Category Archives: Working Women

Low-Wage Women Workers: A Profile

Source: Stephanie Luce and Eve Weinbaum, New Labor Forum, Vol. 17, Issue 2, Summer 2008

The labor movement’s future success depends on its ability to organize increasing numbers of workers of color and women workers who are concentrated in low-wage jobs. Scholars and activists have focused on questions of how to organize these workers, how to promote women’s activism and develop leadership, and how to diversify union staff and leaders to better represent the workers they are organizing. If organizing low-wage women workers is essential, then we need a better understanding of who these women workers are, and what they are doing. Who makes up this low-wage workforce? Where do they work? How do we define low wages? What has worked to raise wages and improve working conditions for these women–job training, career mobility, organizing? And what are unions doing to address the needs of this group of workers?

The Social Costs of Career Success for Women

Source: Leslie E. Tower
Review of Public Personnel Administration
Vol. 28, No. 2, 144-165 (2008)

Women in the workforce, especially those in professional and management positions, are doubly burdened by social traditions that expect workers to meet masculine standards at the office while maintaining their feminine role of nurturer at home. This article studies the social costs of female career progression using a survey of 1,600 respondents from different levels of the public sector. The results show that working women have an increased incidence of being single or divorced, married working women tend to have more housework responsibilities, and working women have fewer children or are childless. The article concludes that government and business organizations need to pay serious attention to this hidden problem of social costs that affect women and men disproportionately.

Paid Maternity Leave Still On The Wishlist For Many U.S. Mothers

Source: Heidi Shierholz and Emily Garr, Economic Policy Institute, Snapshot, May 7, 2008

This Mother’s Day, we reflect on the critical but often overlooked issue of maternity leave. In a selection of 19 countries with comparable per capita income, the United States provides the fewest maternity leave benefits in both length of leave and paid time off (see chart). This is considered separate from any disability insurance for which one may qualify. In fact, the United States falls two weeks short of the International Labor Organization’s basic minimum standard of at least 14 weeks general leave. It is also the only country not to guarantee some amount of leave with income.

From Work to Retirement: Tracking Changes in Women’s Poverty Status

Source: Sunhwa Lee, Lois Shaw, AARP Policy & Research, Pub ID: 2008-03, February 2008

From press release:
Women are nearly twice as likely to be poor as men as they reach pre-retirement and retirement ages, according to a new report by AARP’s Public Policy Institute (PPI). The study, titled “From Work To Retirement: Tracking Changes in Women’s Poverty Status,” found that variables such as marital status, labor force participation, and health status affect the risk of poverty for women as they age.

Women’s longer life expectancies play a large role in determining their lifetime financial security. They are more likely to lose a spouse – nearly 40 percent of women 65 and older were unmarried and living alone compared to only 16 percent of men – and they are also more likely to encounter health related problems.
In Brief

Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns: 1961-2003

Source: Tallese D. Johnson, U.S. Census Bureau, P70-113, February 2008

From the press release:
Two-thirds of women who had their first child between 2001 and 2003 worked during their pregnancy compared with just 44 percent who gave birth for the first time between 1961 and 1965, according to a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report, Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns: 1961-2003, analyzes trends in women’s work experience before their first child, identifies their maternity leave arrangements before and after the birth and examines how rapidly they returned to work.

Women are more likely to work while pregnant than they were in the 1960s, and they are working later into their pregnancies. Eighty percent who worked while pregnant from 2001 to 2003 worked one month or less before their child’s birth compared with 35 percent who did so in 1961-1965.

Global Gender Pay Gap

Source: Catherine Chubb, Simone Melis, Louisa Potter, Raymond Storry, International Trade Union Confederation, February 2008

From the press release:
Brussels, 6 March 2008: On the eve of International Women’s Day, a new ITUC report, the Global Gender Pay Gap reveals that on average, women are paid 16% less than their male counterparts. The report includes detailed analysis of statistics from official sources in 63 countries around the world. Data from an online salary survey covering more than 400,000 workers in 12 countries is also included in the new study.

Making the Grade on Women’s Health: A National and State-by-State Report Card

Source: National Woman’s Law Center (NWLC) and Oregon Health & Science University Center for Women’s Health (OHSU)

From press release:
While some states made some small gains in critical indicators for improving women’s health, the nation as a whole and most states are falling behind in their quest to meet national goals for women’s health, a comprehensive analysis of state policies and women’s health status finds.

Released today, Making the Grade on Women’s Health: A National and State-by-State Report Card is the fourth in a series of triennial reports to grade and rank each state based on 27 health status benchmarks developed largely using goals set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 initiative. The report is a project of the National Women’s Law Center and Oregon Health & Science University. With major support from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation as well as a number of other funders, this report reflects the importance of improving women’s health and the substantial commitment required to do so.

Making the Grade gives the nation an overall grade of “unsatisfactory” for meeting only three of 27 benchmarks – the percent of women 40 and over who receive regular mammograms, the percent of women who annually see a dentist, and the percent of women 50 and over who receive screenings for colorectal cancer.

No state receives an overall “satisfactory” grade for women’s health status, although three states receive a “satisfactory minus.” This is down from eight states that received a “satisfactory minus” in 2004. Vermont receives a “satisfactory minus” and ranks No. 1, followed by Minnesota and Massachusetts. Twelve states receive failing grades, up from six states that failed in 2004. Mississippi ranks last. The other 11 failing states are Louisiana, Arkansas, Indiana, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, Texas and Alabama. The remaining states receive “unsatisfactory” marks.

National Report Card
Key Findings
State by state reports are also available.

Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2006

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Report 1000, September 2007

In 2006, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median weekly earnings of $600, or about 81 percent of the $743 median for their male counterparts. This ratio has grown since 1979 (the first year comparable earnings data were available), when women earned about 63 percent as much as men.

Reasons Social Security Privatization Particularly Harms Women

Source: National Partnership for Women and Families

Social Security was established nearly 70 years ago to provide a critical safety net to protect our most vulnerable citizens. Now, citing a fictitious “crisis,” President Bush wants to overhaul Social Security and change the way benefits are calculated and distributed, including having workers invest part of their contributions into private accounts. These proposals will severely undermine the Social Security safety net and disproportionately harm women and minorities. Social Security – the guaranteed foundation for most seniors’ retirement – must be strengthened, not whittled away.

The Social Security reform plan that President Bush is promoting would exacerbate those problems by diverting one-third of a worker’s Social Security contributions to private accounts. The result would be lower guaranteed benefits for ALL future retirees, regardless of whether they open individual private accounts. Lower benefits would cause great harm to women, who are much more likely than men to depend on Social Security’s guaranteed benefits to avoid poverty.

See also:
National Partnership for Women and Families: Social Security Page

Maternity Leave in the United States: Paid Parental Leave is still Not Standard, even among the Best U.S. Employers

Source: Vicky Lovell, Elizabeth O’Neill, and Skylar Olsen, Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), Fact Sheet, IWPR #A131 August 2007

From the press release:
WASHINGTON – A new fact sheet released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) reports that nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of the best employers for working mothers provide four or fewer weeks of paid maternity leave, and half (52 percent) provide six weeks or less. Nearly half of the best companies fail to provide any paid leave for paternity or adoption. While more than one-quarter of the best companies (28 percent) provide nine or more weeks of paid maternity leave, many of the winners’ paid parental leave policies fall far short of families’ needs. IWPR’s analysis is based on data provided by Working Mother Media, publisher of Working Mother, regarding the 2006 list of Working Mother 100 Best Companies.