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Report: What WA Moms Really Wanted for Mother's Day

May 10, 2010

SEATTLE - Over the weekend, working moms might have been treated to cards, flowers and even breakfast in bed. But today, life is back to normal - and for Washington women, that means earning less per hour on the job and receiving fewer workplace benefits than men.

"Washington's Working Women 2010," a new report by the Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI), indicates the economic progress of women in the Evergreen State has stalled. Its comparison of jobs and wages shows almost a $5-per-hour gap in median wages between women and men - largely because of the types of work they do.

However, report author Marilyn Watkins says, in the deep recession of the last two years, both sexes have been affected by businesses cutting hours and benefits.

"With the global competitive economy, with the ability of companies to outsource, there has been a real downward pressure on wages and benefits. Without the pressure of minimum standards being established by law, we're unlikely to see a real improvement."

Watkins, an economist and EOI policy director, says just over 37 percent of Washington women work part-time, compared to 23 percent of men. Part-timers seldom receive paid sick leave or are eligible for retirement benefits, she adds, although more women are their family's primary breadwinner.

"Women's wages are really critical to the economic survival of the family unit. In this last recession, we've seen far more men than women lose their jobs. That means in more families than ever, women are contributing - in many cases - the majority of the income."

Watkins thinks it will take legislation to change traditional workplace policies. She says many businesses have not kept pace with new realities in today's family life, such as single-parent households and workers who are caring for both children and aging relatives. No matter what moms got for Mother's Day, she adds, what they need is fair pay and more flexibility on the job - including paid family leave.

The full report is available at

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA