New Reports: Most States Fall Short on Work and Family Policies and Women’s Political Leadership

Two new reports released today in the Status of Women in the States: 2015 series, published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), find that most states fall far short on work and family policies and women’s political leadership.

No state received higher than a B on the Work & Family Composite Index, which measures access to paid leave (which includes paid family leave, paid medical leave, and paid sick days), support for dependent and elder care, cost and quality of child care, and the gender gap in labor force participation for parents of young children. No state received higher than a B+ on the Political Participation Composite Index, which measures women’s voter registration and turnout, representation in elected office, and state-based institutional resources.

The Women’s Funding Network is proud to be a national distribution partner for this important series, whose findings will be showcase at our 2015 Annual Conference in October. The Status of Women in the States reports are being used to spur community and private investment in programs and policies that improve outcomes for women. The data can be used to raise awareness, improve policies, and promote women’s equality. As part of our member benefits, 15 WFN members signed up to co-release this IWPR series in their particular region, giving them an opportunity to call for greater investments for women.

According to the new data, although women are more likely to vote than men in almost every state—women’s voter turnout was higher than men’s in all but two states in 2012— most states scored poorly on the Women in Elected Office Index, indicating a wide gap between women’s political participation and political leadership. On Work & Family, 40 states scored a zero on the Paid Leave Index, leaving workers in these states without statutory rights to paid family leave, paid medical leave, or paid sick days.

New York, California, and the District of Columbia have the highest scores on the overall Work & Family Index, in part due to their high rankings on paid leave. None of the highest-ranking states, however, consistently ranks in the top ten for each of the four component indicators, reflecting the patchwork of work-family supports across the country.

Among other key findings:

  • Half of all families with children (49.8 percent) in the United States now have a breadwinner mother, who is either the sole provider or, in married couples, contributes at least 40 percent of family earnings.
  • No state provides adequate childcare supports to a majority of children.
  • Women are nine times more likely than men to work part-time for family care reasons. Part-time work means lower earnings (and lower Social Security contributions and benefits) than full-time work; part-time workers are also much less likely than full-time workers to have access to paid leave of any kind.
  • Although the number of women in the U.S. Congress has reached an all-time high, women will not hold an equal share of seats until 2117, if trends continue at the current rate.
  • Progress in women’s political leadership at the state level has also been mixed: the share of women in state legislatures increased from 22.5 percent in 2004 to 24.2 percent in 2015, but the number of women in statewide elected executive office declined from 81 (of 315) in 2004 to 78 (of 317) in 2015.
  • Twenty-six other states saw an increase in the number of women in elected office, while 23 states saw a decline since 2004.

Work & Family and Political Participation are the latest installments in a series of releases from the Status of Women in the States: 2015 report, which uses a variety of data sources to measure and track trends in women’s status over time. Previous reports in the series covered: Employment & Earnings, Poverty & Opportunity, Health & Well-Being, Reproductive Rights, and Violence & Safety. The report and additional data on women of color, Millennial women, older women, and LBGT women are available on the website.

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