Social & Education Policy

Women, Work and the Iowa Economy

Pearson, B.; Gordon, C.
09/2008

Abstract

Women play a substantial and crucial role in the Iowa economy. Women make up almost half the labor force, participating in the labor force at one of the highest rates in the nation. At the same time, disparities persist as to women’s prospects for success in that same economy. For instance, although women in Iowa are more likely than men to receive post-secondary education, they are also more likely to be in poverty and to earn a lower wage than male peers.



The “gender gap,” the difference between male and female wages, is a much-discussed but often misunderstood tool that helps measure women’s success in the workforce. Women’s median wages are lower than men’s median wages largely because of differences in male and female occupations and work history, although gender discrimination in the workforce also plays a role. This report investigates Iowa’s gender gap in ways that clearly show both its causes and effects and suggests policy responses that could ensure women’s full and equal participation in Iowa’s economic future. Understanding the differences between men’s and women’s experiences in the state economy is important for developing policies that can effectively address barriers to economic success for all Iowans.