Families are depending on the wages of women more than ever before. You’ve heard some of these stats before but they bear repeating: Women are breadwinners or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American families and continue to shoulder a disproportionate share of caregiving responsibilities. Yet, women who work full-time, year-round, are paid only 78 cents on the dollarcompared to full-time working men. When the full-time wages of women of color are compared to white men, the disparity is even greater. And our nation’s public policies and workplace practices are too often based on outdated assumptions about our workforce and the supports necessary to make sure families are economically secure.
At bottom, these economic concerns are distressing for all women and their families, but too little attention has been placed on the ways in which economic challenges play out for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) women. This is why we are pleased to partner with the Movement Advancement Project, Center for American Progress and a wide range of organizations on a new report that documents the range of economic barriers experienced by LGBT women, and provides concrete proposals to change the cultural and legal framework that undermine their economic security.
The report puts it simply: “Women who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender have the same concerns as other women. They worry about finding and keeping good jobs, saving for the future, taking care of their children and families, and making ends meet.” These concerns are magnified for LGBT women raising children, older LGBT women, LGBT women of color, LGBT immigrants, and those LGBT women and families who are already living near or below the poverty line. And they face these economic worries in a legal framework that can at best be described as unclear, but in many places works to systematically disadvantage them.
The report not only highlights important data on the status of LGBT women that too often is unreported, but it also provides a roadmap for key policy changes. I’ve identified my five favorites below:
- Bolster protections against workplace discrimination and increase the minimum wage – Many of our 50-year old civil rights laws need updating to ensure that they effectively protect against discrimination and provide incentives for employers to proactively address workplace discrimination. In addition, explicit protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are critically needed given the web of confusing and inconsistent laws.
- End discriminatory barriers in education – A hostile school climate, including bullying, harassment and excessive discipline, can make schools unwelcoming for LGBT girls, ultimately pushing them out of school and into poverty. Explicitly protecting against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in schools and taking steps to combat the biases that leave too many LGBT girls, and LGBT girls of color in particular, on a school to prison pipeline is critical.
- End health care discrimination – Discrimination by health care providers, insurance companies and employers jeopardizes not only the health but also the economic security for LGBT women. Updating insurance and public accommodations nondiscrimination laws to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity is critical, as is closing the gap in health insurance access and care facing low income women, and ending restrictions on reproductive health care.
- Update laws that provide protection and support for families – Support for working families is integrally related to their economic security and the gaps in current law leave LGBT families especially unprotected. Improving economic security for LGBT women will require extending the freedom to marry and parental recognition to LGBT couples and updating our workplace laws to address the needs of 21st century families, including access to paid family and medical leave, paid sick and safe days, fair work schedules, and affordable, high quality child care.
- Eliminate unnecessary barriers to updating identification – Transgender people face outright discrimination, harassment and a web of confusing laws when acquiring official identity documents that match their lived gender. Non-matching official identification can make it difficult for transgender people to access employment, exposes them to harassment, job loss and even violence. The federal government and states can remove unnecessary hurdles to obtaining official identification, including passports, drivers licenses and birth certificates.
I encourage you to read the report in full and spend time examining the fact-rich infographics. And share – it is time that the economic challenges facing LGBT women captured our nation’s attention.