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United WE breaks down cost of Kansas gender inequality in new status report

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United WE breaks down cost of Kansas gender inequality in new status report

Oct 02, 2023 | 11:09 am ET
By Katelynn Donnelly
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United WE breaks down cost of Kansas gender inequality in new status report
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Wendy Doyle, United WE president and CEO, says the availability of child care impacts women's participation in the labor force. The organization has produced a status report following a series of town halls last year in which women talked about the barriers they face. (Submitted)

EMPORIA — For Emily Snyder and her husband, who are both trade workers, finding child care to cover the odd hours and extra overtime shifts have been an uphill battle.

Over the past few years, they tried dropping their son off at a friend’s house an hour before day care opened and at one point even paid for two day cares at once.

Now, the Johnson County couple agreed if there is ever a conflict in their work schedule, Snyder, a third-year electrical apprentice and president of Heartland Women in Trades, stays home to watch their 3-year-old son, Wesley.

“It’s a struggle between making extra money and learning my craft because that’s what I’m doing in my apprenticeship,” Snyder said. “There’s hours that I’m missing that go on for my job training. At the same time, it’s good to be home, but if child care was available then we would both get to take advantage of it and we would both be working overtime.”

Trade workers’ ability to show up for overtime can make or break their employment when layoffs begin, Snyder said, but with her husband making more money and child care not being accessible when they need it at night or on the weekends, their only choice is for her to stay home and make up the hours. 

“It makes me feel like, well, do I need to make the choice between having a career and being a good mom?” Snyder said. 

Sixty-four percent of women reported experiencing harassment, discrimination or some sort of workplace toxicity according to a report produced by United WE, an organization dedicated to improving the economic status of women through data collection and education.

“We struggle with the men thinking that we shouldn’t be there and we face that discrimination on a daily basis, so it hurts us even more when we’re the ones that are like, ‘No, I can’t work overtime,’ and it’s like, ‘Well, why?’ ” said Snyder. “Well, we don’t have day care.”

The lack of accessible and affordable child care is always a common discussion topic during town hall discussions organized by United WE, said Wendy Doyle, the organization’s president and CEO.

According to a new status report, which outlines the greatest barriers felt by women in Kansas, there are twice the number of children younger than 5 than there are day care spots available, and with the federal emergency child care fund coming to an end in September, that number is projected to rapidly increase.

“If we don’t have child care then who stays home?” Doyle said. “That is really going to impact women’s participation in the labor force.”

Nearly 6,9000 day care slots have been added using $43.6 million in grant funding from the Child Care Capacity Accelerator Act announced by Gov. Laura Kelly this year.

United WE town hall
Last year’s listening tour identified child care, internet access, entrepreneurship resources, health care and civic engagement as some of the largest barriers women face. (Submitted)

Along with lack of access to child care, last year United WE found the greatest obstacles for women were taking care of family, lack of internet access, lack of entrepreneurship resources, health care, and civic engagement. Collectively growing these issues would impact the overall Kansas economy by as much as 15%, Doyle said.

The report also emphasized a lack of high-speed internet. Twenty-one percent of women in Kansas said they had issues accessing broadband, making it difficult to work from home, run their own business, attend online classes, and access telehealth or mental health care.

Last year, $43 million was invested in expanding affordable high-speed internet across Kansas.

“There are so many opportunities that you have when you’re juggling, maybe small children that you would have in the entrepreneurial space that you’re not going to have when you’re punching a 9-to-5 clock, but none of them is really possible without some of these other things, like broadband, child care, housing,” said Jade Piros de Carvalho, director of the Office of Broadband Development.

While these changes have been made, there is still progress to be made in other areas, like maternity and paternity care, and forming trusting relationships between women and financial institutions.

“Women are capable and resilient,” Snyder said. “We’ve been women since the beginning of time. We deserve equal treatment and the support of our community. We’re the mothers of society and deserve to be on an equal playing field.”

Doyle said it would help to have more women in elected office. While 51% of women have thought about running for office, they’re discouraged by the negative impact it might have on their family.