Women make up a little more than half of the student population at the University of Iowa and for them, the prospect of leaving college and entering the workforce can be frightening, due to the economic disparity that they likely will face.
In Iowa, 70% of female-headed households struggle for economic security and 40% are living in poverty.
These staggering numbers come from the She Matters: We Listen and Iowa Wins report done by the Iowa’s Women Foundation, a group that strives to improve the lives of women through funding, research, advocacy, grant making, and education.
Director of Iowa Women’s Foundation and University of Iowa graduate, Dawn Oliver Wiand, believes that top two barriers to women’s economic self sufficiency are employment and childcare.
Now that the state-wide research tour is finished, the Iowa’s Women Foundation plans on bringing solutions back to 18 cities across Iowa.
Female students at the University of Iowa are concerned about the economic disparity that lies ahead after graduation. Iowa’s chapter of Women in Business, comprised of about 200 members, have partnered with the Iowa’s Women Foundation both for guidance on how to create lasting changes in their industries and as their philanthropy, which they donate 20% of all funds raised to.
In the video below, WIB Executive Board members discuss their partnership with the Iowa Women’s Foundation and their efforts of creating a better tomorrow for women in the workplace.
“We will be focusing on child care and will be creating a toolkit to take back out to the communities,” Oliver Wiand said. “Some of our ideas are increasing the number of businesses that establish employer-provided/subsidized childcare for employees and establishing before and after school programs.”
According to the report, Eastern Iowa’s biggest issue was childcare. The need for childcare is even greater than finding a job with a livable wage.
Women are struggling to find quality affordable childcare, nontraditional childcare (such as sick childcare or accessibility other than during the 9-5 workday) and flexible family-care policies at their workplace.
Iowa Women in Business is a student organization that helps female students develop professionally, gain leadership skills, network with future employers, and inspire them to reach their career goals.
Women in Business President, Tori Hunger, calls the group a young version of the the Iowa Women’s Foundation, and that they look up to them as their mentors.
Iowa Women’s Foundation Board of Directors member and University of Iowa MBA recipient, Susan Judkins Josten, says that driving force of economic inequality is a combination of wage disparity between men and women, career selection, and marital status.
“Women are more likely to seek a reduced work schedule or be unavailable for important work tasks once children come along,” Judkins Josten said. “Women are more likely to think they need to work part time so they don’t disappoint an employer.”
Judkins Jostens recommended the model that her daughter’s employer follows as a possible solution to the childcare dilemma.
“They encourage mothers to come back to work when they’re ready, and bring the baby with them for awhile,” Judkins Josten said. “Whitney returned after 8 weeks of maternity leave, and her daughter Arden came with her for two months. Now Arden goes to day care, but is still able to join her mom at the office occasionally.”
There is a long way to go to achieve economic equality between the sexes, but groups like the Iowa Women’s Foundation are helping women gain ground on the issue.
“Over the next five years, we pledged $100 million to fund programs that create pathways to economic security,” Oliver Wiand said. “We supported 996 unique nonprofit organizations across the US, impacting over 4,016,725 girls.”
The communities of women across Iowa can look forward to seeing the Foundation again in 2018, as they try to solve these problems and identify new barriers.