Washington, D.C. — For many women of color, grappling with the dual demands of work and family is a daily struggle. Too often, however, the public discourse does not discuss their experiences in depth through the unique lenses of race, ethnicity, and gender. As a result, today’s work-family narrative is often over-simplistic and under-inclusive, and lacks a deeper understanding of the diverse experiences of women—particularly women of color.
A new report released today by the Center for American Progress examines the unique challenges that many women of color face at work and at home, and puts forth a strategy to develop a more inclusive work-family policy agenda to address women’s diverse needs.
“While the increased focus on work-family issues in recent years is certainly welcome—with more and more policymakers and businesses recognizing the need for commonsense workplace policies that help workers to balance both work and family obligations—it’s critical that these discussions also recognize and respond to the unique challenges experienced by women of color,” said Jocelyn Frye, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and author of the report. “As a nation, we cannot create an inclusive work-family policy agenda without recognizing that women’s experiences are not monolithic. Women of color often confront different attitudes and biases about their work, their skills, and their family and caregiving obligations. Any conversation about work-family policy must be inclusive of women’s diverse needs to achieve real progress for all families.”
Women of color have always played a vital role in the economic security of their families, but they are also more likely to face significant economic pressures that impact their ability to provide support for their families. For example, African American women and Latinas have less job mobility than their white counterparts, and are less likely to work in higher level, higher paying managerial jobs than white women. At the same time, women of color are nearly one-quarter of U.S. minimum wage earners, and African American, Hispanic, and Native American women who work full-time, year-round experience a far more dramatic wage gap than their white counterparts, earning just 63 cents, 54 cents, and 58 cents to every $1 earned by white men, respectively. Although Asian American women have higher earnings overall, they still experience wide variations in wages among different sub-populations and face barriers when trying to move into top level jobs.
Meanwhile, women of color are less likely to have access to the very supports needed to ease the work-family conflicts that inevitably arise. Taken together, these trends undermine the economic security of women of color and their families.
To ensure that all women can succeed in the workplace and provide support to their families, CAP’s report recommends the following:
Establish a new normal to improve job quality. Establishing a baseline package of benefits for all workers—including but not limited to earned sick days, paid family and medical leave, a right to request flexible work arrangements, scheduling predictability, and access to skills building and job or managerial training—would improve the overall quality of jobs and help workers fulfill their work and family obligations without jeopardizing their economic security.
Raise wages and ensure fair pay practices. Increasing the minimum wage to at least $12 per hour would help provide women of color—who represent a disproportionate share of minimum wage workers—with much-needed family income. Meanwhile, undertaking a robust, comprehensive initiative to eliminate pay discrimination and to shrink the gender wage gap would benefit all workers, including women of color.
Promote workplace equality and dismantle bias. Many women of color continue to encounter stereotypes and biases that limit their job opportunities and overall workplace success. Vigorous civil rights enforcement, protection against discrimination based on family responsibilities, as well as greater use of disaggregated data broken down by race, ethnicity and gender to target discriminatory practices would help confront these issues.
Create care-centered communities to address work-family needs. Expanding access to affordable, high-quality child care, and expanding the availability of universal pre-K programs would help working parents balance work and family obligations, while providing critical early learning benefits to children. Furthermore, new strategies are needed to address everyday challenges, such as assisting workers and job-seekers with emergency care needs, or exploring ways to provide financial support to caregivers who are caring for an aging parent or disabled child or spouse in lieu of other employment.
Read the report: The Missing Conversation About Work and Family by Jocelyn Frye
For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.478.5328.