Category Archives: Working Women

Black Women Best: The Framework We Need for an Equitable Economy

Source: Kendra Bozarth, Grace Western, and Janelle Jones, Roosevelt Institute, Issue Brief, September 2020

From the summary:
This brief explains how centering Black women in US politics and policymaking in the short and long term will bolster immediate recovery efforts, build durable and equitable institutions, and strengthen collective prosperity.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back? Gender, Power and Leadership in Troubled Times

Source: Emilia Belknap, Laura Shaw, Meryl Kenny, Political Insight, Volume 11 Issue 2, June 2020

…Why do gender inequalities in political leadership persist? And (why) does it matter? We examine these questions in the context of two recent and pivotal leadership contests: the 2020 UK Labour leadership election and the US Democratic presidential primary. We ask whether these contests represent a case of ‘two steps forward, one step back’ for women, evaluating both the opportunities for, and obstacles to, women’s political leadership. We then evaluate why gender (in)equality at the top matters, assessing the gendered dynamics of political leadership, and evaluating the implications for women’s political participation. We conclude by reflecting on the future prospects for women’s political leadership in troubled times….

“When Do You Plan on Having a Baby?” and Other Questions Not to Ask

Source: Melissa Torres, Employee Benefit Plan Review, Vol. 74, No. 5, July-August 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Employers interviewing women of child-bearing age may be tempted to ask about plans for having a baby, but doing so poses risks. While an employer might be concerned about staffing coverage, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against a woman based on her potential or capacity to become pregnant. Taking adverse action against a pregnant employee because of her pregnancy is equally unlawful.

Nonetheless, an article in The New York Times not too long ago bore the striking headline: “Pregnancy Discrimination Is Rampant Inside America’s Biggest Companies.” The article indicated that, notwithstanding the law, many pregnant women were either passed over for promotions or fired when they complained.

Yet another Times headline focused on the failure of employers to provide light duty to pregnant women: “Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination.”

Occupational Skill Mismatch: Differences by Gender and Cohort

Source: John T. Addison, Liwen Chen, Orgul D. Ozturk, ILR Review, Volume 73 Issue 3, May 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The authors deploy a measure of occupational mismatch based on the discrepancy between the portfolio of skills required by an occupation and the array of abilities possessed by the worker for learning those skills. Using data from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) and the 1979 and 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79 and NLSY97), they report distinct gender differences in match quality and changes in match quality over the course of careers. They also show that a substantial portion of the gender wage gap stems from match quality differences among the college educated. College-educated females show a significantly greater likelihood of mismatch than do males. Moreover, individuals with children and those in more flexible occupations tend to experience a larger degree of mismatch. Cohort effects are also evident in the data: College-educated males of the younger cohort (NLSY97) are worse off in terms of match quality compared to the older cohort (NLSY79), even as the younger cohort of women is doing better on average.

Female leaders and board performance in member‐serving nonprofit organizations

Source: Lauren Dula, Jill Nicholson‐Crotty, Beth Gazley, Volume 30, Issue 4, Summer 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Despite an active stream of “good governance” research, there is not yet much nonprofit scholarship examining how the gender composition of a board or its leadership relates to board performance. This article helps to fill this gap, focusing on the governance practices of US‐based nonprofits serving a domestic or international membership. A structural equation model finds that the presence of female leaders relates to the performance of nonprofit boards both directly and indirectly through these leaders’ presumed influence on board characteristics and operation. This research advances the field by empirically testing a longstanding theory that board performance is both multidimensional and contingent on the market and labor environment, organizational capacity and other characteristics—in this case, gender dynamics. We find there are some positive relationships between female board leadership and clearly defined measures of board performance. These findings also suggest that a strategy to balance a board’s gender may serve many nonprofits, but gender representation works in tandem with other board characteristics.

Why Retirement, Social Security, and Age Discrimination Policies Need to Consider the Intersectional Experiences of Older Women

Source: Ian Burn, Patrick Button, Theodore F Figinski, Joanne Song McLaughlin, Public Policy & Aging Report, Volume 30, Issue 3, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Population aging makes retirement security a critical issue. Unfortunately, retirement security is deteriorating over time, and there is a significant amount of income inequality in retirement (Poterba, 2014). Recent cuts to Social Security (e.g., the increase in the full retirement age [FRA], which is the age at which workers can retire with full benefits) partly drive the erosion in retirement security, and similar cuts may be forthcoming. Extending work lives into older ages is thus increasingly important to improve retirement security (Button, 2020; Maestas, 2010, 2018).

However, retirement security is significantly worse for older women, compared to older men, as older women face higher rates of poverty, especially at older ages. Figure 1 shows that poverty rates for older men are relatively consistent by age, ranging from 7.1% to 8.1%. For women, poverty rates start at 8.4% for ages 65 to 69 (compared to 7.1% for men) and rise to 13.5% for ages 80 and older (compared to 8.1% for men). This disparity in poverty rates may be increasing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current recession, as early evidence suggests that women ages 65 and older faced larger increases in unemployment rates compared to men and younger women (Bui, Button, & Picciotti, 2020).

In this report, we document trends and policies that contribute to the increased poverty faced by older women. We hope our examples of how older women face different experiences make a clear case for considering the impacts on older women, specifically, when setting policy.

A Female Policy Premium? Agency Context and Women’s Leadership in the U.S. Federal Bureaucracy

Source: Rachel Augustine Potter, Craig Volden, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance Articles, August 5, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Although there are descriptive and substantive benefits associated with women serving in leadership posts in the bureaucracy, we ask whether there is a policy benefit associated with women’s leadership. Simply put, is there a policy premium to having women as bureaucratic leaders? We focus on agency rulemaking, a policymaking activity conducted by nearly all federal agencies. Across three presidential administrations, we find no evidence of an across-the-board premium associated with women’s leadership. However, our results are consistent with a conditional policy premium—wherein women leaders are particularly effective in advancing ambitious rules and in shepherding rules through to finalization—in agencies that have a working environment that is supportive of women and, to some extent, in agencies that focus on women’s issues. One key implication is that, rather than working to tear down “glass walls,” reformers would be better served by improving the workplace climate for women within agencies.

The Gender Wage Gap: 2019 Earnings Differences by Race and Ethnicity

Source: Ariane Hegewisch, Zohal Barsi, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Fact Sheet, C489, March 10, 2020

From the summary:

The gender wage gap in weekly earnings for full-time workers in the United States narrowed marginally between 2018 and 2019. In 2019, the ratio of women’s to men’s median weekly full-time earnings was 81.5 percent, an increase of 0.4 percent since 2018, when the ratio was 81.1 percent, leaving a wage gap of 18.5 percent, compared with 18.9 percent in 2018 (Figure 1). Women’s median weekly earnings for full-time work were $821 in 2019 compared with $1,007 for men. Adjusting for inflation, women’s median earnings increased by 2.2 percent compared with 2018; men’s earnings increased by 1.7 percent.

Another measure of the wage gap, the ratio of women’s and men’s median annual earnings for full-time, year-round workers, was 81.6 percent in 2018 (data for 2019 are not yet available). An earnings ratio of 81.6 percent means that the gender wage gap for full-time, year-round workers is 18.4 percent.

Unlike the gender earnings ratio for full-time year-round workers, the ratio for weekly earnings excludes self-employed workers, does not include earnings from annual bonuses, and includes workers who work only part of the year. Both earnings ratios are for full-time workers only. When all workers with earnings are included, the gap in earnings is much larger because women are more likely than men to work part-time or take time out of paid work to manage childrearing and other caregiving work. Over a 15 year period women workers’ earnings were just 49 percent—less than half—of men’s earnings, a wage gap of 51 percent in 2001-2015.

Explaining the Persistence of Gender Inequality: The Work–family Narrative as a Social Defense against the 24/7 Work Culture

Source: Irene Padavic, Robin J. Ely, Erin M. Reid, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 65 no. 1, March 2020
(subscription required)


From the abstract:
It is widely accepted that the conflict between women’s family obligations and professional jobs’ long hours lies at the heart of their stalled advancement. Yet research suggests that this “work–family narrative” is incomplete: men also experience it and nevertheless advance; moreover, organizations’ effort to mitigate it through flexible work policies has not improved women’s advancement prospects and often hurts them. Hence this presumed remedy has the perverse effect of perpetuating the problem. Drawing on a case study of a professional service firm, we develop a multilevel theory to explain why organizations are caught in this conundrum. We present data suggesting that the work–family explanation has become a “hegemonic narrative”—a pervasive, status-quo-preserving story that prevails despite countervailing evidence. We then advance systems-psychodynamic theory to show how organizations use this narrative and attendant policies and practices as an unconscious “social defense” to help employees fend off anxieties raised by a 24/7 work culture and to protect organizationally powerful groups—in our case, men and the firm’s leaders—and in so doing, sustain workplace inequality. Due to the social defense, two orthodoxies remain unchallenged—the necessity of long work hours and the inescapability of women’s stalled advancement. The result is that women’s thin representation at senior levels remains in place. We conclude by highlighting contributions to work–family, workplace inequality, and systems-psychodynamic theory.

The future is female: How the growing political power of women will remake American politics

Source: Michael Hais and Morley Winograd, Brookings Institution, Fixgov blog, February 19, 2020

The most profound change in American politics today and in the years to come will result from a massive movement of women into the Democratic Party….. As far back as the Reagan presidency, there has been a gender gap in American partisanship with women tilting toward the Democratic Party and men toward the GOP. But the overwhelming change in political party demographics since Trump’s victory in 2016 is the culmination of a long-term movement in party identification and voting behavior among women. With the election of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, what had been a modest gap of variable proportions has turned into a chasm so wide no Republican presidential candidate will be able to cross it for years to come….