Informing policy. Inspiring change. Improving lives.
1200 18th Street NW, Suite 301
Washington, DC 20036
202 785-5100
iwpr@iwpr.org

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

blog1 (psd)

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.

Equal Pay_Poverty

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

single moms

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.

pay secrecy facebook

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.

STEM Report Points to a Means of Economic Security for Low-Income Women

By Margaret Kran-Annexstein

Job opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are some of the fastest-growing industries in the country yet women’s presence in STEM education at the community college level is dropping. Between 2000–2001 and 2008–2009, the number of women earning associate’s degrees in STEM fields decreased by 25.7 percent. Meanwhile, jobs in STEM fields are expected to nearly double by 2018.

A new IWPR report, Increasing Opportunities for Low-Income Women and Student Parents in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math at Community Colleges, proposes solutions for bridging this training and jobs gap for women. The report addresses obstacles faced by women in STEM fields, and how educational institutions and organizations can help women to overcome these challenges.

It is important to encourage all women, but particularly low-income women and student parents, to pursue STEM fields. STEM degrees can be a link to better economic security because they lead to jobs in fields with better pay and narrower wage gaps—a 14 percent wage gap exists in STEM jobs versus 21 percent in non-STEM jobs.

From the report:

Women at the community college level are more likely than men to enroll in educational fields and training for jobs in traditionally female occupations—such as child care workers, health aids, or administrative assistants—with low starting pay, flat wage trajectories, and poor benefits (Hegewisch et al. 2010; Negrey et al. 2001). By contrast, women who train for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields—fields typically dominated by men—see strong economic returns.

I always liked math and science in elementary and high school. However, somewhere along the way, I abandoned STEM education, just like many other women and girls. In this difficult economy, why do so many women steer away from fields that offer so many job opportunities? During the release event for the STEM report, Roberto Rodriguez, a member of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said that women and girls drop out or avoid STEM education because of a “lack of role models, gender stereotyping, and less family-friendly flexibility that exists in STEM fields.”

Sara Manzano-Díaz, who also spoke at the report release event, focuses a lot of her attention on the encouragement of young girls in her role as director of the Women’s Bureau in the U.S. Department of Labor. She sees that “education is the great equalizer” and by becoming role models and mentors for girls, we can encourage them to pursue STEM degrees and pave their way to fulfilling careers.

The report outlines steps that community colleges could be taking in order to recruit and retain women, especially mothers who face more challenges in completing their degrees and need flexibility in their study schedules. Increasing the number of student parents studying STEM fields can have lasting effects—not only on the quality of life of a graduate once they leave school, but also on their children. According to her research, author of the report Cynthia Costello found that children whose mothers pursue postsecondary education are more likely to receive college degrees themselves.

Women have made such huge leaps in education equality and this makes their minority presence in STEM fields of study all the more shocking.

The reality that women are highly underrepresented in STEM fields is distressing because those fields are in need of skilled workers in a shifting economy. It is also a missed opportunity to incorporate diverse perspectives in a growing industry.

“We need… more girls who believe they can grow up to invent and to discover,” said Rodriguez at the release event. “Invention and discovery in engineering and science is creative act. It benefits from a multitude of viewpoint…So without diversity we are paying inherently an opportunity cost here because that’s a cost in products not built, in designs not considered, ultimately in constraints that are not understood.”

Margaret Kran-Annexstein is a Communications Intern with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

The Path to Pay Equity

By Caroline Dobuzinskis and Ariane Hegewisch

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a class action lawsuit brought against Walmart by six plaintiffs representing 1.5 million employees did not have sufficient evidence to prove a corporate-wide policy in discrimination—and could not qualify as a class action suit for monetary damages.

This is potentially a major blow to the reduction of discrimination by large employers—and an obstacle in making pay equality a reality in the United States. IWPR research has shown that, through class action suits, consent decree litigations imposed on employers requiring changes in policy or behavior can help to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. Transparency and monitoring can ensure that these changes take hold in the long term, and create a shift in corporate policy away from discriminatory practices in corporate hiring and promotions.

Still a Long Way to Go for Pay Equality

The gender wage gap is real and will be around for some time. Women’s median annual earnings are only 77 percent of men’s and, according to an IWPR estimate, pay equity will not be reached until 2056.

Discrimination has been shown to be one of the factors that create the gender wage gap. Even after estimates control for age, experience, education, occupation, industry and hours of work, 41 percent of the wage gap remains.

In principle, the groundwork for eliminating pay inequality was laid almost five decades ago when President Joseph F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act (EPA) in 1963 to prevent pay discrimination against women. In 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act made it illegal to discriminate in terms of pay or employment conditions, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. After these historic legislative advances, progress in closing the gender wage gap has slowed in recent decades.

Experts Weigh in on Pay Fairness

A recent briefing on Capitol Hill attracted a standing-room-only crowd interested in hearing how to make pay equality the new reality—both in principle and in practice. The June 9 briefing was organized jointly by IWPR and the National Women’s Law Center, and was sponsored by longstanding pay equity champions Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro who recently reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act to both Houses of Congress.

Pay Secrecy Often Goes Hand in Hand with Pay Discrimination

At the briefing, Ariane Hegewisch, Study Director at IWPR, argued that protection from pay discrimination exists in principle. But close to half of all workers and over 60 percent of private sector workers cannot discuss their pay—making pay equality difficult to ensure in practice.  Some workers can face disciplinary action, and even immediate dismissal, if they are caught discussing wages.

Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women’s Law Center, noted that the issue of pay secrecy did not receive much media attention in reporting on Walmart v. Dukes despite plaintiffs in the case expressing fear at employer retaliation if they discussed pay.

While pay secrecy policies and practices do not prove the presence of wage discrimination, IWPR’s recent research on sex and race discrimination settlements suggests that pay secrecy and wage discrimination often go hand in hand.

Carol Golubock, Director of Policy at SEIU- Service Employees International Union, added that in principle workers have the right to discuss their pay under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA). Because of weak enforcement and the absence of punitive damages or injunctive relief, however, many employers continue to get away with having explicit pay secrecy clauses.

Paycheck Fairness Act Prevents Pay Secrecy

All experts on the panel at the briefing emphasized the positive changes that could be brought through passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act—focusing in particular on its capacity to prohibit employer retaliation against workers who discuss salaries and wages. The impact of reducing pay secrecy could reach also hourly workers, helping them to ensure they are receiving their due through minimum wage and overtime laws.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would also spur growth in the economy and assist working families. Goss Graves pointed to the wider benefits that equal pay can have on families, especially single mothers, and communities. As overall tax revenues increase, more money is put in the economy, and more money available to keep children out of poverty and address their needs.

Adding to the discussion on pay equality, one panelist presented another facet of the unequal pay conundrum that lies outside of legislation. Lilla Hunter-Taylor, CEO of an employee recruitment company called The Staff Hunter, said she frequently encounters clients seeking women candidates because women do not negotiate as aggressively as men.

Caroline Dobuzinskis is the Communications Manager at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). Ariane Hegewisch is a Study Director with IWPR.

Go to Home Page