In recent decades, women’s work experience and educational attainment have increased dramatically—but for too many women, especially women of color, job and income prospects remain bleak. In 2016, women made up nearly two-thirds of the nearly 24 million workers in low-wage jobs (defined as jobs that typically pay $11.50 per hour or less), though they make up slightly less than half (47 percent) of the workforce as a whole.1 Women of color are particularly overrepresented in these jobs. Wages of $11.50 per hour leave a full-time working mother of two with an annual income uncomfortably close to the poverty line,2 and many low-wage jobs pay just the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
These jobs leave many women and families struggling to make ends meet—and the situation is unlikely to improve on its own: indeed, three of the top five occupations expected to see the most growth in the next decade are female-dominated and low-wage. If policymakers do not take action to ensure that all of the jobs our economy creates allow working people and their families to be economically secure, the future of work for women threatens to be increasingly characterized by precarious jobs with poverty-level wages.