BIRMINGHAM – Women’s Foundation of Alabama released its latest research endeavor at the organization’s annual Clearing the Path research showcase and breakfast. Clearing the Path: Galvanizing the Economic Impact of Women spotlights the substantial role women play in Alabama’s economy and the tremendous opportunity for growth if and only if barriers are addressed that preclude women’s full participation in the workforce. Since 2019, the organization has commissioned statewide research focused on advancing economic opportunity for Alabama women.

“When Alabama proactively builds on the strong contributions women are already making to our economy, everyone benefits,” said Women’s Foundation of Alabama President and CEO, Melanie R. Bridgeforth. “Just last week, state leaders in Alabama announced that 2021 was a banner year for job creation with economic development projects spurring $7.7 billion in new investments and the creation of more than 10,000 jobs. We celebrate this achievement and also recognize that Alabama women workers generate $43 billion annually, accounting for one out of every three dollars earned in our state. Yet, Alabama women are paid less than their male counterparts in every occupation and have the lowest workforce participate rate in the South. But this is not just a women’s issue. When we address wage disparities for women it addresses them for everyone. It’s time for policymakers, businesses, and civic leaders to expand the definition of success and talk about removing the systemic barriers that bring about true economic vitality for all Alabamians.”

Clearing the Path highlights four key strategies to eliminating these barriers which would have an immediate and tangible impact on the state’s workforce and economy.

1. Close the gender pay gap.

If Alabama closed the gender pay gap the state would see almost 59,000 new jobs, $15 billion in new income, and the state’s overall economy would grow by almost $22 billion – growing Alabama’s GDP as much in one year as it took the state to grow on its own in 15 years.

2. Pave the way for women to participate in the workforce.

If Alabama removed barriers to raise women’s labor force participation rate, such as expanding access to skills training, affordable child care, and strengthening paid leave, to that of men’s in the state it would add 209,767 women into Alabama’s labor force, $7.1 billion in labor income, and the state’s overall economy would grow by almost $12 billion – growing Alabama’s GDP as much in one year as it took the state to grown on its own in a decade.

3. Create fair access to occupations.

4. Close the wealth gap between men and women.

Clearing the Path: Galvanizing the Economic Impact of Women outlines the current economic landscape, defines the impacts of women’s full engagement in Alabama’s economy, and provides tangible solutions to strengthen women’s economic impact, thus strengthening the economy for all. The report provides both statewide and county level data to ensure state and local leaders have relevant information to address barriers within their regions.

Key Data

  • Women are paid less than men in every occupation, ranging from the highest paying (Architecture and engineering, where women earn $75,061 annually to men earning $82,651) to the lowest paying (Food preparation and service, where women earn $12,916 annually to men earning $13,568). (Figure 4 and 5, Pages 18 and 19)
  • Minimum wage workers are about three times more likely to be women in Alabama. By the numbers, five percent of women earn minimum wage or less. Only 1.7 percent of men are paid the minimum wage or below.
  • Due to antiquated structures, systems, and practices, Women in Alabama on average are paid 67 cents for every dollar a man is paid. This is lower than the national average of 77 cents on the dollar, and lags the historically lower-wage Southeast, where women are paid 72 cents for every dollar paid to men. (Table 1, Page 16) Black women are paid 52 cents for every dollar men are paid. For Hispanic women, they earn 41 cents on the dollar, and for Asian and Native American women, it is 56 cents and 58 cents respectively. (Figure 2, Page 17)
  • Homeownership is a key driver for wealth for most Alabamians, but families of color are less likely to own their homes than white families, thus contributing to the racial wealth gap. (Figure 12, Page 41)
  • Despite women outpacing men in education attainment, women in Alabama are paid less than men at every level of education. Women with graduate degrees are paid only 88 cents for every dollar paid to men. Women with a high school diploma or less make just 73 to 75 cents for every dollar earned by similarly educated men. (Table 3, Page 18)

“If previous Clearing the Path reports have functioned as a flashlight, our 2022 report must sound the alarms for action,” stated Bridgeforth. “We know there are tangible benefits for women, men, and our state as a whole to widen the frame of opportunity for women in the workforce, but until that happens, until women are paid equally, any progress will remain uneven. This is particularly true when 74 percent of Alabama women are breadwinners.  Solutions are available, they are outlined in this report, but it takes our state leaders and our business community to brush past the surface and invest in deep, systemic changes that improve the economy and opportunity for all Alabamians. Women’s Foundation of Alabama stands at the ready to partner with corporate, civic, and government leaders from Muscle Shoals to Mobile as we advance solutions to build a better Alabama.”

Clearing the Path: Galvanizing the Economic Impact of Women provides actionable strategies for policy makers, businesses, and civic leaders alike to address the systems and structures obstructing the path for women in Alabama. The report is available online here.

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