On International Women’s Day, Attorney General Ellison’s task force releases report and recommendations for expanding women’s economic security
First-of-its-kind report builds on gains of 2014 Women’s Economic Security Act, identifies additional barriers to women’s equal participation in the economy, offers 115 short-, medium-, and long-term recommendations to advance women’s economic prosperity in Minnesota
Report and recommendations for legislative, legal, administrative, and programmatic action to remove structural, cultural, and organizational barriers released after one year of study and deliberation
March 8, 2022 (SAINT PAUL) — Today, on International Women’s Day and after one year of public study and deliberation, Minnesota Attorney General Ellison’s Advisory Task Force on Expanding the Economic Security of Women has released a first-of-its-kind report and 115 recommendations for advancing women’s equal participation in the economy.
The recommendations are rooted in an analysis of the four structural and cultural factors that limit women's participation in the economy: the low cultural, social, and economic value assigned to caregiving; pervasive power imbalances in the economy, politics, and society; the low priority attached to women’s safety; and power imbalances in creating public policy.
The task force’s recommendations for short-, medium-, and long-term remedies to these barriers flow from this analysis. They include 20 short- and medium-term recommendations to strengthen the 2014 Women’s Economic Security Act, several of which are represented in currently active bills at the Minnesota Legislature, and 95 more medium- and long-term recommendations for eliminating all barriers to women’s full participation in the economy and prosperity.
“As Attorney General, I work every day for a Minnesota where everyone can afford their lives and live with dignity, safety, and respect — no exceptions. But every day in Minnesota and across the country, women face barriers to economic security and prosperity: be it through being chronically underpaid in comparison to men, underrepresented in high-paying jobs, or squeezed out of the job market because of a shortage of affordable childcare, or being victims of sexism, discrimination, physical threats, and laws that regulate their bodily autonomy that men do not face,” Attorney General Ellison said.
“There’s something in it for all of us to fix these problems, because when women have full access to economic opportunity and face no more barriers in reaching their full economic potential, everyone in Minnesota does better. Women’s economic security is everyone’s economic security,” Attorney General Ellison added. “The report and recommendations are just the end of the beginning of turning this ideal into reality. I’m grateful to the task force members for building on the good work of those who came before them, particularly those who fought for and enacted the Women’s Economic Security Act, to create this comprehensive, first-of-its-kind report and recommendations. I’m dedicated to fighting this fight with them.”
“When we support the economic security of women in Minnesota, we are investing in the economic security of our entire state,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “I am excited that the work of this task force has culminated in tangible recommendations that we can act on in this legislative session to support women and children across Minnesota.”
Task Force co-chair Erin Maye Quade said, “It has been an honor to serve as the co-chair of Attorney General Ellison’s Advisory Task Force on Expanding the Economic Security of Women. With the persistent wage gap, lack of paid leave, dropping workforce participation, and attacks on reproductive health, rights and justice, there has never been a more urgent time for a framework to support women’s economic security in Minnesota. I’m proud of the work our task force has done and, as the advocacy director at Gender Justice, look forward to the work ahead of implementing our recommendations.”
Structure and analysis of the report
In clear language designed to be accessible to a wide range of Minnesotans, the report takes a comprehensive approach that illustrates the complex relationship between a wide set of social and economic issues that affect women’s ability to reach economic stability and prosperity. The report also provides a retrospective analysis of the Women’s Economic Security Act of 2014 (WESA), highlighting effective provisions and opportunities for further gains. The Task Force’s commitment to approaching the work through an intersectional lens is evident in the treatment of each issue area as well as in its wide-ranging set of recommendations.
The report begins:
Women in Minnesota continue to experience barriers and challenges to economic security and prosperity despite their critical role in our society, families, and economy. In general, they are paid less than men, are overrepresented in low-paying jobs, take on the majority of unpaid caregiving and housework, and are more likely to live in poverty. The 2014 Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) expanded economic opportunity and strengthened workplace protections for women. In order to build on its gains, Attorney General Keith Ellison created the Advisory Task Force on Expanding the Economic Security of Women in Minnesota to:
- Carry out a retrospective review of WESA;
- Identify ongoing structural, cultural, organizational, and legal barriers to gender equity in the workplace and in the economy at large, taking into account intersectional impacts and the effects of the COVID-19pandemic; and
- Create a set of recommendations that offer possible strategies, models, and solutions to advance the economic security of women.
Section 2 of the report describes four of the major cultural values and structural processes that anchor the challenges identified by the Task Force:
- the low value assigned to caregiving;
- a pervasive power imbalance;
- the low prioritization of women’s safety; and
- power imbalances in creating public policy.
Section 3 of the report assesses the effective components of WESA as well as opportunities for furthering its impact. Here the Task Force provides its first 20 recommendations that target the key provisions of WESA: wage disclosure, pregnancy accommodations, pregnancy and parenting leave, nursing mothers, sick and safe leave, wage gaps, and early learning scholarships. Among those recommendations are:
- Expanding WESA to cover all employers, regardless of size.
- Expanding access to WESA pregnancy and parenting leave accommodations by allowing employees to participate regardless of their tenure on the job.
- Supporting paid family and medical leave and earned sick and safe leave.
- Increasing funding for Early Learning Scholarships to fully cover income-eligible families (or limit their costs to 7% of their household income) to give more children access to high- quality early learning programs.
Section 4 of the report provides a thorough scan of structural, cultural, organizational, legal, and regulatory barriers to gender equity and conducts a comprehensive analysis of various strategies that that can be undertaken to advance the economic security of women. The Task Force provides 95 recommendations in 18 distinct issue areas related to the workplace, caregiving, health, economic opportunity, and governance. Among those recommendations are:
- Banning employer inquiries into salary history.
- Supporting passage of the Equal Rights Amendment at the state and federal levels to offer protection from gender discrimination broadly.
- Supporting unionization of women, growth in organized labor, and laws that make it easier to organize, especially in women-dominated industries.
- Supporting government subsidized, low-cost, high-quality childcare, especially for low-income children.
- Expanding “next of kin” language in Minnesota statutes to include extended family and even nonfamilial relationships to account for varying (including cultural) caregiving structures.
- Exploring models that enable women to earn social security credit for hours spent caregiving.
- Investing in increased resources for childcare center startups in Greater Minnesota to combat barriers to launching their business (such as adequate building acquisition), prioritizing culturally competent providers.
- Expanding access to MinnesotaCare so that all Minnesotans are able to use it, regardless of their employment status or use of other public benefits.
- Codifying the right to an abortion into law and ensuring that health insurance covers reproductive healthcare, including abortion.
- Explore the potentially discriminatory use of racial data in medical algorithms to justify unequal assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of Minnesotans of color.
- Strongly supporting infrastructure investments for broadband.
- Ensuring that no Minnesotan can be denied housing only because they access rental assistance.
- Researching means by which to hold accountable under new or existing law rental property owners and companies that chronically provide substandard housing.
- Supporting increased business development support and financial resources for women entrepreneurs, especially for women of color and American Indian women.
- Reinstituting and funding the Legislative Office on the Economic Status of Women.
“The Task Force’s report offers more than 100 recommendations, a number of which can be implemented now,” said Attorney General Ellison. “I look forward to the work ahead of us in partnering with the legislature, employers, and community members to turn them from recommendations into reality and to make Minnesota the most prosperous and economically secure state for women — which means for everyone.”
Background on the Task Force
On November 19, 2020, Attorney General Ellison announced the formation of his Advisory Task Force on Expanding the Economic Security of Women. He stated at the time that his intent for the Task Force was to gather in the best thinking in order to identify barriers that prevent gender equity in the workplace and limit women’s equal participation in the economy, explore best practices to advance the economic security of women, and develop a comprehensive set of recommendations that protect and support women’s economic security in Minnesota.
On January 26, 2021, Attorney General Ellison announced the composition of the 22-member Task Force, which included people chosen through the State’s Open Appointments process out of more than 90 who applied. The core Task Force members are:
- Barbara Battiste, Former Director, Minnesota Legislative Office on the Economic Status of Women
- Dr. Christina Ewig, Professor of Public Affairs and Director, Center on Women, Gender, and Public Policy, University of Minnesota
- Betty Folliard, Founder, ERA Minnesota
- Cheniqua Johnson, Relationship Manager, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation
- Nancy Jost, Director of Early Childhood, West Central Initiative, Fergus Falls
- Dr. Brittany Lewis, Senior Research Associate, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), University of Minnesota
- Task Force Co-Chair Erin Maye Quade, Advocacy Director, Gender Justice
- Batala McFarlane, Publisher, Insight News
- Lulete Mola, President & Co-Founder, Philanthropic Collective to Combat, Anti-Blackness & Realize Racial Justice and former Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, Women’s Foundation of Minnesota
- Kate Perushek, Assistant Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry
- State Senator David Senjem
- Connie Smallman, Co-Founder and Co-Chair, Operating Engineer Local 49 Women’s Group
- Syeda Sadia Tarannum, Co-Founder, NorthWest Islamic Community Center
- Alene Tchourumoff, Senior Vice President of Community Development and Engagement, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
- State Representative Samantha Vang
Additionally, seven ex-officio Task Force members served alongside the voting Task Force members. They are:
- Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan
- Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero
- Task Force Co-Chair Donna Cassutt, Chief of Staff, Minnesota Attorney General's Office
- Solicitor General Liz Kramer
- Melissa Raphan, Partner, Labor & Employment Group LLP
- Emilia González Avalos, Executive Director, UnidosMN
- Bethany Winkels, Executive Director of the Minnesota AFL-CIO
The Task Force met 11 times from February 4, 2021 through December 21, 2021. Safety protocols intended to protect the Task Force, AGO staff, and invited guests from COVID-19 required conducting all meetings over Zoom video conferencing with telephone access. Task Force meetings were open to the public, with a portion of each meeting agenda allotting time for public comment. Each meeting was dedicated to dissecting portions of the Task Force’s goals with expert topical presentations, surveys, and facilitated discussion. Information about the Task Force’s meetings, research considered, and discussion is on Attorney General Ellison’s website.
“This task force brought together advocates, experts, and women from communities across our state,” said Task Force Member Bethany Winkels, Executive Director of the Minnesota AFL-CIO. “We dug into the real issues impacting women’s economic security. Thanks to the work of the Attorney General and this task force, the report offers actionable recommendations that the legislature should take up directly. We can and must do more to ensure all women have the opportunity to live with dignity in Minnesota.”
In addition to Co-Chairs Cassutt and Maye Quade and the Task Force members, the following current and former staff of the Attorney General’s office were essential in supporting the Task Force and completing the report: Keaon Dousti, Carly Melin, Caitlin Micko, Daniel Murphy, John Stiles, and Casey Weber. Finally, former Policy Director Sadaf Rahmani and current Senior Advisor on Special Projects and Public Policy Angelica Klebsch served as principal staff leads and points of contact for the Task Force and shepherded its work from start to finish.