Legislators and advocates have been working hard this session to build opportunity for all Minnesotans through closing the achievement gaps in education, improving racial health equity and addressing economic disparities that women face.
As we reported earlier, women in Minnesota earn much less on average than their male counterparts. More women are becoming the primary earners in their households, yet wages in female-dominated professions are generally lower. Women are also more likely to take on child and elder care, but the majority are unable to take paid leave for these responsibilities, further reducing their earnings.
In response, the House and Senate passed versions of the Women’s Economic Security Act of 2014, which take steps to level the playing field for women in Minnesota. The House and Senate versions were folded into House File 2536 and their differences were worked out in conference committee. The measure needs to be approved in both houses in order to become law.
The final bill contains a series of policies to alleviate some of the economic hardships that women face, including:
- Expanding workplace protections for caregivers.
- Encouraging women to enter non-traditional, high-wage jobs.
- Implementing equal pay protections.
The House version of the bill included a provision to remove the cap on early learning scholarships. These scholarships that enable low-income children to access high-quality early education opportunities are currently capped at $5,000. The Senate has a similar proposal in its supplemental budget bill, which is currently being debated in another conference committee.
Improving women’s economic status is not only good for women, but also for children, families and the state’s economy. The recent increase in the minimum wage, which will boost the incomes of 325,000 Minnesotans, was especially important for women. A study of a similar minimum wage increase showed that 57 percent of those who benefit are women. The same study showed that 137,000 children will benefit from the greater economic security the minimum wage increase will produce.
Building a future of shared prosperity requires that all Minnesotans have opportunities for success.