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Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., Associate Director of Research

Cynthia Hess is Associate Director of Research at IWPR. She has directed IWPR projects on numerous issues, including workforce development, the status of women in the states, women’s activism and leadership, immigration, and Social Security. Prior to joining the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Dr. Hess taught for two years as a visiting faculty member in the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Her scholarly work has focused on the intersection of feminist theory, theology, and peace studies, and her publications include Sites of Violence, Sites of Grace: Christian Nonviolence and the Traumatized Self as well as articles on terrorism, traumatic violence, and religious peacemaking. Dr. Hess received her Ph.D. from Yale University and her A.B. from Davidson College.

Latest Reports from IWPR

Supportive Services in Job Training and Education: A Research Review
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., Yana Mayayeva, Lindsey Reichlin, and Mala Thakur (November 2016)

This report presents findings from a review and analysis of literature on the importance, effectiveness, and availability of support services for participants in job training programs in the United States. It assesses current knowledge about these services by examining reports on training and education programs, as well as literature on the importance of supportive services for low-income individuals in general. The report also examines the availability of supportive services in the workforce development system, funding sources for these services, and common barriers to employment and training—such as lack of access to child care, transportation, and stable housing—that these supports can address. The report was informed by interviews with 25 experts on workforce development and supportive services. It is a part of a larger Institute for Women’s Policy Research project on the role of supportive services in promoting job training and employment success that is funded by the Walmart Foundation.

 

Poverty, Gender, and Public Policies
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., and Stephanie Román (February 2016)

Economic security is a critical part of women’s overall well-being that contributes to their educational attainment, health, family stability, and community engagement. Over the last few decades, women’s increased labor force participation, education, and earnings have helped many women attain economic security. Yet, a substantial number of women in the United States face economic hardship: approximately one in six adult women have family incomes below the federal poverty line. Multiple factors contribute to women’s economic insecurity, including the gender wage gap, women’s prevalence in low-paid occupations, a lack of work-family supports, and the challenges involved in accessing public benefits. This briefing paper presents some basic facts about women’s economic security and explores the causes of poverty among women and the ways that the effects of poverty reverberate throughout families’ lives. It concludes by examining strategies to improve women’s economic security and reduce poverty.

 

The Status of Women in the States: 2015 (full report)
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., Jessica Mill, Ph.D., Jeff Hayes, Ph.D., Ariane Hegewisch, M. Phil., Yana Mayayeva, Stephanie Roman, Julie Anderson, M.A., and Justine Augeri (May 2015)

The Status of Women in the States: 2015 provides critical data to identify areas of progress for women in states across the nation and pinpoint where additional improvements are still needed. It presents hundreds of data points for each state across seven areas that affect women’s lives: political participation, employment and earnings, work and family, poverty and opportunity, reproductive rights, health and well-being, and violence and safety. For each of these topic areas except violence and safety, the report calculates a composite index, ranks the states from best to worst, and assigns a letter grade based on the difference between the state’s performance in that area and goals set by IWPR (e.g., no remaining wage gap or the proportional representation of women in political office). The report also tracks progress over time, covers basic demographic statistics on women, and presents additional data on a range of topics related to women’s status. In addition, it gives an overview of how women from various population groups fare, including women of color, young women, older women, immigrant women, women living with a same-sex partner, and women in labor unions. This report builds on IWPR’s long-standing work on The Status of Women in the States, a series of data analyses and reports that for nearly 20 years have provided data on women’s status nationally and for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Status of Women in the States reports have three main goals: 1) to analyze and disseminate information about women’s progress in achieving rights and opportunities; 2) to identify and measure the remaining barriers to equality; and 3) to provide baseline measures for monitoring women’s progress. The data presented in these reports can serve as a resource for advocates, policymakers, and other stakeholders who seek to develop community investments, programs, and public policies that can lead to positive changes for women and families.

 

The Status of Women in Washington: Forging Pathways to Leadership and Economic Opportunity
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D. and Jessica Milli, Ph.D. (March 2015)

This report provides critical data and analyzes areas of progress for women in Washington, as well as places where progress has slowed or stalled. It examines key indicators of women’s status in several topical areas: employment and earnings, economic security and poverty, and political participation. The data presented on these topics can serve as a resource for advocates, community leaders, policymakers, funders, and other stakeholders who are working to create public policies and programs that enable women in Washington to achieve their full potential. Key findings in the report include the following:

 
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The Status of Women in Connecticut's Workforce
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D. (November 2014)

Women in Connecticut have made significant advances in the workforce in recent years but continue to face persistent disparities and inequities that often prevent them from reaching their full potential. Women’s labor force participation has increased over the last two decades, the gender wage gap has narrowed, and women are more likely than in the past to work in managerial or professional occupations. At the same time, many women in Connecticut experience a persistent gender wage gap, limited access to affordable child care, and low levels of education. In addition, women in the state face stark disparities in opportunities and access to resources across racial and ethnic groups and geographic locations. Addressing such challenges and disparities is essential to the continued advance- ment of women and to the well-being of Connecticut as a whole.

 

Securing a Better Future: A Portrait of Female Students in Mississippi’s Community Colleges
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., Sylvia Krohn, Lindsey Reichlin, Stephanie Román, and Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (June 2014)

This report presents findings from a survey of female community college students in Mississippi conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) and commissioned by the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi. The survey is designed to identify supports and practices that can help women succeed in community college and attain economic security. It explores women’s motivations for pursuing college, their personal and career goals, their support needs, and the economic, health, and time challenges that they experience. The survey was designed as a part of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s Student Parent Success Initiative, which provides information and tools to promote the success of student parents in postsecondary education.

 

Accelerating Change for Women Faculty of Color in STEM: Policy, Action, and Collaboration
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., Barbara Gault, Ph.D., and Youngmin Yi (November 2013)

This report is part of a project to address the underrepresentation of women faculty of color in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) led by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). It summarizes highlights from a convening held in May 2013 that brought together nearly 50 experts, including professors, academic administrators, and representatives of government, professional societies, the corporate sector, and women’s organizations. It addresses the barriers that make it difficult for women faculty of color to advance in STEM fields, key programmatic and policy shifts that would promote their success, and strategies for implementing promising changes and taking them to scale. The convening and report are part of IWPR’s research on education and training, which includes early care and education, girls’ experiences in the K-12 system, postsecondary attainment, and high-quality workforce development opportunities for STEM and other careers. IWPR’s recent research in this area includes a profile of programs at community colleges designed to engage women in STEM fields, as well as reports exploring pedagogical methods to increase women’s participation in engineering.

 
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The Status of Women in Eastern North Carolina
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D. and Claudia Williams (August 2013)

Women in Eastern North Carolina, and in North Carolina as a whole, have made significant progress during the last few decades, but more remains to be done to elevate women’s status. The majority of women participate in the labor force—often in professional or managerial jobs—and make important contributions to the economic health of their communities. Yet, in some ways women’s status still lags behind men’s, and not all women are prospering equally. This briefing paper provides basic information about the status of women in Eastern North Carolina, focusing on women’s earnings and workforce participation, level of education, poverty, access to child care, and health status. It also provides basic demographic information about women in this area.

 

The Status of Women and Girls in Colorado
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., Ariane Hegewisch, Youngmin Yi, Claudia Williams, and Justine Augeri (June 2013)

This report provides critical data and analyzes areas of progress for women and girls in Colorado as well as places where progress has slowed or stalled. It examines a range of interconnected issues affecting the lives of women and girls in Colorado, including economic security and poverty, employment and earnings, educational opportunity, personal safety, and women’s leadership. In addition to discussing the current status of women and girls, the report tracks progress over the last two decades by comparing findings with those from earlier status of women reports by The Women’s Foundation of Colorado and Girls Count (1994) and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (2000). The 2013 Status of Women and Girls in Colorado report also analyzes how the circumstances of women and girls differ across Colorado’s regions and how women and girls in the state fare compared with their counterparts in the nation as a whole.

 

The Status of Women in North Carolina
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., Ariane Hegewisch, Youngmin Yi, Claudia Williams (March 2013)

This report provides critical data to identify both areas of progress for women in North Carolina and places where additional improvements are still needed. The report analyzes issues that profoundly affect the lives of women in North Carolina, including employment, earnings, and education; economic security and poverty; health and well-being; and political participation. The report also tracks women’s progress in North Carolina over the last two decades (1990–2010) by comparing its findings with those from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s 1996 report, The Status of Women in North Carolina (IWPR 1996). In addition, the report examines the social and economic status of women in different regions of the state as well as in the nation as a whole. The data on women’s status that it presents can serve as a resource for advocates, community leaders, policymakers, and other stakeholders who seek to develop community investments, program initiatives, and public policies that will lead to positive change for women in the state of North Carolina and nationwide.

 

The Status of Women and Girls in West Virginia
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., Ariane Hegewisch, and Claudia Williams (March 2013)

This report provides comprehensive data to assess the progress of women and girls in West Virginia and identify places where additional improvements are still needed. The report analyzes issues that profoundly affect the lives of women and girls in the state, including employment, earnings, and education; economic security and poverty; and health and well-being. The report also tracks trends in progress in West Virginia (between 2000 and 2010) by comparing its findings with the 2002 report, The Status of Women in West Virginia (IWPR 2002). In addition, the report examines the status of women and girls in five regions of the state (Northern Panhandle, North Central, Eastern Panhandle, South Central, and Southern) as well as in the nation as a whole. The data on women’s and girls’ status that it presents can serve as a resource for advocates, community leaders, policymakers, and other stakeholders who seek to develop community investments, program initiatives, and public policies that will lead to positive change for women and girls in West Virginia and the nation as a whole.

 

The Status of Women in Cumberland County, North Carolina
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D. and Claudia Williams (February 2013)

Women in Cumberland County, and in North Carolina as a whole, have made significant progress during the last few decades, but more remains to be done to elevate women’s status. The majority of women work—many in professional and managerial jobs—and women make important contributions to the economic health of their communities. Yet, in some ways women’s status still lags behind men’s, and not all women are prospering equally. This briefing paper provides basic information about the status of women in Cumberland County, focusing on women’s earnings and workforce participation, level of education, poverty, access to child care, and health status. It also provides basic demographic information about women in this area.

 

Increasing Pathways to Legal Status for Immigrant In-Home Care Workers
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D. and Jane Henrici, Ph.D. (February 2013)

This paper explores options for reforming the U.S. visa system to increase the pathways to legal status for undocumented immigrant women interested in providing long-term care for the elderly and for individuals with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Drawing on a review of relevant literature and consultations with experts, it examines the current visa options for obtaining legal status that allow for employment and the reasons these avenues do not meet the needs of in-home care workers.

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The Status of Women in the Charlotte Metropolitan Area, North Carolina
by Cynthia Hess, P.D., Rhiana Gunn-Wright, and Youngmin Y (January 2013)

Women in the Charlotte metropolitan area, and in North Carolina as a whole, have made much progress during the last few decades. The majority of women work—many in professional jobs—and women are essential to the economic health of their communities. Yet, there are some ways in which women’s status still lags behind men’s, and not all women are prospering equally. This fact sheet provides basic information about the status of women the Charlotte area, focusing on women’s earnings and workforce participation, level of education, poverty, access to childcare, and health status. It also provides background demographic information about women in the region.

 

The Status of Women in Alexander, Burke, and Caldwell Counties, North Carolina
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., and Youngmin Yi (January 2013)

Women in Alexander, Burke, and Caldwell counties, as in North Carolina as a whole, have made much progress during the last few decades, but more remains to be done to elevate women’s status. The majority of women work—many in professional and managerial jobs—and women are a mainstay of the economic health of their communities. Yet, there are ways in which women’s status still lags behind men’s, and not all women are prospering equally. This briefing paper provides information about the status of women in Alexander, Burke, and Caldwell counties, focusing on women’s earnings and workforce participation, level of education, poverty, access to child care, and health status. It also provides basic demographic information about women in this area.

 

The Status of Women in Buncombe County, North Carolina
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., and Youngmin Yi (January 2013)

Women in Buncombe County, as in North Carolina as a whole, have made much progress during the last few decades, yet more remains to be done to elevate women’s status. The majority of women work— many in professional and managerial jobs—and women are a mainstay of the economic health of their communities. Yet, there are some ways in which women’s status still lags behind men’s, and not all women are prospering equally. This briefing paper provides basic information about the status of women in Buncombe County, focusing on women’s earnings and workforce participation, level of education, poverty, access to child care, and health status. It also provides background demographic information about women in the county.

 

The Status of Women in Henderson and Transylvania Counties, North Carolina
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D.,and Youngmin Yi (January 2013)

Women in Henderson and Transylvania counties, as in North Carolina as a whole, have made much progress during the last few decades. The majority of women work—many in professional and managerial jobs—and women are a mainstay of the economic health of their communities. Yet, in some ways women’s status still lags behind men’s, and not all women are prospering equally. This briefing paper provides basic information about the status of women in Henderson and Transylvania counties, focusing on women’s earnings and workforce participation, level of education, poverty, access to child care, and health status. It also provides basic demographic information about women in this area.

 

The Status of Women in Cleveland, McDowell, Polk, and Rutherford Counties, North Carolina
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., Rhiana Gunn-Wright, and Claudia Williams (January 2013)

Women in Cleveland, McDowell, Polk, and Rutherford counties, as in North Carolina as a whole, have made much progress during the last few decades. The majority of women in these counties combined are in the labor force—many in professional and managerial jobs—and women are a mainstay of the economic health of their communities. Yet, in some ways women’s status in these counties still lags behind men’s, and not all women are prospering equally. This briefing paper provides information about the status of women in Cleveland, McDowell, Polk, and Rutherford counties, focusing on women’s earnings and workforce participation, level of education, poverty, access to child care, and health status. It also provides basic demographic information about women in this area.

 

The Status of Women in the Asheville Metropolitan Area, North Carolina
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., Youngmin Yi, and Alicia Sheares (January 2013)

This briefing paper provides basic information about the status of women in the Asheville area (which includes Buncombe and Madison counties), focusing on women’s earnings and workforce participation, level of education, poverty, access to child care, and health status. It also provides background demographic information about women in the region.

 

The Status of Women in Guilford County, North Carolina
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D. and Maureen Sarna (November 2012)

Women in Guilford County, and in North Carolina as a whole, have made significant progress in the last few decades. The majority of women work—many in professional and managerial jobs—and women are a mainstay of the economic health of their communities. Yet, there are some ways in which women’s status still lags behind men’s, and not all women are prospering equally. This briefing paper provides basic information about the status of women in Guilford County, focusing on women’s earnings and workforce participation, level of education, poverty, access to child care, and health status. It also provides background demographic information about women in the region.

 
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