Speak up for women and our economic future

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Alexandra Middlewood, PhD, is assistant professor of political science at Wichita State University.“/>
Alexandra Middlewood, PhD, is assistant professor of political science at Wichita State University.

Political science professors are in a unique position not only to impart academic knowledge, but also to develop better citizens. I give students the confidence, resources, commitment and invitations they need to participate. Then I encourage them to put those civic skills into action.

I teach my students how to think, not what to think.

Our young people have the opportunity to shape the communities in which we live and in recent years they have started to participate en masse, especially young women.

Earlier this year, US Uniteda non-partisan, evidence-based organization dedicated to unleashing women’s economic and civic leadership, published new search it illuminated the progress made by Kansas women, but also showed the obstacles to their economic potential. While several issues impact women’s ability to fully participate in the workforce, barriers to child care stand out as a pressing issue in Kansas that has even sparked national attention.

In Kansas, approximately 29% of a working mother’s salary is spent on child care expenses alone, making Kansas child care expenses as a percentage of salary one of the highest in the nation. Women in Kansas also make up a higher share of the workforce than the rest of the country, however, the gender pay gap is larger in Kansas. For Kansas women, 73.5% are employed while only 69.6% of American women participate in the labor force. Kansas women earned 78 cents for every dollar earned by a Kansas man in 2020.

In addition to the research report, United WE hosted a series of town halls across the state that listens to Kansas women and allies share their stories of the barriers they’ve faced in the workplace. The research statistics are compelling, but real-life stories provide revealing insights into often unspoken challenges:

• “I miss work so much trying to maintain my license…for work.”•”They hired me because I was twice as qualified as anyone else, but I was always paid less.”•”At 34, I got my first job with health insurance.”•”I know that if I have another child, I will not be able to keep my job financially because of the costs guard.” • “Regardless of the status or position in which we women all experience the same struggles.

These town hall stories highlight barriers that affect women in the workplace and entrepreneurship, including professional licensing, pay equity, health care, childcare, and more. According to McKinsey Global Institute, Kansas’ economy can grow 10-15% by 2025 if women fully participate in the labor force. To recruit and retain women in the workforce and grow our Kansas economy to its full potential, we must come together and make progress in these areas.

There is a statewide virtual town hall by United WE on August 24 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. This event is open to all women and allies and includes a Spanish translator and a $10 gift card for all participants. The stories heard will be combined into a comprehensive report and used to create bipartisan political reform for all Kansas women.

Please join me at the Statewide Virtual Town Hall to talk about the issues that will make our state prosper, our economy stronger, our women empowered, and a place where our young people will be proud to live for years to come. .

Alexandra Middlewood, PhD, is assistant professor of political science at Wichita State University.

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