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IWPR Survey Finds Construction Trades Offer Good Wages for Women Workers, but Harassment and Discrimination Still Common

by Ariane Hegewisch

During the past 40 years, many previously male-dominated occupations have become integrated, but women’s share of construction trades jobs has remained below five percent. Despite this, because the construction industry is so large, more women work in the construction trades than work as dental hygienists, pharmacists, or veterinarians. As the construction industry continues to add jobs in the recovery following the Great Recession, and as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that construction occupations will see above average employment growth in the coming years, the question of how to unblock the construction industry for women is once again on the agenda and gaining interest: a recent webinar on women in construction hosted by the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor attracted close to 1,000 registrants.

Two new IWPR publications provide insights into women’s experiences working in construction and offer suggestions for how to reduce barriers to entry. An IWPR Research-in-Brief, Women in Construction and the Economic Recovery: Results from the 2013 IWPR Tradeswomen Survey, presents results from an exploratory survey conducted in the spring of 2013. The survey, which includes responses from over 200 women working in the trades, presents a mixed picture. Over 40 percent of tradeswomen respondents earned at least $50,000 in 2012. Yet, only 27 percent had been able to work year-round and 22 percent of respondents were unemployed.Figure from Tradeswoman BP

Fewer than two-thirds of respondents report equal treatment when it comes to being respected on the job, hiring and allocation of hours, and assignments. Only 42 percent report equal treatment when it comes to promotions, and 30 percent report that they are “always” or “frequently” sexually harassed. Rates of racial harassment and discrimination, discrimination based on sexual orientation, and age discrimination are even higher and, in fact, more than one in ten respondents have taken discrimination claims to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Another recent study, Untapped Resources, Untapped Labor Pool: Using Federal Highway Funds to Prepare Women for Careers in Construction, provides examples of how women’s under-representation in construction is being addressed by targeted policies and funding in Oregon and Maryland. Since 2009, Oregon has reserved part of its federal highway funding to increase diversity in the highway construction workforce. Oregon has funded child care and other retention services for construction apprentices, pre-apprenticeship training, career fairs and outreach, and supervisor training for employers on how to tackle workplace discrimination and harassment. Retention rates for women and minority male apprentices have improved significantly, and women’s share of construction apprenticeships in Oregon is twice the national rate.

The first brief shows what is keeping many women out of construction jobs, and what is needed to help them get into and succeed in the trades. But turning that knowledge into action takes resources. The second brief offers examples from Oregon and Maryland for creating a stable funding source to build diversity in the construction workforce.
Ariane Hegewisch is a Study Director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Top 5 IWPR Findings of 2014

by Jourdin Batchelor

This was an exciting year for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. In 2014, we published over 50 reports, fact sheets, and briefing papers. We received more than 1,700 citations in the media and participated in more than 175 speaking engagements. Below are our top 5 findings of 2014 (plus a bonus!). Let us know which one you found most surprising on Twitter or Facebook using #IWPRtop5.

1. Nearly 7 Million Workers in California Lack Paid Sick Days

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Earlier this year, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research provided analytic support to help California become the 2nd state in the nation to guarantee paid sick days to  workers who need them.

IWPR’s data analysis found that 44 percent of California’s workers lack access to a single paid sick day. Additionally, access to paid sick days in the state varies widely by race and ethnicity, economic sector, work schedule, occupation, and earnings level. IWPR’s findings were featured in articles published by Bloomberg Businessweek, The New Republic, ThinkProgress, and NPR.

2. Equal pay for working women would cut poverty in half.

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IWPR analysis shows that the poverty rate for working women would be cut in half if women were paid the same as comparable men. IWPR’s analysis—prepared for use in The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink and produced with the Center for American Progress—also estimates an increase in U.S. GDP by 2.9 percent in 2012 if women received equal pay.

3. Washington, DC, Ranks Highest for Women’s Employment and Earnings; West Virginia Ranks Lowest

IWPR employment and earnings map

This September, IWPR released a short preview of its forthcoming Status of Women in the States report, featuring material from the chapter on women’s employment and earnings with grades and state rankings. The preview was featured in more than half of the states and received more than 150 press citations, with dedicated articles and reprints of the grades in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and Time.

The analysis found that eight of the top eleven states that received a grade of B or higher are located in the Northeast. In addition to West Virginia, seven of the fourteen lowest ranked states, which received a grade of D+ or lower, are located in the South: Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Wyoming, Idaho, Oklahoma, Indiana, Utah, and Missouri round out the bottom group.

4. 4.8 Million College Students are Raising Children

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Last month, the Institute’s Student Parent Success Initiative released two fact sheets: one outlining the number of student parents and one that highlights the decline of campus child care even as more parents attend college.

IWPR found that women are 71 percent of all student parents, and single mothers make up 43 percent of the student parent population. Women of color are the most likely students to be raising children while pursuing a postsecondary degree. The research was featured in in-depth pieces by Ylan Q. Mui at The Washington Post and Gillian B. White at The Atlantic, and in popular posts on Quartz, Jezebel, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

5. *Tie* If current trends continue, women will not receive equal pay until 2058 or achieve equal representation in Congress until 2121.

2058  Political Parity Projection

The Institute updated its benchmark fact sheet, The Gender Wage Gap, and calculated that, at the recent rate of progress, the majority of women will not see equal pay during their working lives: a gap will remain until the year 2058. The projection was featured in news stories by The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, The Nation, Forbes, and others.

Another IWPR projection analyzed the current rate of progress in women’s political leadership and found that women in the United States will not have an equal share of seats in Congress until 2121. To address this disparity, IWPR published results from an in-depth study, Building Women’s Political Careers: Strengthening the Pipeline to Higher Office, which details findings from interviews and focus groups with experienced candidates, elected officials, state legislators, and congressional staff members. The projection and the study were featured in The Washington Post, Slate, and TIME.

Bonus: More than half of working women are discouraged or prohibited from discussing pay at work.

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As part of its 2010 Rockefeller survey of women and men following the Great Recession, IWPR found that more than half of working women, including 63 percent of single mothers, are discouraged or prohibited from discussing their pay at work. These data provided the first snapshot of how prevalent pay secrecy is at American workplaces and received renewed attention in 2014 when President Obama signed an executive order in April requiring greater pay transparency among federal contractors. IWPR’s research on pay secrecy was heavily featured in coverage throughout the year, including pieces in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Marie Claire, TIME, Slate, and others, as well as interviews with IWPR experts on NPR’s Morning Edition, MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, and PBS NewsHour.


Your still have a chance to make research count for women in 2014. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to IWPR.

Jourdin Batchelor is the Development Associate at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

NGCP Champions for Collaboration: Barbara Gault, Vice President & Executive Director of IWPR

This piece appeared in the December newsletter produced by the National Girls Collaborative Project. Find out more about their Program Directory of organizations and programs that focus on motivating girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Barbara Gault, IWPR Vice President & Executive Director

Barbara Gault, IWPR Vice President & Executive Director

NGCP Champions Board members are selected to provide the NGCP with a balance of expertise and regional representation. We highlight Champions Board members to inspire and inform your work to engage girls in STEM. This month we feature Barbara Gault, VP and Executive Director of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

What excites you most about your work? I love that I get to do research designed to support social change. I have always enjoyed the research process: identifying important questions that haven’t been answered, designing relevant methods, and getting results. It is even more gratifying when our studies inform new policies or programs, such as new laws requiring employers to provide workers with paid sick leave that have passed in a number of cities and states around the country. I met a woman at a conference recently who said that our report, about welfare recipients in higher education, motivated her to go to college and she carries the study with her on her smart phone. Times like that make me glad to be doing science in an applied setting. I am lucky to have a job where I am always learning about new issues, and collaborating with brilliant new partners, who are committed to a positive vision for the future.

What do you most appreciate in a collaborator?
There are all kinds of qualities that contribute energy to a collaboration. Nobody possesses them all. I appreciate a sense of humor, an optimistic attitude, authenticity, passion, a willingness to learn from mistakes, openness, humility, accountability, a growth mindset, skills of all kinds, and intellect. Every collaboration brings a different mix, which is what makes it so interesting! Part of the joy is learning about the gifts and talents of others, picking up new skills along the way, making new friends, and celebrating your accomplishments together.

What advice would you give to the NGCP community?
I would encourage our NGCP community to take some risks together, and to be a little noisier, more demanding, and more creative about ensuring that girls, and especially low-income girls and girls of color, have more opportunities to immerse themselves in STEM. We need to inspire more energized commitment to speeding the pace of change, especially in computer IT. Together we can hold schools, colleges, businesses, and other employers and the media accountable for making progress toward gender and racial/ethnic equality in STEM.

IWPR Commemorates the 50th Anniversary of President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women Report

by Jessica Milli, Ph.D.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of 1963’s American Women: Report of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor sponsored a series of Scholars’ Papers. As part of this effort, IWPR prepared papers on parental leave and on occupational segregation and the wage gap.

Paid Parental Leave in the United States reviews research and data sources on paid leave for family related purposes. Despite the recommendation in the 1963 report that paid maternity leave be pro­vided for female workers, it took another thirty years’ for the passage of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) to provide at least unpaid job protected maternity and paternity leave. Due to the structure of the FMLA, as of 2012, only 59 percent of workers were eli­gible for FMLA leave. With the exception of a few states with more generous family leave policies, FMLA leave is unpaid, and many families cannot afford to use it as much as they would like.

The IWPR paper also details previous research on the economic and health benefits of paid family leave. Paid family leave can improve the labor force at­tachment of workers, improve employee morale and productivity, reduce worker turnover, and positively impact economic growth. Such benefits to firms may help offset the costs of implementing paid leave policies. Research further suggests that expanding paid leave is likely to have economy-wide benefits such as reduced spending on public assistance programs and increased labor force participa­tion. Access to leave, whether it is paid or not, can increase breastfeeding rates and duration, reduce the risk of infant mortality, and increase the likelihood of infants receiving well-baby care and vaccinations.

The paper also reviews federal data sources on paid and unpaid leave and highlights gaps and inconsistencies in the information avail­able. The paper argues for a more sys­tematic federal effort to improve the data infrastructure on this important benefit for working families.

Occupational Segregation and the Gender Wage Gap documents changes since the 1960s in the types of jobs that men and women perform and links those trends with recent lack of change in the gender wage gap. Women have made large strides toward equality in the labor force, including increasing their representation in occupations that have traditionally been dominated by men— such as management, accounting, and law. However, not all occupations have seen increased integration over the years, and many remain heavily male- or female-dominated. The paper docu­ments that progress has stalled, point­ing out that both progress in improving occupational integration and progress in closing the gender wage gap stalled at the beginning of the last decade. This relationship suggests that occupa­tional segregation should be a priority of policy efforts to address the wage gap, either by focusing on encourag­ing women to enter more integrated or male-dominated occupations, or by im­proving earnings in female-dominated occupations, or both.

The papers are available on the Women’s Bureau website and on IWPR’s website.

Jessica Milli, Ph.D. is an IWPR Senior Research Associate.

My Brother’s Keeper Skating on Thin Evidence?

by Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D.

Once again the President’s advisors in the White House do not appear to be serving him well.  Despite a thin base of evidence regarding the effectiveness of programs targeting boys and men of color, the President is going all out to exclude girls and women of color for an important initiative.

The President announced My Brother’s Keeper as a new initiative at the end of February and called upon the task force that he formed to review data and develop indicators to measure progress for boys and young men of color, survey government programs to see what is working or not working, reach out to private sector (including nonprofit) partners, and report to him at the end of May.  So far, counting today’s announcements, the task force (consisting of federal officials) has raised more than $300 million in private funds that the White House says will be targeted at improving the opportunities of boys and young men of color.

Almost immediately questions were raised first by women of color in the media, then by 200 black men writing an open letter, and then by more than 1200 women of color doing the same, and then by mainstream women’s organizations issuing statements to the press: where are the girls and young women of color?

Girls and boys of color grow up in the same families, live in the same neighborhoods, and attend the same schools.  Girls and boys of color share many of the same challenges but also face a few that are unique to each gender.  While boys of color score lower than girls on some indicators, girls of color score lower than boys on others.  All would benefit from good programs.

Today, the President announced that several government agencies will make special efforts to increase services that can help boys and young men of color succeed.  Surely women’s organizations will be watching closely to make sure those tax dollars are spent in a gender equitable way.

Unfortunately, there is no comparable, ongoing federal effort to identify challenges facing girls and women of color, review data and develop indicators to measure their progress, survey federal programs to see what is working and or not working for them, or, crucially, raise $300 million from private sources to develop solutions for them.

According to the MBK task force report itself, there is very little evidence that any programs for boys of color work, and, of course to exclude girls, the evidence would have to prove that those that do work do not work as well for boys when girls of color are included.  Although the White House claims the MBK initiative is evidence-based, the report presents no evidence to justify excluding girls and young women of color from the initiative.  Boys are rarely compared with girls in the report and no programs are identified as being successful for boys alone. In other words, the inference that boys of color need this investment of resources more than their female counterparts has yet to be substantiated by the MBK initiative.

In the face of all the criticism, the White House has stonewalled.  Finally six weeks after the report was released and months after the criticism began in the media, White House leaders, including Broderick Johnson, who has led the MBK initiative, Valerie Jarrett, and Tina Tchen, met with a few critics and supporters at the White House on July 15. At that meeting and since, White House officials have said MBK will remain all male.  They are happy to discuss ways to do something for girls and young women of color—perhaps collect better data, for instance—but not through MBK.

Since all federal programs generally must be open to everyone, what’s the point of excluding girls and women of color from this initiative?  I’m sure it comes across as a shocking and hurtful omission to young women and girls of color.

Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., is the founder and president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

IWPR Launches New National Work on the Status of Women in the States

by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D.

IWPR recently launched new work on its Status of Women in the States project, an influential series of research reports and data analyses that has provided reliable data on the economic, social, health, and political status of women for nearly two decades. With partial support from the Ford Foundation, IWPR is developing a national report with state-level data on the status of women, a report on the status of women in the U.S. South (including eleven Southern states and the District of Columbia), and  fact sheets on the status of women, one each for the 50 states and Washington, DC. This work will expand on IWPR’s long-running series: to date, IWPR has produced more than 100 Status of Women in the States publications, including comprehensive reports on each U.S. state and the District of Columbia, several city/area reports, and a series of reports and a toolkit on women in the Middle East and North Africa.

Developed in partnership with expert advisory committees, IWPR’s forthcoming reports will provide disaggregated data to explore how contextual factors such as gender, race/ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation correlate with higher or lower status on a range of indicators. Following the methodology developed by IWPR in the mid-1990s, the reports will provide a composite index for each of the main topical areas covered—employment and earnings, social and economic autonomy,health and well-being, reproductive rights, and political participation—and assign letter grades and rankings that reflect each state’s performance in these areas. IWPR will also develop new chapters for the national and Southern states reports on work-family issues and violence against women. The reports will be released in 2015.

In the initial project phase, IWPR has established advisory committees for the national and Southern states reports consisting of researchers, advocates, service providers, business and labor leaders, media and communications experts, philanthropists, and policymakers. In later phases IWPR will enhance outreach and dissemination through website development and online engagement. The project expects to develop interactive charts and maps, downloadable data tables, and other data visualizations that will all be available on the website. These visualizations will make the findings more user-friendly and communicate information about the status of women in an engaging and succinct way.

This phase of IWPR work on the Status of Women in the States marks an exciting new chapter in the Institute’s ongoing efforts to provide reliable information that can serve as a catalyst for positive changes for women and their families. For nearly two decades, state and federal policymakers, journalists, advocates, and community leaders have used IWPR’s Status of Women in the States reports to make the case for improved programs and public policies. The project’s many outcomes include strengthening the case for millions of dollars in additional state and local funding for services that benefit women; strengthening or creating organizations, councils, or task forces on women; informing the economic agendas of local, state, and federal policymakers; and determining programmatic investments. IWPR looks forward to continuing to provide targeted state and national data to organizations seeking to strengthen local communities and society as a whole by improving the status of women.

To find out more information and to learn how to support the project, click here.

Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., is a study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Let’s shift up women’s representation!

by Marni Allen, Director, Political Parity

At the rate we’re going—with women representing only 20 percent of Congressional seats—we aren’t predicted to reach parity until 2121. The Washington Post writes that this estimation is on par with when humans are expected to begin setting up colonies on the moon.

We can’t wait 107 years to ensure women’s voices are equally represented in the halls of government. That road is too long. It’s time to shift gears.

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IWPR President Heidi Hartmann (second from right) discusses new research on women running for office. (Photo Credit: Fatah Sadaoui, Fatahgraphy.com)

Political Parity is putting the pedal to the metal. On May 21, Parity and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) launched Shifting Gears: How Women Navigate the Road to Higher Office, a report exploring how women build political careers. We were joined by researchers Bob Carpenter of Chesapeake Beach Consulting, Heidi Hartmann of IWPR, Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, and Shauna Shames of Parity.

Lake emphasized that the biggest barrier hindering women from seeking and securing public office is lack of access to well-resourced networks. Shames added that because of hyperpartisanship and the lack of diversity among current officeholders, women are less likely than their male counterparts to see politics as an avenue to address issues of importance to them. This disconnect between politics and positive change is deterring women’s candidacies.

Congresswoman Donna Edwards’ (D-MD) first candidacy challenged a seven-term incumbent in Congress. She shared that despite losing the first time around, this experience set her up for her future win. “If you don’t run risks, you don’t get to play in the game at all,” she said. “If you aren’t willing to run a second time, what’s the point of running the first time?” Former Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey (R-MA) elaborated that “failure is an experience you use to pivot on for your next try.”

Transitioning into the importance of women’s voices in office, Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-NJ) hit on a key finding in Shifting Gears research: motherhood is a motivator. “Do I think about [my kids] every time I turn in a bill?” she asked. “Absolutely.” So few mothers, she explained, are serving in office. “We need more women going through that stage of their life [in politics],” she added.

Shifting Gears sparked a national political conversation, earning three mentions from The Washington Post political blogs:

  • She the People featured the report findings and charts, focusing on women’s initial motivations to run, barriers to running, and strategies employed by female politicians on the campaign trail.
  • On Leadership highlighted our key finding that just 35 percent of female legislator respondents considered politics a career, and also addressed women’s lack of party support and limited access to informal networks for fundraising.
  • The Fix turned its attention to Senate primaries, citing what women in politics literature knows so well: when women run, women win. But not many women are running.

The Daily Beast published an op-ed by Parity’s Director Marni Allen and Research Fellow Shauna Shames, injecting Shifting Gears into the national confidence-versus-structure debate. “To encourage more women to run for office,” they argue, “we need to confront the personal, structural AND social barriers standing in the way.”

#ShiftingGears spurred a lively conversation on Twitter, engaging scores of activists, researchers, and media outlets to spotlight women’s underrepresentation.

We need your voice. What can you do?

  1. Visit and share the Shifting Gears research page on Parity’s website with the hashtag #ShiftingGears.
  2. Read, comment on, and share Shifting Gears coverage: She the People, On Leadership, The Fix, and The Daily Beast.
  3. Incorporate Shifting Gears research into your curriculum or organization’s programming, if applicable.

Join Political Parity in accelerating women’s electoral progress. We’re not waiting for 2121.

Marni Allen is the director of Political Parity, a program of the Hunt Alternatives Fund. Political Parity is a nonpartisan platform for accelerating the energies of passionate and dedicated leaders, researchers, and funders changing the face of US politics.

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