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Raising Job Standards Lifts up Women

Amy Traub

Demos’ new briefing book, Everyone’s Economy, offers an economic agenda that will enable all of us to thrive. Women’s History Month is an opportunity to dig into the ways that a race-conscious, populist economic agenda must elevate women. Over the next 2 weeks, Demos will share a series of blog posts that explore different ways that policy can impact women’s economic opportunity and stability. Today, we look at how raising job standards lifts up women.

Women work hard, and that should be enough to sustain our families. Yet even as corporate profits grow, millions of women (especially women of color) disproportionately work at low-paying jobs with unstable schedules, no paid sick time, and vulnerability to wage theft. Our workplaces have been pulled out of balance by rules that unfairly favor corporations and the rich. Today, as women and people of color make up a growing share of America’s working class, employers are weakening job standards for all working people.

Deteriorating job quality impacts every person who works, while often hitting women of color in low-paid jobs the hardest. Americans working as cashiers, cooks, home care and child care workers, restaurant servers, hotel housekeepers, nursing assistants and many other predominantly female occupations find their paychecks falling short of basic needs. Low standards in these jobs are often rooted in sexist assumptions about women’s work being less valuable than men’s. Wage theft, unstable schedules, denial of overtime pay, and a lack of paid sick time further degrade jobs and force women and their families to struggle.

Working women deserve a fair return on our work and a decent life for our families. Policymakers should raise the standards for American jobs for all working Americans. Bills before Congress now would raise the minimum wage; guarantee stable, predictable schedules; allow working people to accrue paid sick days (particularly important for women as they are more likely to take time to care for sick children and other family); prevent wage theft and help workers fight back against it; stop businesses from misclassifying their employees as independent contractors; and restore overtime pay laws so that working women (and men) are paid for all the work they do.

For a deeper look on raising job standards, download Demos’ full briefing book and click “Raise Job Standards” in the table of contents.