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Low-Wage Women Still Struggle in Today’s Economy

July 24, 2013

homeless-motherImagine working more than 40 hours a week and still not being able to put food on the table for your family. For millions of Americans working minimum wage jobs, this harsh reality prevents them from providing basic necessities for their household, much less saving money for a rainy day. And while the economy is slowly recovering from the recession, new research shows that low-wage workers, especially women, continue to be plagued by economic instability.

A recent study from the National Employment Law Project found that while wages have dropped by an average of 2.8% across all occupations, they fell at even steeper rates—5% or more—for low-wage workers. The study also found that women are more likely to be affected by this wage decrease since they make up nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage workers and dominate the industries hit the hardest (home health aid, housekeeping services and food service).

Added to this already disturbing trend is the fact that a gender-based wage gap continues to persist for women. In the Charlotte metro area, on average, a woman who holds a full-time job is paid $37,225 per year while a man who works full-time is paid $49,131. This means that women in the Charlotte area are paid 76 cents for every dollar paid to men in the area.

If the wage gap were eliminated, a working woman in Charlotte would have enough money for approximately:

  • 104 more weeks of food (two years’ worth);
  • Nine more months of mortgage and utilities payments;
  • 15 more months of rent; or
  • 3,278 additional gallons of gas.

Goodwill believes in eliminating barriers to employment to help individuals reach their full potential by achieving family sustaining employment. To that end, we support education, training and innovative professional development opportunities as a way for women to earn more and further their career goals. Here are some ways we are helping women find family sustaining employment:

  • Accessing Support Services: Several factors can contribute to a person’s inability to find or keep a job, such as poverty, lack of childcare, limited education or substance abuse. After conducting an in-depth interview to assess each individual’s personal situation, Goodwill team members connect clients to additional support services, such as the Benefit Bank, to mitigate the effect that these risk factors can have on obtaining employment.
  • Education: Low educational attainment remains a persistent problem for low-income women. Bridging the education gap contributes to increased earning opportunities. From GED programs to higher education partnerships with Central Piedmont Community College, team members encourage and support clients through their journey of educational achievement.
  • Best-Match Work Opportunities: Using Goodwill’s vast array of job seeking tools and network of industry contacts, each client is matched to paid work opportunities best suited to their skills and interests. For women, this does not mean being shepherded towards female-dominated industries.

Take the case of Shontanette, who enrolled in Goodwill’s Workforce Development Program after facing challenges to finding work. “She was very motivated to obtain employment to be self-sufficient,” said Valerie Matthews, Career Development Specialist. When a career opportunity arose at U.S. Foods, Valerie encouraged Shontanette to apply and she got the job as a Selector in their warehouse, becoming the first Goodwill graduate to be hired by the company. One year later, she has also completed truck driving school and obtained a Class A commercial driver’s license, both of which serve as enhanced job training skills that allow for upward mobility within the company.

By reducing barriers to employment and arming women with the necessary skills to be successful at work, we can close the gender-based wage gap and help women achieve employment that will provide stable income, benefits and other resources to support the needs of a family.

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

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