Tag Archives: workforce

A Conversation about Women’s Workforce Issues with Secretary Perez

I was honored to represent WOW at meeting with Secretary of Labor Tom Perez this past week, along with twenty other partner organizations.  Our conversation centered on improving our country’s workforce development system and ensuring equal opportunities for all Americans to earn the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy. Secretary Perez echoed the president’s support, voiced in his State of the Union address, for training programs outside of four-year degree programs. Attendees concurred that it was exciting to see job training being elevated in public discussions as a means to achieving economic security.

The Secretary shared the administration’s vision for creating a dynamic workforce development system, highlighting the following five goals:

  • Sustaining and expanding industry partnerships, and strengthening the collaboration between the DOL and the Dept of Commerce;
  • Achieving synergy between the many job training programs and agencies that administer them and “imploding the stovepipe”;
  • Improving quality control in programs;
  • Spurring innovation, flexibility and experimentation to see what works – including looking at how to utilize emerging technology and building a stronger apprenticeship system; and
  • Showcasing promising practices and establishing some common performance measures.

I shared that my own career benefited from both apprenticeship training and the Department of Labor’s affirmative action enforcement. I thanked the Secretary for his commitment to apprenticeship and long history working for civil rights. During our discussion of the Secretary’s goals, I chimed in to point out that another key plank of the President’s State of the Union was addressing women’s economic equity and moving policies for women in the workplace into the 21st century. I urged the Secretary and the Department to marry the two focal points in the State of the Union, since a workforce development system that perpetuates occupational segregation by gender (and see our previous blogs that demonstrate significant evidence of this) won’t address the persistent wage gap women face. As I moved to share our recommendations for creating a dynamic job training system that also works for women, Sec’y Perez nodded eagerly and said, “Oh, good, was just going to ask how we do that”.

I proposed the following five point plan:

  • Establishing goals for women’s participation in job training for high-skill, high-wage jobs in male-dominated sectors and increasing and enforcing the existing goals for industry partners and apprenticeship programs for women’s inclusion and equitable treatment;
  • Using administrative guidance and technical assistance like WOW has been offering in our GreenWays Initiative with Jobs for the Future to help job training programs and the workforce systems build their capacity to meet goals;
  • Expanding funding for women’s training for nontraditional occupations. There are several dedicated multi-million dollar programs to support training for youth, ex-offenders, and veterans, but only one, with less than $1 M, for women;
  • Data collection to let us know how we are doing in moving the needle; and
  • Creating a “Concrete Floor” Commission to set an annual agenda, oversee programming for women, benchmark progress and focus public attention on this issue.

The Secretary closed the meeting, reflecting on our nearly two-hour conversation, and outlining nine takeaways and questions he wanted us to answer for him. Concerned that not one of these questions addressed women, I shot him a worried look. Ending the meeting on a great note for women in non-traditional occupations and assuaging my fears, Secretary Perez announced he’d taken copious notes on my recommendations and appreciated having such a specific plan to which he can respond.

But, it didn’t end there. Our recommendations grabbed the attention of other invitees to the meeting, including the National Urban League’s President Marc Morial, who said the issue of women also “piqued his attention” since a majority of the clients they serve in their nearly 100 job training programs across the country are women. Leaders from the National Association of Workforce Boards, the National League of Cities, the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, and National Economic Council at The White House, each came up to me to express interest in pursuing the issue with WOW further. We’ve got a lot of work ahead to follow up with the Secretary and these organizations, but we’re happy to have the opportunity to advance our agenda for women in nontraditional occupations!

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On the Hill: Farm Bill and the SOTU

After years of negotiations and disagreement between House and Senate members of a farm bill conference committee, the House of Representatives adopted on Wednesday a five-year farm bill by a 251-166 vote. The deal marks ends lengthy efforts to renew agriculture and nutrition programs in the United States. Though House Republicans initially proposed cutting SNAP by $40 billion over 10 years, the final bill would cut SNAP by $8 billion over the next ten years by restricting states’ ability to use a “heat and eat” program to boost individuals’ benefits. The legislation will require that an individual receive at least $20 or more in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) aid before that individual’s SNAP benefits are automatically increased. The agreement does not include House provisions to restrict categorical eligibility or the ability of states to waive SNAP work requirements for certain adults. The Senate is expected to pass the measure and President Obama is expected to sign it into law.

The week’s other major event was the annual State of the Union address, during which President Obama pledged to do everything he can, with or without Congress, to expand economic opportunity and bolster the middle class. One such avenue included Obama’s announcement during the speech that he would sign an executive order that would raise the minimum wage for new federal contractors to $10.10 an hour. The president also urged Congress to pass legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. President Obama also called on Congress to renew federal unemployment insurance benefits that lapsed in December, and to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation that mandates equal pay for women by creating stronger incentives for employers to pay workers fairly and prohibiting retaliation against employees who share salary information.

In a factsheet on the address, the Obama administration announced it will conduct a full review of federal job training programs to make sure programs are higher performing and focused on skills needed in high-demand sectors. The Administration also announced a spring 2014 Summit on Working Families hosted by the White House, the Department of Labor and the Center for American Progress. The goal of the summit is to set an agenda for “a 21st century workplace to ensure America’s global economic competitiveness in the coming decades,” and make the business and economic cases for policies that support working families in areas such as discrimination, flexibility, and paid leave.

Prospects for the Senate to renew expired unemployment benefits appeared to brighten on Wednesday as bipartisan talks pick up steam and a procedural standoff thaws. Please continue to call (877-318-0483) your senators and representative and urge them to extend jobless benefits with no strings attached.

Both chambers of Congress will be in session on Monday, February 4.

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Must Love Animals, But Still Working Toward Equality: The Case of Female Veterinarians

Policies that encourage more equal occupational representation by sex are critical for gender equity in the labor market. If women enter predominantly male occupations and vice versa, over time occupations should become integrated, and occupational sex segregation should decline.  And such policies should have the secondary benefit of enhancing women’s labor market rewards relative to men’s.  Often many point to veterinarians as an example of an occupation where women have made significant inroads in a short period of time.

So what is the history of women in veterinary scienceDr. Elinor McGrath was the first woman veterinarian in the US and began practicing in 1910. A few decades later, in 1936, there were just 30 women veterinarians in the US, and by 1963 that number had grown to 277 women.  In the next two decades, though,  women began to make rapid advances in veterinary science and by 1989, 22 percent of veterinarians and 60 percent of students were women.  This growth was very much correlated with the passage of Title IX, which ended sex discrimination in education and provided access to programs in the sciences to women.  Having a pipeline of female students is significant and necessary factor in increasing the representation of women in any occupation, and veterinarians are no exception.  As women began to complete and graduate veterinary college programs they began to enter the workforce in higher numbers. Today women are 55 percent of the nation’s veterinarians, and that percentage is still growing. By 2030, seven out of 10 veterinarians will be women, according to a recent projection by The Center for Health Workforce Studies. So women have clearly made progress into veterinary educational programs and practices.

If only our story could end there.  It is true veterinarians represent a sex-integrated occupation.  But does that mean that women veterinarians have achieved equality in the occupation? Unfortunately the answer is NO.  Instead a recent American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) report on finds female veterinarians continue to significantly earn less than male veterinarians, despite the fact that they have increased their representation in the occupation to slightly over 50 percent. The report found that female veterinarians in private practice had median incomes of $88,000 in 2011, while male veterinarians had median incomes of $112,000.  So female veterinarians are earning about 78 percent of what their male counterparts are earning. For those in public and corporate practice, female veterinarians had a median income of $112,000 in 2011, while male veterinarians had a median income of $136,000.

And female veterinarians also are not equally represented in leadership positions in the field or higher paying specialties.   According to AAVMC statistics, women made up 78.6 percent of enrolled U.S. veterinary students in 2013. While women accounted for 41 percent of faculty members at these institutions, slightly more than half of them were nontenure-track, and women held just 0.7 percent of the administrative positions.  And women are only 19 percent of large animal veterinarians, which tend to be a higher paying specialty.  Further gender myths are still prevalent in this specialty and others, such as women are not strong enough to work with large animals or male farmer would not be comfortable working with women in this job.

So—yes women have made inroads into veterinary science and have achieved numerical equity, but are far from equality— as they face job segregation, gender based pay gap and lack of access to leadership positions.  And veterinarians are not the only occupation where this is the reality. Rutgers sociologist Patricia Roos and I found that despite the movement of women into predominately male occupations, women continue to earn less than their male counterparts, and are promoted at lower rates.  Women making inroads into sex-atypical occupations are just a piece of the gender segregation puzzle. Policies that help provide access and a pipeline for women in nontraditional occupations are clearly important to reduce gender segregation.  However unless they are coupled with government and workplace policies that ensure equality within the occupation and in regard to labor market rewards, simply have a sex-integrated occupation will not lead to full equality.

Andre (Moul) Ross, the only woman in Cornell's Veterinary Class of 1943 with four of her classmates and an equine patient. Source: http://veterinarylegacy.blogspot.com/2012_05_01_archive.html

Andre (Moul) Ross, the only woman in Cornell’s Veterinary Class of 1943
with four of her classmates and an equine patient. Source: http://veterinarylegacy.blogspot.com/2012_05_01_archive.html

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Women and Job Gains: What Exactly Happened Last Month?

Perhaps it was the post-holiday season slump or a weekend news cycle dominated by a traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge, but December’s job report was released this past Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics with little fanfare. Yet there are some dramatic numbers captured in the December jobs report that do deserve attention.  According to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) analysis of the January employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), women gained ALL 74,000 jobs added to nonfarm payrolls in December, while men lost 1,000 jobs.  That is right—ALL the jobs that were gained in December were gained by women.

Throughout the recession, we know  that women lost fewer jobs than men—partly because of the industries in which men and women are located. New York Times blogger Catherine Rampella  published a great figure illustrating this quite significant trend over time, showing sex differences in job gains and losses over time.  As you can see, in the recovery men did outpace women for several months.  And while women have reversed this trend in recent months, this is the first time ALL the jobs were gained by women.

Source: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/10/all-december-job-gains-went-to-women/?_r=0

Source: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/10/all-december-job-gains-went-to-women/?_r=0

However there is an important qualification to this finding:  The jobs gains were heavily concentrated in retail (38,500 jobs gained by women), and leisure and hospitality (18,000 jobs for women)—industries that are predominately female and that offer jobs opportunities  that are often low quality in terms of wages, benefits, full-time hours, and workplace flexibility. And some of the job gains can be related to seasonal holiday hiring, so these women may now find themselves out of work in the new year. So the job gain for women is not necessary all good news.  In fact, the Shriver Report, A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, also released this weekend, highlighted how women are working more but their concentration in low wage jobs is keeping them in poverty. The conclusion seems clear:  while women may be gaining jobs, they are not achieving economic security for themselves and their families.

That is what makes this December jobs report quite interesting. What factors are driving the sex differences in jobs gain? Women are employed more than ever in our labor market despite so many job seekers’ having left the labor market. Is it just a matter of the ubiquitous segregation that dominates our labor market—the growing jobs are in traditional female industries, so it is not surprising that women would be making gains.  Are employers choosing women because they tend to pay them less (as the wage gap is still alive and well), or may be more willing to work part-time, and without being offered benefits such as health insurance? And since low wage jobs continue to see growth in the recovery—regardless of whether women or men fill them—they are not offering economic security. Public policies, such as increased minimum wages, access to paid sick days and family leave, and workplace flexibility, are needed more than ever in order for working families be economically secure. So, the December Jobs report may not be the sleeper it seems to be and some of these findings need to be looked at more carefully.

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Weekly ‘On the Hill’ Update

ON THE HILL…The House was in recess this week.

Senate appropriators on Thursday advanced a fiscal 2013 spending bill for labor, health and education programs, after turning back Republican efforts to restrict the National Labor Relations Board’s authority and to curb funding for a provision of the 2010 health care overhaul law. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the draft measure along party lines, 16-14. The legislation would provide nearly $753.4 billion in total budget authority, including $158.8 billion in discretionary funding — $2 billion more than fiscal 2012 levels and roughly equal to the president’s request.  The Committee has not posted the full text of the legislation so funding levels for key programs is not yet available. We will make that information available when we get it.  It is not expected that this bill will be considered by the full Senate before the election, but rather that funding for programs under its jurisdiction will continue to be funded at 2012 levels until sometime after election or even into the new year.

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Weekly ‘On the Hill’ Update

ON THE HILL … House Republicans are teeing up a bill that would overhaul the federal workforce training law and are planning to have it ready for floor debate as early as next month. At an Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on the issue Tuesday, Rep. John F. Tierney (D, MA) said the panel may mark up the Republican legislation as soon as next week. At Tuesday’s hearing, ranking Democrat George Miller (D, CA) said he had “serious concerns” about the GOP bill (HR 4297), specifically the proposal to consolidate 27 programs into one fund, which he said would shift money away from under-served populations that the programs were set up to protect. In addition to consolidating 27 programs into one fund, the Republican bill would allow governors to merge additional programs if they have a “responsible” plan to do so. States would be required to adopt a common set of performance measures to judge the success of all programs. The bill would also require that two-thirds of local workforce investment board members be employers, which Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, John Kline (R, MN) said would help ensure that the training offered to workers would meet the needs of businesses. Democrats argued, however, that a homogenous board composed mainly of employers would have a negative impact on certain populations that need specialized help to gain employment, such as English-language learners and those with disabilities.

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Weekly ‘On the Hill’ Update

ON THE HILL … The House on Thursday adopted a GOP-authored budget plan for fiscal 2013 that calls for limiting discretionary spending to $1.028 trillion and proposes overhauling the tax code and entitlement programs. The budget resolution sponsored by House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) is $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion spending cap set in the August debt limit deal. The House adopted the plan on a vote of 228-191, after rejecting a half-dozen other proposals. No Democrats voted for the measure, and 10 Republicans voted against it. Democrats say the plan would give tax cuts to the wealthy at the expense of vital “safety net programs” for the poor and seniors, including Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.  Ryan countered that Medicare is unsustainable and that the Republican budget would preserve the Medicare guarantee. The resolution would direct six committees to find $261 billion in cuts to mandatory programs such as Medicare. Along with some discretionary savings, the reductions would replace $98 billion in automatic cuts scheduled to take effect in January. Those recommendations would be packaged into a reconciliation bill that the House could consider as early as May.

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Weekly ‘On the Hill’ Update

ON THE HILL … House Budget Republicans on Wednesday night advanced a fiscal 2013 budget plan by a vote of 19-18 that would overhaul entitlement programs, endorse a flatter tax code and set a lower cap for discretionary spending. House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan (R, WI), who introduced the plan, said it would cut spending by more than $5 trillion over the next decade compared with the president’s budget. The Republican blueprint would cut government spending while providing more money for defense than outlined in the debt deal. It also calls for a revenue-neutral tax overhaul that simplifies the tax code and lowers rates.  The GOP budget would set the discretionary spending cap at $1.028 trillion, $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion spending cap negotiated in a  bipartisan, bi-cameral agreement reached last August.  While the $19 billion discrepancy in discretionary spending may seem minor in the context of a trillion dollar budget, the lion’s share of the cuts would be in programs that serve low income Americans, including Medicaid, food stamps, education, training, and so on.  The full House will vote on the budget next week.  However, the Senate intends to stick to the spending agreement reached last year and will not go along with the House-passed version.  For more details, go to http://budget.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=286221 or to the center for Budget and Policy Priorities at www.cbpp.org

 

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Tackling Common Myths about Women in the Workforce and the Link between the Gender Wage Gap and the Gender Leadership Gap Briefing

What would it take to change the landscape of decision-makers in America? This exact question was posed at a Capitol Hill briefing held on Wednesday, March 21, organized by Catalyst and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office. With staggering statistics disproportionately affecting women in the workplace including the daunting fact that women still only make 78 cents to every dollar a man makes, and women only represent 3.4% of all Fortune500 CEOs, both Catalyst and Sen. Gillibrand query, despite being nearly 50% of the labor force, why do women in the U.S. still exceedingly lag in leadership positions? This is the ultimate puzzlement, Catalyst finds, for these inequalities do not just hurt women; on a larger scale, they harm Americans families, employers and the U.S. economy.

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