Charts of the Week: Women in government and the workforce

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Brookings scholars continue to analyze the impact of public policies on women’s roles in society—in the U.S. and globally. This edition of Charts of the Week brings you some findings on the progress made in reaching gender equity and where policymakers can improve. 

Progress in global development and education; slower growth in other areas 

Women's labor force participation, maternal mortality ratio, national parliament seats, and under 5 mortality rateIn one of the eight briefs commissioned for the 16th annual Brookings Blum Roundtable, Madeleine Albright, Mary Robinson, and Peggy Clark highlight a 44 percent reduction in global maternal mortality and an additional 41 million girls enrolled in primary school as gains in gender equality. However, other areas have seen slower growth, prompting the authors call on the global community to act on women’s involvement in many areas: political leadership, climate change and food insecurity, economic status, reproductive health, gender-based violence, and education. “Many are claiming that 2020 will be a historic year for women,” the authors write. “The time is right to broaden support for investing in women and girls and to recognize the power of women to heal nations and our planet.” 

Women overwhelmingly cite caregiving as reason for not working 

Isabel Sawhill, Richard Reeves, and Sarah Nzau find that female labor force participation has decreased in recent years, and many women cite their caring responsibilities for leaving the workforce. “One-third of the decrease in women’s employment in the U.S. relative to other advanced countries is related to the lack of benefits such as paid leave,” the authors note. “There are many women (and increasing numbers of men) who want to be able to combine a successful paid working life with engaged caring roles.” 

Women-owned small businesses are underrepresented in federal awards 

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Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs dedicate $3.5 billion per year in funding small businesses to spur technological innovation. However, women and minority-owned businesses are underrepresented in SBIR/STTR awards, Joseph Parilla and Sifan Liu explain. “The percentage of SBIR/STTR grants awarded to female business owners rose slightly between 2005 and 2017, from 8% to 11%, but the share awarded to socially or economically disadvantaged business owners remained essentially flat at 8%,” the authors write.