Women in Georgia fare poorly in the areas of employment, health and political empowerment. When compared to women in other states, Georgia women rank 46th in the nation — that’s the fifth worst — in these areas according to a recent study by WalletHub.
The WalletHub study evaluated fifteen metrics across three main areas — Workplace Environment, Education and Health and Political Empowerment — to reach their conclusion that Georgia is a very inequitable state for women. But their study isn’t the only research that supports this conclusion.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, women in Georgia are more likely to be in poverty than men. Nearly one in five women in Georgia live in poverty, whereas only twelve percent of men are living in poverty.
There are real consequences when women struggle to access equal pay and advancement opportunities, adequate healthcare and leadership roles in our political process. Unfortunately, addressing sexism is simply not a priority for many state leaders. Talking about each of these issues individually also fails to capture how these disparities interact.
About two-thirds of minimum wage jobs are held by women; this drives the gender wage gap. It also drives women’s lack of access to heath care, as many low wage jobs do not offer health care or other benefits. Because Georgia did not expand Medicaid, many low wage workers fall into the coverage gap — they do not qualify for Medicaid and they cannot get Obamacare-subsidized insurance through the marketplace.
This blog has addressed the gender pay gap in the past. Women make less than men — even when accounting for experience and educational attainment — and face pay penalties for having children. Black and Latina women in Georgia face additional barriers to pay equality, making 63 cents and 48 cents, respectively, for every dollar that white men make. Overall, Georgia women make about 81 percent of what white men make, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
Low paying jobs, especially jobs in retail and service industries, also come with unpredictable scheduling. Workers’ rights groups are fighting this practice — called on-call scheduling — because it creates additional challenges for workers who need to arrange childcare while they work or would like to go back to school. Planning for these necessary life activities is suddenly a lot more challenging when a job only decides last minute how many people to bring in for a given shift, based on how busy they are that day.
In addition to the challenges women in Georgia face accessing good-paying jobs and adequate healthcare, women are significantly underrepresented among our political leaders. On the Congressional level, Georgia has zero U.S. Senators who are women and only one member of the House of Representatives who is a woman. Our state lawmakers are also disproportionately men, as are state leaders within the executive branch.
As Gwen K. Young, the director of the Women in Public Service Project, pointed out in an op-ed last year, “Today’s global problems require leaders that have diverse skill sets and innovation that can only come from diverse ideas and players. Women bring the skills, different perspectives and structural and cultural difference to drive effective solutions. In short, female leaders change the way global solutions are forged.”
When women have equitable access to the jobs, healthcare and other essentials they need to live, they can make a difference in their own lives and the trajectory their family is on. When women are provided greater opportunities to access leadership roles — in government, businesses and organizations — they can help transform and improve our communities.
There are more than 5.2 million women in the state of Georgia, facing a political, social and economic environment that challenges their ability to equitably access the jobs, education, healthcare and political leadership they need to live. Policy makers and other leaders around this state need to step up and make this a priority.