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Women's Voices Being Heard in Minnesota

As Minnesota lawmakers meet in 2017, they're being asked to keep the state's women in mind. (mn.gov)
As Minnesota lawmakers meet in 2017, they're being asked to keep the state's women in mind. (mn.gov)
January 16, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Advocates in Minnesota say more work will be done in 2017 to make sure women's voices are being heard.

Last fall, Barbara Baptiste, director of the Legislative Office on the Economic Status of Women, held nine "listening sessions" around the state to learn about what challenges women are facing.

A report on those sessions has been compiled and, according to Baptiste, women said child care, housing and low wages are the main issues holding them back. She agreed that child care just isn't affordable.

"Minnesota has one of the highest costs of child care. For an infant, it's $17,000 a year. That's more than college tuition,” Baptiste said. "But in Greater Minnesota, it's not just that it's not affordable, it's not even available."

Baptiste said there were also some positives. She said there's been an increase in employment for women - in government, business and nontraditional jobs such as engineering and manufacturing.

However, she said there's still a lack of leadership roles held by women. Of the eight counties where the listening sessions were held, only Ramsey and Cook counties had a majority of female commissioners. In Stearns and St. Louis counties, there were none.

Baptiste said Minnesota's minimum wage of $9.50 an hour just isn't enough - especially for single parents.

"They are working one full-time and frequently one or two part-time jobs, and still not making a living wage,” she said. "And these are women who have college degrees."

Another issue that needs to be addressed in 2017, Baptiste said, is the number of working parents who are struggling with student debt. She said a lot of attention has been paid to current students, but there are thousands who are struggling to make ends meet and are obligated to pay off debt, even though they are in their 30s.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MN