Advocacy, Research, Training

Gender Equity

Gender Equity

Child Care & Economic Security

Childcare costs can be the largest expense in a family’s budget. For example, in Washington, DC, child care costs for a single mother with an infant can cost $1,230 per month. Quality and affordable child care is crucial for a single parent or dual-income household. WOW advocates for child care programs and policies that assist low-income households and for workplace flexibility such as flexible scheduling, telecommuting and paid leave. In Washington, DC, WOW draws attention to the importance of reproductive health and provides its Connections to Careers workshop series for teens, which focuses on the realities of the high costs of self-sufficiency and encourages youth to consider their careers and economic security before starting a family.

Green Jobs

Green jobs utilize planning, design, construction and maintenance skills to create environmentally safe, healthy and sustainable communities and businesses. An emerging “green” economy offers opportunities for new, well-paid career-track jobs, but women remain underrepresented in the major categories of jobs going green. Policy makers, trainers, community-based organizations, public agencies and industry partners can use the opportunity presented in this expanding field to address past inequities and ensure that women will be full partners in the green revolution. To open their training and green career pathways to women, training programs must remove barriers women face to entering these fields—lack of awareness, gender stereotypes and discrimination, limited training and work experience, perception of work and institutional practices favoring the training and needs of men. WOW provides technical assistance to programs providing green-job training, advocates for funding and policies to help train women for green jobs and is a leader in promoting green jobs to women and the public.

Non-Traditional Occupations Policy

Occupational segregation by gender continues to be a pervasive and persistent feature of the American workforce and is a major reason for the wage gap between male and female workers. The majority of women–nearly 80%–still work in fewer than 20 of more than 400 occupations. Although expanding women’s access to nontraditional occupations (NTO) in manufacturing, skilled trades and transportation can increase their earnings by at least 30%, public policy and industry have devoted only limited resources and effort to achieve gender equity in employment. A variety of legislative, administrative and industry initiatives offer opportunities to develop resources for pre-apprenticeship training; strengthen workforce, vocational education and transportation legislation; and improve on equal opportunity regulations. WOW works in coalition to advance these policy initiatives, and co-leads the National Task Force on Tradeswomen’s Issues and the National Coalition on Women in Jobs and Job Training (NCWJJT).

Non-Traditional Occupations Training

Although women make up more than half of the American workforce, they remain significantly underrepresented in many high-paying, high-demand occupations, especially in blue-collar and technical fields. Two-thirds of women are concentrated in 5% of occupational categories and, other than teaching and nursing positions, those jobs tend to be low-wage. Expanding women’s access to non-traditional jobs in manufacturing, skilled trades and transportation can increase their earnings by at least 30%. For example, a typical certified nursing assistant or cashier has been earning less than $10 per hour, while a typical electrician has been earning about $25 per hour. The earnings differential over a lifetime can be as much as $1.5 million. Gender stereotypes, lack of outreach and information, limited pre-vocational skill training, unequal selection criteria and the challenge of being a pioneer in a male-dominated work environment all contribute to women’s segregation. WOW offers program support and technical assistance which helps the workforce development system, community-based agencies, educational institutions and industry stakeholders apply a gender lens to their equal employment opportunity policy and practice.

Occupational Segregation

In 2011, half of all working women were employed in only 28 of 534 US Department of Labor job categories. With the exception of nursing and teaching, low-paying jobs dominate these categories. In response, WOW educates the public, lawmakers and the executive branch on the many aspects of, and laws requiring, gender integration of technical and skilled trade occupations. WOW helps strengthen workforce development programs, such as the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), and increase the enrollment of women and girls in programs that prepare them for employment in high-demand, high-paying, traditionally male occupations. WOW has also highlighted the importance of the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) Act and the Women WIN Act. WOW also advocates for the active enforcement of laws requiring equal employment on federal projects.

Paycheck Fairness

For years, women have earned just three-quarters of what men have earned. While differences in occupations and time out of the workforce for family care contribute to disparities, simple pay discrimination remains an obstacle to women pursuing economic security. The 1963 Equal Pay Act was the earliest civil rights law to address pay discrimination. Today, the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) will strengthen that law to put it on an equal footing with civil rights legislation based on race, national origin and disabilities. The PFA requires employers who pay women less for the same work as men to prove that the disparities are job-related and a business necessity. The PFA permits successful plaintiffs to collect the same compensatory and punitive damages collected in pay discrimination suits based on race and national origin, permits employees to share salary information without fear of retaliation, supports salary negotiation training for girls and women and eases potential burdens on business by creating incentives for employers to follow the law, strengthening federal assistance to employers and exempting small businesses. WOW supports the Paycheck Fairness Act by providing information to our networks and educating the public and policy makers.

Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act

Before passage of Title IX, “shop classes” were for boys and typing and home economics was for girls. Thanks to Title IX, part of the federal Education Amendments of 1972, vocational education, or career and technical education (CTE), has become more integrated into the school system and is more accessible to girls. Women and girls are better able to prepare for non-traditional occupations, such as the trades, which increase their opportunities for employment and economic security—but old biases remain. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act, the primary federal legislation for investing in career education, provides secondary and post-secondary schools, such as community colleges, resources to improve gender balance in CTE—but these provisions have been repeatedly diluted in recent revisions of the law. While some states have been able to raise female enrollment to more than 40%, most lag behind. In addition to strengthened goal setting, the next revision of the Perkins law should reinstate the requirement that states employ gender equity coordinators. It should also provide high-quality guidance counseling, professional development and other programs proven effective in boosting gender equity. CTE must play a central role in a world-class education system to ensure a strong, diverse workforce in the 21st century, so WOW works with federal policy makers to improve CTE and inclusion of underrepresented groups by spreading the use of best practices.

Workforce Development—Workforce Investment Act (WIA)

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) governs the operation of the nation’s system of state and local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBS) and Career One-Stop Centers. Since its enactment in 1998, WIA has not kept pace with developments in the labor market and the education and training community. WOW advocates for changes that focus on preparing workers for career pathways that lead to economic security, or “self-sufficiency,” in regional high-growth, high-demand sectors. The workforce system should serve the interests of workers as well as employers, so WOW advocates for improved career counseling, training and support services designed to meet the needs of low-income single parents, non-English speakers and women unaware of opportunities in higher-wage occupations traditionally pursued by men. WIA should preserve stipends for on-the-job training for the long-term unemployed and existing programs that address unemployment issues must not be eliminated or “consolidated” in the name of “streamlining” the workforce system. An amended WIA should devote a greater share of federal dollars to developing actual worker skills, rather than to job search and maintenance of the WIA infrastructure.

Science, Technology, Education & Math (STEM)

Women and girls’ pursuit of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is an important issue for those who care about women’s status and earning potential, and to the nation’s continued economic development. STEM jobs pay women approximately 33% more than non-STEM jobs. They often provide greater access to workplace benefits and flexibility, and genuine career ladders within growing, dynamic fields. Women are still underrepresented in STEM fields, however; fewer than 25% of STEM workers are women. The proportion of women without four-year degrees in STEM fields is much smaller, as men are approximately four times as likely to work in a STEM field. WOW supports efforts to improve women and girls’ access to non-traditional career and technical education and STEM fields through its participation in the National Coalition for Women & Girls in Education, and by advocating for improving primary and secondary teacher training, promoting female role models, fighting gender stereotyping and making STEM fields more family-friendly.

Wider Opportunities for Women
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