The new Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink takes a closer look at the economic reality and economic contributions of women in America. At a time when women are two-thirds of families’ breadwinners or co-breadwinners, one in three American women continue to live on the brink of poverty (defined here as 200 percent of the federal poverty line) or one lost job, medical emergency, or a broken-down car away from it.
The statistics don’t look any rosier for women in North Carolina. Almost four of ten women in North Carolina live under 200 percent of the federal poverty level and that percentage goes up for women of color. Women in North Carolina continue to make 82 cents on the dollar (or 49 cents on the dollar for Hispanic women).
How can this be? One answer is pretty straightforward – workplace policies have not caught up with the reality in which women live and work today. Just 50 years ago, the norm of family and worker constellations looked very different. More and more women today have dual roles as breadwinner and caregiver. Women are still more likely to work in “pink collar” occupations that pay less. And more family structures have shifted to women-headed households.
When it comes to specific policies, an overwhelming 96 percent of single mothers in a non-partisan nationwide poll said that paid leave is the workplace policy that would be most helpful. It would certainly be helpful in our state. In North Carolina, almost half of the private sector workforce lacks even a single earned paid sick day. And only about one in 10 workers in our state has access to extended paid leave when welcoming a new child or when illness strikes. These policies are hardly “perks,” they are about economic security for women, for men, for families.
Cities and states are increasingly fighting for and winning on issues of paid leave. As this article notes, North Carolina has a long way to go. But why should North Carolina’s workers be left out simply by living in a state that struggles to modernize its relationship to women and work?