stronger tools to combat wage discrimination, ban retaliation against workers for discussing salary information, and ensure full compensation for women who experience pay discrimination.

Resources from NWLC

Wage Gap for Women

Learn more about equal pay and the wage gap.

Minimum Wage

Women are about two-thirds of workers making the federal minimum wage or less, just $7.25 an hour—an amount that leaves a mother with two children thousands of dollars below the poverty line even if she works full time, year round. NWLC supports the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage and ensure that they keep up with inflation.

Resources from NWLC

Who makes less than $10.10/hour? Women.

Learn more about the minimum wage.

Fair Work Schedules

Unpredictable scheduling practices like getting scheduled to work with less than a days’ notice or being sent home early without being paid for a scheduled shift simply because work is slow, undermine workers’ efforts to plan nearly every aspect of their lives. And they make maintaining stable child care nearly impossible. The Schedules That Work Act creates baseline workplace protections from abusive scheduling practices in the low-wage jobs where these schedules are most common and gives all workers a say in their schedules.

Resources from NWLC

Pregnancy, Parenting, and the Workplace

More and more families depend on women’s income to stay afloat. But all too often those pregnant women who need temporary changes on the job are pushed out of the workplace altogether, at the moment they can least afford it—even when their employer makes accommodations for workers who need them for other reasons. To help ensure the rights of women in the workplace, NWLC is pushing for passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and working to ensure that parents and others with caregiving responsibilities have access to paid leave and flexible, predictable and stable schedules, so that they can both earn a living and care for their families.

Resources from NWLC

No one should have to make the choice between keeping their job and a healthy pregnancy

Learn more about pregnancy, parenting, and the workplace.

Tax Credits for Working Families

NWLC supports federal tax benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit (CTC), and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) that reward work and help hard-working parents lift their families out of poverty. Because women still typically earn less than men, are nearly two-thirds of minimum- wage workers, and are the vast majority of single parents, having robust and refundable family tax credits is especially important to women.

Resources from NWLC

Learn more about family tax credits.

Child Care and Early Learning

Helping parents with the costs of high-quality child care is essential to ensuring that women can work and support their families. NWLC supports increasing access to high-quality child care and prekindergarten programs and protecting and expanding family tax credits that will help parents, including low-income parents, meet their child care expenses.

NWLC has been has been a leader in the Strong Start for Children Campaign, a united effort (with almost 60 national partners and more than 350 state and local partners) to support a significant expansion of high-quality early learning opportunities for children ages birth to five, particularly those in low- and moderate-income families, in order to ensure that children get the strong start they need to put them on a successful path in school and in the future.

Resources from NWLC

Why is early learning a smart investment?

Learn more about the Strong Start for Children Campaign and child care and early learning.

Education

One in four girls do not finish high school, and the numbers are worse for girls of color. These young women face higher rates of unemployment and make significantly lower wages when they do work. And the young women who remain in school are vastly underrepresented in education and training programs that lead to higher-paying fields, many of which are male dominated. NWLC supports policies to ensure all students graduate college and career ready and prepared to enter into fields that are high-skill and high-wage.

 Resources from NWLC

Learn more about education.

Access to Health Care

The Affordable Care Act corrects many of the long-standing gender inequities in the U.S. health insurance system, including ending gender rating and other insurance practices – such as pre-existing condition exclusions – that have limited women’s access to health insurance; providing women coverage for maternity care, well-women visits and other preventive services; and prohibiting health programs from discriminating against women. The ACA also expands access to affordable health coverage by offering financial help with insurance premiums and, in many states, expanding health coverage through the Medicaid program. NWLC supported these changes to ensure that women have access to affordable, critical health care services and can pursue new employment and other economic opportunities without losing affordable health coverage.

Resources from NWLC

Thanks to Obaamacare, 100% of health plans on the individual market cover maternity care

Learn more about health care.

Reproductive Health Care

Women’s control over their reproductive health is necessary for full and equal participation in the economic and social life of the country. Without being able to determine when and whether to become a parent, a woman has greater difficulty achieving her educational and career goals and risks a lower earning capacity. NWLC is working to ensure that women retain control over their reproductive health – and thus control over their economic well-being – and is working to defeat attempts by those who want to undermine it.

Resources from NWLC

Women will be able to get birth control without a co-pay no matter where they work.

Learn more about reproductive health care.