Report details gender disparities in Mississippi

(Jackson, MS) – The MS Black Women’s Roundtable (MS-BWR) and the National Women’s Law Center released a joint report today detailing how Mississippi’s women and girls – especially Black women and girls – struggle to earn fair wages, lack access to adequate healthcare, and struggle to obtain affordable and high-quality child care. Despite women serving as the backbone of the state’s economy, Mississippi leaders continue to support policies that create major economic security gaps for women and girls.

“Mississippi must do far more to support the economic security for the women and girls in our state,” said Cassandra Welchlin, co-convener/leader organizer for the MS-BWR. “We must move this issue beyond politics and embrace doing what is right by our daughters, mothers, wives and for our state. We are not only undercutting our families and businesses, but also our state’s overall economy. It is time for change in Mississippi.”

According to Women Driving Change: A Pathway to a Better Mississippi, the Magnolia state ranks as one of the most impoverished states in the nation, with women and children being disproportionately harmed.

The lack of willpower to address these deficits is deeply rooted in racial and gender biases that seek to keep women and girls, and especially Black women and girls, under-resourced and marginalized. 
Some key report findings include:

·       Women are clustered in low-paying jobs and blocked from higher-paying jobs. Women make up 49 percent of the overall workforce, by they make up nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers earning $7.25 an hour.
·       Women are shortchanged by the wage gap. Black women working full-time, year-round in Mississippi. These gaps persist across education levels and occupations. Black women in Mississippi typically have to earn a professional degree beyond a bachelor’s degree to make slightly more than white, non-Hispanic men with an associate’s degree.
·       Women, especially Black women, are held back by workplace harassment. EEOC charge data indicate that Black women are disproportionately likely to experience sexual harassment at work. Between 2012 and 2016, Black women filed nearly 3 times as many sexual harassment charges as white, non-Hispanic women.
·       Women are struggling to access affordable, high-quality child care. A single mother in Mississippi earning the median income ($26,305) would have to pay nearly 40 percent of her income to pay for center care for an infant and a four-year-old. Only 10.8 percent of Mississippi children eligible for child care assistance under federal law receive it.
·       Working mothers are forced to choose between their job and their health and family. Many Mississippi mothers—and Black mothers and single mothers in particular—are working in low wage jobs without access to pregnancy accommodations, fair schedules, paid family and medical leave, paid sick days, or sufficient pay to afford child care.
The report also examines how Mississippi’s women and girls are not accepting the status quo; they are driving change. They are meeting across the state—in libraries, church halls, community centers, and the state legislature—to push for everyone to have real opportunities to thrive unbound by unfair and discriminatory practices and antiquated laws and attitudes.

“Women in Mississippi are activating their communities to push for equal pay, affordable and quality child care, access to reproductive health care, and an end to harassment in schools and workplaces,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). “These are not niche issues—but they are central to the lives of women and families in Mississippi and everywhere. It’s exciting to see Black women at the center of efforts to advocate for policies that will improve the lives of all Mississippi women and transform communities.” 

Along with examining the state of women and girls in Mississippi, the report also provides recommendations on key policy changes for improvement, including:  
·       Mississippi needs to urgently pass an equal pay law. It is the only state in the country without equal pay legislation.

·       Mississippi should increase its minimum wage to at least $15 per hour.

·       Mississippi must build a pathway to better-paying jobs for women and eliminate barriers to entry into higher-paying, male-dominated fields.

·       Mississippi must meet the courage of those coming forward to say MeToo with policy initiatives to better protect workers, promote accountability and prevent harassment.

“By embracing these recommendations, our state can make real positive impact on the economic security of our women and girls,” said Welchlin, who is also co-founder of the MS Women’s Economic Security Initiative (MWESI), a project of MS-BWR. “We can work together to move our state forward for everyone.”Welchlin said she hopes the report and proposed solutions will serve as a critical resource for state leaders who want to see Mississippi improve.

Highlights of the report were also featured on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019 during the MS Women’s Economic Security Policy Summit in Jackson, MS. During the 9 a.m.-2 p.m. event, at Two Mississippi Museums, women and girls from across the state were engaged by a cross-section of panelists, presenters and speakers highlighting the barriers to economic security in Mississippi and offering pathways to real change.
To download a copy of the report – click here.