Research is a fundamental component of our work at the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota (WFMN), used consistently to inform annual grantmaking and policy work, and share with our partners, legislators, and communities throughout the state. Since 2009, WFMN has collaborated with the University of Minnesota Humphrey School’s Center on Women, Gender, and Public Policy, on research to analyze data on the status of Minnesota women and girls in economics, safety, health, and leadership.
When data is analyzed by race, gender, place, and other marginalized identities, the analysis shows some progress has been made toward equity. However, the data also highlights systemic gender inequities for all women and girls, limiting their health and safety, their economic success, and their opportunity to lead.
Numerous and complex economic inequalities prevail in the state of Minnesota, putting all women, particularly women of color and American Indian women, at a disadvantage. For starters, the wage gap not only remains, with women earning $0.55 to $0.82 on the dollar when compared to white men, but for African American women and Latinas, it has actually grown. Women in Minnesota will lose an estimated $382,360 in lifetime earnings on average due to the gender wager gap.
The research also shows that additional training and education do not lead to the same economic payoff for women. Typically clustered into female-dominated occupations, women work jobs that are consistently undervalued. They also bear the burden of caregiving, which is unpaid, and often take out additional student loans to further their education. So, while women might achieve a master’s degree, and earn $1,000 more per year than men with an associate’s degree, the message is clear that even as women acquire more education and incur more debt – often while caregiving – they continue to face a wage gap and economic inequality. The end result is that women find themselves economically insecure, shouldering more debt and responsibility in the home despite doing all they can to advance.
Gender-based violence remains a reality for women and girls throughout the state of Minnesota. With 63-81% of women experiencing sexual harassment, it’s clear that Minnesota girls are growing up in a culture in which they are sexualized and violence against them is normalized.
Bullying based on appearance, ethnicity, national origin, and orientation can take both a financial and emotional toll on women and girls, affecting their overall well-being. The disproportionate levels of discipline girls of color receive creates a clear disadvantage, particularly in the classroom, critically affecting their academic performance. These safety disparities seen in early years continue to grow and compound throughout a woman’s life, disproportiately affecting them as elders. The research shows that women make up a majority of those living in nursing or assisted living homes. The increased reports of abuse of the elderly therefore have hugely negatively impacts, with an estimated 1 in 10 women over 60 reporting emotional, physical, or sexual mistreatment or potential neglect in the past year.
The data reveals that persistent health disparities still exist, particularly for Minnesota women of color, American Indian women, and women in Greater Minnesota. While teen birth rates continue to decline, not all women get the obstetrical care they need to ensure their own well-being and the safety of their babies. Health care at large remains difficult to access, especially in rural areas, and cost frequently becomes a barrier to adequate care for many Minnesota women.
Both systemic racism and rigid gender norms are shown to have serious mental health consequences for women. In fact, one in five African American women report that they have felt emotionally upset (angry, sad, or frustrated) in the past 30 days as a result of how they were treated based on their race. Even the elder female population is susceptible to these emotional strains, often feeling lonely or anxious.
Women remain underrepresented at all levels of leadership and within the state of Minnesota progress has slowed, stalled, and in some professions, reversed. The percentage of females elected into office has stagnated at one-third, and fewer serve now than in 2014.
We can find hope in some of the outcomes for women in leadership. Women of color and American Indian women have made gains at both the state and local level. The current Minnesota House of Representatives is the most diverse ever and the state Supreme Court also presents a picture of progress. Unfortunately, the corporate sector has seen less growth, especially at the very top, as most CEOs remain male.
Be sure to check out the Status of Women and Girls in Minnesota to dive more deeply into the realities women and girls face in our state on measures of economic, health, safety, and leadership. As the data shows, progress has been made toward creating a gender-equitable society. But there is more work to be done.
With this research, which we share with grantee-partners, community leaders, legislators, and philanthropic partners throughout our state, the Women’s Foundation reaffirms its commitment to #ChangeCulture and shift attitudes, institutions, systems, and policies in order to create pathways to economic opportunity, safety, wellness, and equal leadership for all Minnesota women and girls.