On the heels of International Women’s Day – celebrated on March 8th to honor and celebrate the economic, political, and social achievements of women – the Institute for Women’s Policy Research together with the North Carolina Council for Women, has released the Status of Women in North Carolina report. The report shows that despite women’s higher levels of education and the significant increase in labor force participation over the past decades, wage and income inequality persists in the state.
According to the report, between 1990 and 2010, in North Carolina:
- The share of women with at least a bachelor’s degree increased sharply from 16 percent in 1990 to 27 percent in 2010.
- The share of women who did not finish high school fell from 30 to 13 percent.
- The proportion of women in poverty increased from 14 to 17 percent
The fact that more women continue to fall into poverty (the state ranks 39th in the percent of women living above the poverty line) despite higher levels of education and career positions is explained in part by the wage gap. Women are still earning only 82.5 cents on the dollar compared to men in North Carolina.
In addition, women are much more likely to work for state and local government, and are thereby more vulnerable to budget cuts. And women still take on the majority of care giving responsibilities, yet workplace policies don’t reflect this reality and quality child care often remains unaffordable. Moreover, unemployment for both men and women in North Carolina continues to be higher than the national average, and there simply aren’t enough jobs for every job-seeker.
The report recommends that employers take steps to address the wage gap, that child care supports and education supports are increased, and that services for domestic violence victims are expanded. As Beth Briggs of the North Carolina Council for Women said:
“There are under-recognized challenges and underserved communities, including single mothers, that need to be addressed through improved policy and programs.”