Data shows that Tennessee women lack economic security; what can lawmakers do to fix this?

Data shows that Tennessee women lack economic security; what can lawmakers do to fix this?

WRITTEN BY: GABBY BELLOT

Looking at a snapshot of data from The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), an organization committed to fighting for gender equality and justice through legal and policy efforts, expresses jarring statistics about issues facing women in Tennessee, such as “15.2% of women in Tennessee live in poverty. The national figure is 12.0%.” 

Through the use of Census data from the last several years, the NWLC looks at the issues that are facing women around the country. They even include information surrounding the wage gap in Tennessee: “Women in Tennessee typically make $0.80 for every dollar paid to men.” 

These statistics grow more and more dismal as you look at women of color in the state: “Black women in Tennessee typically make $0.68 cents for every dollar paid to white men. Latina women in Tennessee typically make $0.54 cents for every dollar paid to white men.” 

This comes as no surprise given that data proves that many of the women in Tennessee living in poverty are Black, Hispanic and Native American. 

Another set of striking statistics from the NWLC claims that “12.5% of women aged 19-64 in Tennessee are uninsured. Nationally, 11.0% are uninsured.” This could make one question the connection between women and their place in the Tennessee workforce.

It is clear that Tennessee women face economic challenges at higher rates than several other states in America. This prompts many to ponder if the source of these issues can be attributed to the lack of policies in Tennessee that promote health and economic security for women.

Like the NWLC, there are several other organizations and groups that work to not only educate others on the disparities present in Tennessee, but also lobby and work with lawmakers to promote economic justice for women. 

According to an analysis done by Think Tennessee and A Better Balance, “Without pro-family policies like paid leave to care for oneself and loved ones, workplace pregnancy accommodations and access to affordable and quality child care, working mothers are often pushed out of the workforce.” 

Furthermore, the organizations claim that while there are a great number of women in Tennessee who are the primary breadwinners of their households, they lack basic economic security to provide for themselves and their families due to the barriers that a lack of pro-women policies permit.  

There are many policy recommendations that these organizations suggest to Tennessee lawmakers to protect women and help them achieve economic security. These recommendations keep female breadwinners in mind for a hopeful future of success.

The Center for American Progress urges Tennessee lawmakers to “prioritize policies that implement higher, livable wages; ensure that women can receive equal pay for equal work; and

reduce barriers to reproductive health care.” 

Think Tennessee suggests that lawmakers should “provide pregnant workers with a clear legal right to reasonable accommodations that will keep them healthy and safe on the job.” 

It also cites the 2019 Tennessee Pay Equality Act as working to guarantee “pay equity for women, which will allow our state’s working women to achieve economic security for themselves and their families.”

The data showing the prevalent disparities facing Tennessee women is unfortunate and discouraging to see. However, seeing the impactful work of organizations like the National Women’s Law Center, Think Tennessee, A Better Balance and the Center for American Progress can provide hope that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel that illuminates a reality where women are guaranteed economic security.

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