Volume 30

Reworking Women’s Work: Legal and Policy Solutions for Alleviating Poverty Among Working Women

by Madeline Terlap

Women, especially women of color, are more likely to live in poverty, work low-wage jobs, and are less likely to exit poverty through work. This Note explores the question of why working women are stuck in poverty and proposes work-related solutions to remedy poverty among women. First, this Note proposes three possible factors that contribute to poverty among working women: poor job quality, lack of education and job training, and lack of support for women’s family responsibilities. Three facets of poor job quality stand out as particularly harmful to women: occupational segregation, low wages, and discrimination. These three facets are further explored in a case study of the restaurant industry, a field dominated by women, many of whom live in poverty. Second, this Note proposes policy solutions to remedy working women’s poor job quality, increase educational opportunities and job training for women, and provide support for women’s family responsibilities. Federal, state, and local policy and legislation can be used to advance pro-worker and pro-women agendas. National and grass-roots organizing can also benefit working women to rally support for policy. The restaurant case study is revisited by proposing specific solutions tailored to women working in the industry. Women have always worked and will continue to work, and they deserve quality jobs that do not relegate them to a life in poverty.

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