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Crisis Amplifies Concerns About Retirement Gap for Women

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Iowa consistently ranks low among all states for its gender pay gap, and almost 34% of female-headed households in the state live in poverty. (Adobe Stock)
Iowa consistently ranks low among all states for its gender pay gap, and almost 34% of female-headed households in the state live in poverty. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen - Producer, Contact
April 23, 2021

DES MOINES, Iowa - The pandemic has disrupted plans for a secure financial retirement for many Americans, and financial experts say women face a more difficult recovery than men.

Daniel Doonan, executive director of the National Institute on Retirement Security, said because women often work part-time, they're less likely to have a workplace retirement plan.

And women often leave jobs to have children or care for family members, a role that's getting renewed attention during the crisis.

Doonan said those factors, combined with the gender pay gap, limit a woman's ability to comfortably retire.

"The pay gap that exists in the workplace tends to follow women into retirement as well," said Doonan. "And that's true, I think, whether it's a savings plan or whether it's a pension that's more built on your pay over time."

Doonan said he encourages women who have a retirement plan at work to participate to the fullest extent, saving as much - and as early - as possible.

In Iowa, women make 78 cents compared to every dollar earned by men. That's below the national average of 82 cents to the dollar.

Melissa Peterson, government relations specialist at the Iowa State Education Association, said the gender pay gap and ripple effect on retirement is especially burdensome for women of color.

She said the state does have a strong public pension system that helps narrow such gaps. But Peterson said she knows not all women have these protections, including those in the hospitality sector.

"Those kinds of professions, that are dominated by women, and many of those positions were cut during the pandemic," said Peterson.

She said she'd like to see all of Iowa's congressional delegation support equal-pay and paid-leave proposals that have surfaced in Washington.

Advocacy groups have also said states like Iowa should take preventive steps, such as creating an advisory committee on pay equity.

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