When we lift women out of poverty, the whole community benefits.
Too many women struggle daily to make ends meet, at a time when 6 out of 10 are the primary or sole provider for their families. We all become stronger and more vibrant when women can earn enough money to support their families and have economic security. This strengthens the next generation by opening doors to education and good jobs.
A host of issues—including pay equity, paid family leave, payday lending reform and access to employment and leadership opportunities—impact women’s economic security. Public policies in these areas have been slow to change, but we are working to address them.
Salary History Bans to Disrupt Cycle of Pay Inequality
The cycle of race and gender wage pay discrimination can be disrupted by removing salary history from the hiring process. Although using salary history may seem like a neutral practice, it has a discriminatory impact by effectively affirming and reinforcing a prior employer’s bias. Introduced by State Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, LB 249 makes it unlawful for an employer to inquire about a job applicant’s salary history or require an applicant to disclose their salary list. For people who are in charge of hiring employees, you don’t have to wait until this becomes law and can enact a salary history ban now. Learn more about this best practice.
Women should be paid the same as men for doing the same work. On average, Nebraska women earn 73 percent of what men earn, with an even bigger wage gap for women of color and LGBTQ women. In Nebraska, equal pay for women could reduce the poverty of single mothers by nearly 68 percent.
A typical working woman loses $530,000 over her lifetime due to the wage gap, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. By the time a college-educated working woman turns 59, she will have lost almost $800,000. In fact, the gender wage gap is widest for women with higher levels of educational attainment. For example, a woman with a graduate degree earns less than a man with a bachelor’s degree.
The first step in closing the pay gap is through pay transparency. Passed into law in 2019 and supported by the Women’s Fund, LB 217 prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who disclose and discuss their compensation. Knowledge is power.
See our fact sheet on LB 217!
Paid Family Leave
Caring for families has traditionally fallen to women, yet most companies don’t offer adequate paid family and medical leave. This continues to make women more vulnerable economically. In Nebraska, 71 percent of children have a working mother, and she represents 44 percent of the family’s income.
Paid leave is not a women’s issue – it’s a human issue and it’s a workforce issue. No family should have to choose between the job and meeting the caregiving needs of their family. We continue to advocate for paid leave, most recently during the 2021 Nebraska Legislative Session on LB 290 to Adopt the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act and with LB 258 to Adopt the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act.
Affordable Child Care Family Leave
In Nebraska—where the majority of parents work outside the home—child care is the engine that drives our economy. When parents don’t have access to quality, affordable child care, they are often forced to take time off, scale back to part time or drop out of the workforce altogether. A robust and high quality child care system will benefit our families, our workforce and our economy. We continue to advocate for policies like expanded access to child care assistance, paid leave and support for child care providers, but to fully support working parents, employers must also rise to meet demands.
In 2021, LB 485 increased access to affordable child care for low-income working families. This law increases access to affordable child care through the child care assistance or subsidy program (Title XX) by increasing initial eligibility from 130% federal poverty level (FPL) to 185% FPL and exit eligibility from 185% FPL to 200% FPL through the end of September 2023. At time when Nebraska needs any and all workers, we should be doing everything we can to remove the very real barriers that child care pose for workers to stay in the workforce and advance in their careers.
Promoting Workplaces Free of Racial Discrimination
During the 2021 session, State Senator Terrell McKinney re-introduced legislation to support natural hair nondiscrimination. LB 451 passed with a vote of 40-4 and will end natural hair discrimination in the workplace by clarifying language to expand protections for natural hair texture and protective hairstyles, including braids, locs and twists. We applaud the advocacy efforts of Black women, specifically the team at I Be Black Girl, to realize racial and gender equity in the workplace.
Strengthening Food Security
During the pandemic, issues impacting women and girls have been compounded. This is true for food insecurity and the need for resources in our community has been at an all-time high during the pandemic.
During the 2021 Legislative Session, we advocated in support of LB 108, which was passed into law after overcoming the governor’s veto. This law strengthens food security by increasing income eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and directly addresses the cliff effect in food assistance benefits that allows working families to accept raises or small wage increases without losing the financial support they need to put food on the table.
If you need food assistance, you can apply for SNAP assistance through AccessNebraska.
Payday Lending Reform
All families need access to credit. But with annual percentage rates of more than 400%, payday loans leave families worse off. That’s why we advocated for payday lending reform—to ensure that loans are reasonable and fair for consumers.
We took a step forward on payday lending during the 2018 legislative session with the passing of LB 194. Then, we worked to stop predatory payday lending through a ballot initiative, MEASURE 428, during the 2020 General Election. Measure 428 passed and will ensure payday lenders cannot charge more than 36%.