Advocacy: Lending Our Voice
Vermont Works for Women (VWW) has over 30 years of experience working directly with girls and women to help them overcome individual and societal barriers to economic security. VWW works with employers, state agencies, schools, career and technical education (CTE) centers, and policy makers to create systems that are equitable and accessible.
- STEM and trades exploration and empowerment programs for youth
- Career support services and soft skills training for women with barriers to employment
- Hard skills training for women in construction and energy fields
- Gender equity workshops and professional development for employers and CTE educators
Where VWW Lends its voice
- Women’s Economic Independence
- Equal Pay
- Raise the Wage
- Paid Family and Medical Leave
- Accessible, Affordable, High-Quality Child Care
- Girls’ Healthy Social and Emotional Development
- Youth Mental Health
- Youth Voice
- Gender-Informed Justice System
- Gender-Informed Career Exploration and Career Pathways
Women in Vermont work; nearly 80% of women work full-time. Women in Vermont are providers; 70% of mothers are the sole or co-breadwinners. Women in Vermont are economically vulnerable; women are more than three times as likely as men to experience poverty, regardless of household type. The gendered impact of this economic recession coupled with existing inequities and Vermont’s rural economy requires structural and cultural changes to address the challenges female workers face:
- Women are concentrated in low-paying and insecure industries
- Women make up two-thirds of the low-wage workforce in Vermont
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 6 in 10 of the jobs eliminated in the first wave of the pandemic were held by women.
- Many women lack benefits, including paid sick time or family leave
- 61 percent of part-time workers, 69 percent of workers in the lowest-wage jobs, and 48 percent of service workers do not have access to paid sick days.
- This lack of sick/family leave disproportionately affects women as they are more likely to provide care: "Nearly 40 percent of mothers say they are solely responsible for staying home from work with sick children, compared with only 3 percent of fathers."
- Women are financially vulnerable
- 4 out of 10 women who work full-time do not each enough to meet basic expenses as defined by Vermont's Joint Fiscal Office; 15% each less than $11 an hour.
- Women have less wealth, especially women of color.
- Research examining individual wealth found the median wealth for single Black women is $200, for single Hispanic women is $100, compared with $15,640 for single white women and $28,900 for single white men.
- Women continue to provide the majority of unpaid caregiving
- Women were 4x more likely than men to cite family and/or personal obligations as reasons for working part-time, and 7x more likely to cite childcare problems.
- As of September 2020, women are leaving the workforce at 4x the rate as men. Of the 1.1 million adults who lef the workforce in August - September 2020, over 850,000 were women.
- Because of the gender wage gap, it often makes the most financial sense for women in heterosexual, dual-earner households to prioritize the men's career when a childcare emergency occurs.
- Women experience a lower return on their educational investment, and shoulder higher student loan debt
- A woman must earn at least some college credits to come close to matching the income of a man without a high school diploma.
- American women carry almost two-thirds of the outstanding student loan debt in the United States—totaling nearly $929 billion.
- Women continue to face stereotypical gender norms and expectations, biases and discrimination. This is compounded for women of color who experience the combined effects of racial and gender bias.
- According to a 2017 Pew survey, 42% of working women have experienced gender discrimination at work.
- Three-quarters of U.S. adults (76%) affirmed that working full time is ideal for fathers, while just 33% said the same thing about mothers. When mothers of young children do work full-time they often pay a penalty—the equivalent of 4% of earnings per child.
- Women's earnings are also impacted by experiences of sexual harassment and intimate partner violence, both which disproportionately affect women.
- Over one-third of women in the U.S. experience sexual harrassment at work.
- 8 of 10 women who experience harrassment leave their jobs within two years.
- The estimated lifetime cost to someone who has experienced intimate partner violence (which includes expenses related to health problems, criminal justice costs, and lost earnings) is $103,767.
It is time to fairly compensate women for their work. Childcare responsibilities, unequal pay, and gender-based discrimination should not be barriers to employment or causes for leaving careers. VWW advocates for women to be able to make deliberate, informed decisions around employment that enable them to grow their careers and fulfill personal, financial, and family needs.
Besides advocating for structural and cultural changes, VWW works directly with women to help them get and keep jobs that meet their needs. Our organization offers a compassionate and extensive network of support of women empowering other women, and gender- and trauma-informed services.
- 90% of Vermont women involved in the criminal justice system have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse. Among incarcerated women, trauma - and its co-occuring mental health condisitons and substance use disorders - remains largely untreated in prison.
- Most women in prison, 62%, are mothers of minor children. These women are more likely than fathers in prison to be the primary caretakers of their children, so the increasing number of women in prisons means more family disruption and insecurity.
- Economically, women with a history of incarceration face particularly difficult obstacles when they return to their communities. They face the gender wage gap. And once released, the collateral consequences of incarceration make finding work, housing and financial support even more difficult. Justice-Involved Women cite employment, education and life skills as the biggest needs upon community re-entry.
Access to all occupations - including science, technology, engineering, math fields and trades careers - offers women a shot at earning a livable wage. However, as of now, the pipeline for female workers in many of these fields doesn't exist.
- The number of female students completing career technical high school programs remains between 5 - 13%, and has not changed since 2009, except for law enforcement.
- Of 2,100 registered state apprentices between 2013-2018, only 11% were women - over half of whom were child development specialists.
- Vermont female college undergraduates earn just 20% of engineering degrees and 10% of degrees in computer science and physics.
VWW recognizes that, in addition to gender, many factors shape the lived experiences of individuals in Vermont. These factors intersect and overlap to create unique personal identities, some of which can greatly amplify the barriers and challenges that women face. VWW is committed to supporting policies that both include the voices and address the diverse needs of Vermont women, particularly those from marginalized communities.
Please contact VWW for testimony, participant stories, or shared expertise in any related matters.