Study shows Kansas women face economic, social challenges
Topeka ? A new study examining the status of women in Kansas shows most earn significantly less than their male counterparts, and large numbers of single mothers live in poverty and lack health insurance.
They also are less likely than men to hold elected public office or to serve as civic and community leaders, the study found.
The study, conducted by Kansas University’s Center for Science Technology and Economic Policy was commissioned by the Kansas City-based Women’s Foundation and was released Tuesday in conjunction with International Women’s Day.
The Women’s Foundation describes itself as a group that “promotes equity and opportunity for women and girls, using philanthropy, research and policy solutions to make meaningful change.” It receives funding from a number of individual donors and large businesses and foundations in the Kansas City area.
“A picture is emerging that the economic challenges faced by women in Kansas create a drag on economic growth and the development of the state,” said Donna Ginther, a KU economics professor and director of the center.
“In the workplace, at home, and in the halls of power, many in Kansas are struggling to make ends meet, fighting for a fair distribution of income and striving to serve society as leaders in business and government,” she said.
The study follows on the heels of a similar study the Women’s Foundation commissioned in 2014 and 2015 examining the status of women in Missouri.
“The research which identified several key areas affecting women and their families has led to numerous policy solutions and has started to show results in the areas of civic engagement, equal pay for equal work, parental leave, and removing barriers for women to excel as entrepreneurs,” said Wendy Doyle, president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation.
Among the highlights of the Kansas report:
• While women in Kansas tend to have higher educational attainment than men, those who work full-time, year-round earn, on average, only 79 cents for every dollar a man earns.
• Child care costs are 31 percent of female median earnings, and in some counties there are very few child care options.
• More than one-third of single-mother households are in poverty, and child poverty has doubled in Kansas since 2000.
• In 2014, more than 14 percent of working-age women in Kansas had no health insurance. And for women with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level, the uninsured rate jumped to 30 percent.
• And while women make up just over 50 percent of the Kansas population, they hold only about 25 percent of the seats in the Kansas Legislature.
State Rep. Melissa Rooker, R-Fairway, said data in the study should be used to craft public policies aimed at closing the disparities and providing more economic opportunity for women.
Rooker cited one particular program in Kansas City, Mo., started by the Women’s Foundation called the Appointments Project that helps women gain appointments to civic boards and commissions, which are often a springboard for elected offices.
“It’s a fact that when women succeed and families are supported, communities thrive,” she said.