Last week’s Women’s Economic Security Summit highlighted a critical part of strengthening Minnesota’s economy – improving the economic status of women.
Debra Fitzpatrick from the University of Minnesota’s Center on Women and Public Policy presented research showing that women in Minnesota earn much less than their male counterparts, and the situation is even worse for women of color. White women in Minnesota make only 80 percent of what white men make, but African American and American Indian women only make 62 cents on the dollar compared to white men.
Furthermore, more and more women are becoming the primary earners in their households, yet wages in female-dominated professions are generally lower. Women are also more likely to take on child and elder care, but the majority are unable to take paid leave for these responsibilities, which further reduces their earnings.
The Summit unveiled the proposed Women’s Economic Security Act of 2014, a series of policies to alleviate some of the economic hardships that women face. It has several components, including:
- Increasing the minimum wage to $9.50.
- Eliminating the waiting list for child care.
- Expanding workplace protections for caregivers.
- Encouraging women to enter non-traditional, high-wage jobs.
Improving women’s economic status is not only good for women, but also for children, families and the state’s economy. As we’ve noted before, 57 percent of those who would benefit from increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 are women, and 137,000 children would benefit from the greater economic security such an increase would produce. Funding child care assistance supports parents in the workplace, and can provide access to quality early education experiences. With nearly 8,000 families on waiting lists for child care assistance, there clearly is an unmet need. Legislators should consider some of these important components this session.