According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women accounted for 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce in 2012, up from a little more than one-third in 1970. More women are working in paid jobs than four decades ago, (from less than 44 percent in 1972 to nearly 58 percent in 2012), and the number of women who are either breadwinners or co-breadwinners (contributing at least one-quarter of total household earnings) for their families has also increased- up more than 36 percent between 1967 and 2010, according to an April 2014 report by the Center for American Progress.
In addition to making up a significant portion of the country’s workforce, women also account for slight majority of the low-wage workforce, a little more than half of the nation’s working poor, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics report “A Profile of the Working Poor, 2012.” As author Caroline Fredrickson explains in her new book “Under the Bus: How Working Women are Being Run Over,” these women are particularly vulnerable, as many of them are not protected under existing workers’ rights legislation. Fredrickson, who is also the president of the American Constitution Society and a senior fellow at Demos, argues that before we talk about shattering the glass ceiling, we must focus on achieving equality for all the workers on the ground floor.
What are the major challenges facing working women today, and how do these challenges differ for women in low-wage professions? What policy changes are necessary in order to ensure equal rights for workers across all job categories? We addressed these questions and more on Twitter. Fredrickson (@crfredrickson) shared her thoughts and insights along with Liz Watson, senior counsel and director of workplace justice for women at the National Women’s Law Center (@nwlc). Read the full conversation below.