Washington, D.C. – A new report from the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) offers a comprehensive overview of women’s increasing influence in the economy and highlights the challenges that women continue to face in the workplace and in society – conflicts that are preventing them from fully contributing to economic growth and prosperity.
The report makes clear that the persistence of a gender pay gap and the existence of a patchwork social support system harm the economy by limiting women’s purchasing power and depriving employers of females’ full potential as productive workers. It includes a compendium of all JEC reports and hearings from the 111th Congress focused on women’s position in the economy and is designed as a resource for policymakers to help them determine whether policies promote or inhibit women’s ability to be powerful contributors to economic growth.
Prepared by the JEC Majority staff at the direction of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the first woman to Chair the JEC, "Invest in Women, Invest in America: A Comprehensive Review of Women in the U.S. Economy" charts the progress women have made in workforce participation, pay, educational attainment, and business ownership, and lays out some of the factors that continue to limit further progress for women and the economy.
These barriers to progress include a persistent pay gap meaning that women working full-time, year-round jobs earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men; an earnings penalty for working mothers; underrepresentation in corporate leadership positions; an out-of-date social support framework that provides insufficient support for women balancing their work and care-giving responsibilities; inflexible work arrangements; insufficient investments in early care and education; and a retirement system that results in significantly more women than men living in poverty.
New data in the report show that older women experience the largest pay gap, with full-time working women aged 50 and older earning 75 percent of that earned weekly by full-time working men the same age, while all women aged 16 and over earn 80 percent of their male counterparts’ weekly wages. The new data are also broken down on a state-by-state basis.
“Women have made extraordinary progress in the last several decades – in pay, education and overall economic health. These economic gains have lifted families’ standards of living and have enabled millions of families to make ends meet in challenging economic times,” said Congresswoman Maloney, Chair of the JEC. “But, we still have a ways to go to eliminate the pay gap and to achieve true economic equality. To really rev up the U.S. engine of economic growth, we need to finally and fully unlock the economic potential of women. The bottom line is that our economy is harmed when women’s skills are not fully utilized. As we dig out from the worst recession in decades, now more than ever, we need to tap women’s talent, know-how, and purchasing power to usher in a new era of growth and prosperity.”
The report provides a range of policy options to be considered in the next Congress, from the Paycheck Fairness Act to end wage discrimination and help close the gender pay gap, to the Working Families Flexibility Act that would provide employees with the right to ask for a more flexible work schedule, in addition to other new policy ideas to address a range of issues hindering both women and the economy as a whole from achieving their full potential value. The need for continued vigilance in the implementation of the health care reform and financial regulatory reform laws passed by the 111th Congress is also highlighted, as both laws contain provisions which will help boost the economic well-being of women.
“This report can serve as a roadmap for policymakers who want to chart a new pro-growth course for the economy – one that recognizes the changing demographics of our workforce,” added Congresswoman Maloney. “I also hope that it will be a resource for elected leaders across the country who are working to assess different economic proposals and trying to understand how women’s role as generators of economic growth is affected by different policies.”
The Joint Economic Committee, established under the Employment Act of 1946, was created by Congress to review economic conditions and to analyze the effectiveness of economic policy.