BARRE — A new report shows women continue to struggle more than men in the state’s economy.
The report was created by Change the Story, a partnership between the Vermont Women’s Fund, Vermont Commission on Women and Vermont Works for Women. It was released at an event at the Old Labor Hall in Barre Wednesday.
The mission of the partnership is to “align philanthropy, policy, and programs to fast track women’s economic well-being in Vermont.”
The 50-page report is the fifth such report created by the coalition.
In the introduction, the report states, “we explore a range of factors that contribute to women’s lower earnings. Our findings reflect that women continue to be a disproportionate share of Vermonters living in poverty, working in low-wage jobs, shouldering primary responsibility for child or elder care, and experiencing sexual harassment and intimate partner violence.”
The report looks at state and nationwide data comparing men and women in the workforce.
It found the poverty rate for single women without children is 11.4% which is nearly four times higher than the poverty rate for single men without children at 3.5%. For single women with children, the poverty rate jumps to 36.7% which is more than double the poverty rate for single men with children at 16%. If there is a child under 5 years old in the home, the gap widens to 47.1% for women compared to 14% for men.
For women with a disability, the poverty rate is 20.1%, which is more than twice the poverty rate for women without a disability at 8.4%.
The report also found that a woman has to earn some college credits to come close to matching the income of a man who didn’t graduate from high school. And women carry nearly two thirds of the outstanding student loan debt in the nation.
Cary Brown, executive director for Vermont Commission on Women, said the commission has been trying to close the wage gap between men and women since the commission started in 1964. According to the report, women earn 84 cents for every $1 a man earns.
Brown said there’s much more to the gap than simple equal pay for equal work or women being discriminated against. She said discrimination does happen, but the report shows there are more reasons.
The report found part of the pay difference starts early. A national study of 10,000 families found boys earned $13.80 in allowance for weekly chores which was twice as much as girls made at $6.71. Another study looked at people who were asked to assess equally qualified candidates where some women were implied to be mothers. It found evaluators were 8.2 times more likely to recommend women without children for a promotion, according to the report.
The report also found women were at least four times more likely than men to reduce the hours they work or leave the workforce to care for children or an aging family member.
Tiff Bluemle, director of Change the Story, said while women make up 45% of the full-time workforce, they are 53% of the low-wage workers in the state. She said 43% of women who work full-time work in fields that are traditionally female which typically pay lower wages.
Bluemle said Pew Research Center asked Americans about men and women working full-time with kids at home. She said the poll showed 76% thought men with young children should work full-time, compared to only 33% who thought women with young children should work full-time.
“Those kinds of attitudes are subtle in many ways and they effect us all in a number of different ways,” she said.
She said sexual harassment also has a bearing on earnings because women who are sexually harassed at work are far more likely to leave that job within two years.
The report includes recommendations to help women in the workforce, such as enacting paid family leave and increases child care subsidies. This will help keep parents at work, according to the report.
It also recommends increasing wages for those in the service economy, including those who work for tips.
The report calls for an increase in women in science, technology, engineering, math and trade careers. It also recommends people learn more about their own implicit biases and to look at policies and practices to reduce those biases.