Florida Almost Flunks When it Comes to Working Women
I recently heard one of the most inspiring speeches in my life about the future of women business owners and entrepreneurs in this country. Jennifer Hyman, creator of the multi-million dollar company, Rent the Runway, shared her amazing entrepreneurial story, as well as some personal issues about sexual harassment she endured along the way to building her fashion leasing empire. She was bright, bold and brave and let none of this stand in her way. She’s changing the world for young women, one dress and one initiative at a time. I got goose bumps. For the first time in my 40-plus year career, I thought things are really changing for women.
The very next day my heart sank when Brenda Tate, CEO of the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation shared a new report on “The Status of Women in Florida by County: Employment & Earnings,” which gave our state a grade of D+, down from a C- in 2002, and a ranking of 38th in the country when it comes to women’s earnings compared to men.
The report was commissioned by the Florida Women’s Funding Alliance (FWFA) and produced by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). While the full report can be found at http://fundwomenfl.org/research/, here are a few highlights, based on 2016 data, on where Florida and the Southwest Florida region rank in terms of employment and wages:
- In Florida and all states, women working full-time, year-round earn less than men. Median annual earnings for women in Florida are $35,000, compared with $40,000 for men.
- Florida women’s earnings vary by race and ethnicity, ranging from a high of $40,505 for White women who work full-time, year-round to a low of $29,878 for Hispanic women, just 59 percent of what White men earn annually ($50,631).
- Florida has one of the smallest shares of women in the labor force in the country, 53.7 percent, earning the state a ranking of 48th. Among Florida women, those who identify as multiracial or of another race are most likely to be in the labor force, followed by Black women. Native American and White women have the lowest labor force participation rates.
- In Southwest Florida, it’s a mixed bag with women in Lee and Collier Counties earning a median annual income of slightly above the state average of $35,000 (Lee $35,390 and Collier $35,056). Charlotte is below at $32,537, and the women of Glades earn almost $10,000 less ($25,354) than the state average.
- The share of women in the Florida labor force went down from 2002 (55.7 %) to 2016 (53.7%). Here in SWFL, it’s even worse with Lee County at 49.10 %, Collier County at 47.80 %, Charlotte County 40.90 %, and Glades 36.30 % – all below the state average. Only Hendry County at 53.30% is near the state average of women in the labor force.
So, what’s up with Florida? While the report outlines a number of policy initiatives that the state could take that would enhance opportunities and wages for women, there may be an easier way.
Maybe Florida businesses and policymakers should simply take a look at the success of Jennifer Hyman and Rent the Runway as a role model. The company has 1,100 employees and 70 percent are women. It has raised more than $190 million in venture capital and now boasts six million overwhelmingly female members who have access to 450 designer brands to rent. Someone’s sure betting on women entrepreneurs, workers and consumers!!
Respectfully submitted by:
Principal, Tieger Public Affairs LLC
Advisor, Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation