A task force commissioned by the Alabama Legislature in 2022 has released its formal report to the Legislature with recommendations for closing the gender wage gap and bolstering female workforce participation statewide.
The formal report is divided into three sections based on core recommendations to strengthen the state’s equal pay protections, invest in childcare to support and expand the workforce, streamline and strengthen the workforce development pipeline for women and girls.
The report makes several recommendations, which were discussed at length by the task force throughout its meetings. In an effort to strengthen equal pay protections, the report recommends banning questions about salary history in job applications and incentivizing equal pay audits. The task force also recommends investment in childcare and scaling and developing the workforce pipeline for women.
Commissioned by the State Legislature in 2022 (via House Joint Resolution 115), the 11-member Alabama Workforce and Wage Gap Task Force was chaired by Women’s Foundation of Alabama president and CEO Melanie R. Bridgeforth, and was comprised of lawmakers, business and industry leaders, higher education experts and community leaders with a diverse range of expertise spanning economic development, public policy, human resource management, financial planning, and employment and labor law.
The task force convened for six months in 2022 to hear from experts and analyze research that quantified the economic impact of women in Alabama, defined factors that drive labor force underutilization, and compared the efficacy of equal pay laws across the United States. Based on aggregated findings, the task force crafted specific policy recommendations and formally approved the report at the final meeting in December, 2022.
“Alabama must act now to create policies and practices that change the landscape for women,” Bridgeforth said. “At Women’s Foundation of Alabama, we understand research tells the story of our state’s most pressing economic issues. Data from our most recent ‘Clearing the Path’ report helped inform task force insights and shows that Alabama’s future depends on removing barriers that prevent women from fully participating in and benefiting from the economy. Closing the pay and workforce participation gap could yield radical gains to the tune of an estimated 59,000 new jobs, $15 billion in new income deployed in Alabama businesses, and a boost to our state’s economy by up to $22 billion. While the task force has dissolved, we are hopeful that continued collaboration with lawmakers will move these recommendations forward.”
Beyond the statewide economic impact, the task force found that ensuring equal pay and access to occupations would have profound effects on the lives of individuals, children, and families – 74 percent of which rely on a female breadwinner to pay for necessities like food, housing, and childcare. Insights gathered during the task force process are as important as the report, with key findings showing:
- Alabama’s gender wage gap is one of the largest in the country, where women are paid only 67 cents for every dollar a man earns. Black and Hispanic women are paid even less, making only 52 cents and 41 cents, respectively, for every dollar a white man earns.
- The gender wage gap in Alabama is a result of structural and systemic factors including occupational segregation, discriminatory practices, and low labor force participation among women.
- The labor force participation rate of women in Alabama is the lowest in the Southeast (52 percent) and must be addressed to meet the state’s hiring needs.
- Quality, affordable, childcare is essential to a healthy and productive workforce, and is particularly important for women who are more likely to step back from the workforce to shoulder family responsibilities.
Women in Alabama contribute $43 billion to the state’s economy despite these factors. And, while Alabama continues to attract new businesses and bring thousands of new jobs to the state, industries face challenges finding and keeping talent.
Rep. Adline Clarke, D-Mobile, introduced House Joint Resolution 115, establishing the Alabama Workforce and Wage Task Force. She also introduced Alabama’s Clarke Figures Equal Pay Act in 2019.
“I am grateful to the members and everyone who contributed their expertise, time, and energy to achieve the mission of the Workforce and Wage Gap Task Force,” Clarke said. “A great deal of research and input was contributed to the effort. I am optimistic that most, if not all, of the recommendations of the Task Force will be adopted by the Alabama Legislature to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Alabama women, families, children, and communities. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we consider the recommendations of the Task Force.”