By: Anna Lenhart, MPH
March 8 is International Women’s Day. The theme of this year’s campaign is #PressforProgress, a call-to-action to press forward and make progress toward gender parity by uniting together in our communities, schools, legislatures, and workplaces to support a gender-inclusive environment. As a woman-owned and women-led company, New Editions celebrates the advancement and achievements of women in our office and around the world. Our leadership believes we can create a better society where everyone benefits, regardless of race, religion, age, culture, or disability and that those benefits should extend equally to both men and women.
In 2017, The World Economic Forum published the Global Gender Gap Report, which benchmarks 144 countries on their progress towards gender parity across four areas: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment. Unfortunately, the report showed that despite efforts and attention, the gap is widening. At New Editions, our work focuses on employment, health, and education research, policies, and programs for people with disabilities. Often, women who have disabilities are at profound disadvantage in all of these areas, facing disproportionate risk for negative health, education, and employment outcomes. While we #PressforProgress for women, it is important to ensure this campaign for progress is engaged with and inclusive of women with disabilities.
Employment is a key factor to achieving parity, meaningful economic participation and opportunity, and independence. Women face many barriers to equal work and equal pay, and these barriers are magnified for women with disabilities. According to an Issue Brief on Women with Disabilities published by the U.S. Department of Labor:
- In 2014, working-age (16-64 years old) women with disabilities made up 1.5 percent of the workforce, even though they were nearly 4 percent of the U.S. working age population.
- Women with disabilities, like all other women, experience the gender wage gap and occupational segregation, both of which exacerbate economic insecurity.
- Full-time, year round working women with disabilities, age 16 and older, earn 80.8 percent of what their male counterparts with disabilities earn and only 69.5 percent of what men without disabilities earn
- For women with disabilities who may face stigma, isolation, and a reduced probability of employment on the basis of gender and disability discrimination, access to early work experience and transition to work programs may be a mitigating factor.
- Among working-age women with disabilities, women of color generally experience greater economic insecurity than white women. In particular, black/African American women face a lower labor force participation rate, a lower employment-population ratio, and a higher unemployment rate than their white, Asian, and Hispanic/Latina counterparts
While these statistics are daunting, the Department of Labor (DOL) also points out that women with disabilities represent a critical source of untapped labor force talent and that employers across all industries will benefit from hiring them. DOL also identifies increased access to apprenticeships, internships, jobs, and leadership training programs, or access to affordable post-secondary education options as potential solutions that can significantly improve the labor market outcomes of women with disabilities.
The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report showed that when women are more present and participating in leaderships roles, more women are hired across the board at all levels. This finding is both promising and empowering. If women in leadership continue to take the lead and demonstrate a commitment to recruiting, hiring, promoting, and investing in women – including women with disabilities – we can begin to make significant strides towards parity.