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New Report Shows Ongoing Inequality For Women In Missouri

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Jeff Evrard
Women’s Foundation Girls Leadership event at the Missouri Capitol, where participants posed with Speaker of the House Todd Richardson.";

The Women’s Foundation, a Kansas City-based research and advocacy organization, released its second Status of Women in Missouri Report Thursday.

Although the report shows the state's women making progress in some areas, it also indicates “real areas of concern that require policy solutions to empower women economically,” says Wendy Doyle, the organization’s president and CEO.

The organization’s first report, issued in 2015, gathered data and established baselines in specific areas: employment and income; education and child care; social and economic status; health; and leadership.

Two years later, the new report shows some improvement.

The earnings gap between women and men narrowed by almost a cent; slightly fewer women over 65 are living in poverty, and 3 percent fewer Missourians are uninsured.

But the numbers reflect persistent inequalities.

A woman working full-time in Missouri now makes almost 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man – up from 77 cents in the previous report. However, the gap is larger for women of color, “who make as little as 66.7 cents per every dollar a white male earns,” according to the report.

And the state suffered declines in access to child care, the report found.

“Thirty-eight percent of Missouri counties do not have an accredited child care center, which is now worse than in 2013, when only 27 percent of counties had no accredited centers,” according to the report.

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Credit Courtesy Women's Foundation
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Courtesy Women's Foundation
Emily Johnson is the associate director and chief operating officer of the Institute of Public Policy at the University of Missouri, which prepared the report.

“Three of these counties without accredited child care centers have highest percentage of children under age four,” notes Emily Johnson, the associate director and COO of the Institute of Public Policy at the University of Missouri’s Truman School of Public Affairs, which conducted the research.

The number of women in public office had also declined.

Though women account for 51 percent of Missouri’s population, but just over 22 percent of the state’s General Assembly members are women, down from 25 percent in 2015, the report said.

Less than a quarter of the state’s judges are women; fewer than 20 percent of the state’s prosecutors are women, and there are only two female sheriffs in the state, the data showed.

When it comes to women in civic leadership, Doyle says, “Missouri is not moving forward, we’re actually moving backwards.”

Doyle says the organization will continue to develop policy solutions and partnerships throughout the state.

“We want to share this information so that we can start to move forward as a state and see some results for women and their families,” she says.

In the area of pay equity, Doyle says she is hopeful new Missouri Governor Eric Greitens and his administration will continue to follow best-practice guidelines for state employees ordered by his predecessor, Jay Nixon, in 2016.

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Credit Courtesy Women's Foundation
Wendy Doyle is the president and CEO of the Women's Foundation.

"We believe we will have a partner with Gov. Greitens’ administration to advance gender pay equity and expand leave options for state workers," Doyle says. "We look forward to discussions on removing occupational licensing barriers and establishing an employee-funded paid family and medical leave program so Missourians are empowered to care for their children and parents without going broke, losing their jobs, or relying on government assistance."

Doyle says the organization will also turn its attention to the private sector.

“What we would like to see is that corporations take these best-practice guidelines and implement them into their companies,” she says, adding that the foundation would “continue to draw awareness to the issue.”

The Women's Foundation's 2017 Status of Women in Missouri Report is available here.

C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @cjjanovy.

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