The Future of Work: Implications for Colorado Women

Colorado’s economy and Colorado families depend on working women. The future of work will depend on them, too, yet Colorado women cannot always depend on our current workplace policies, regulations, politics, and societal norms. Our current system, created in the 1930s when men dominated the workforce, hasn’t evolved and the U.S. has yet to implement a strong social safety net that meets the needs and demands of today’s workers. Because of this, and because of the speed and scale at which other parts of our economy will change, policymakers need to prepare for the future now.

This is more evident than ever with Colorado women raising their voices for change in this year’s election. In fact, Colorado Public Radio reports 67 women ran for state office here in Colorado, the most in recent history. According to Colorado Politics, that number goes up to 87 when accounting for state and congressional races, where in all but one of the latter, women were on the ballot. Undoubtedly, women played a pivotal role in flipping majority leadership in the state House and Senate this year, and led to more women being in positions of power as we head into the 2019 legislative session.

With more Colorado women in positions to change and lead state policy, there is a now real chance for issues affecting whole families, not just women, to finally be elevated in ways to address the demands that will soon be compounded by the future of work and the economy of tomorrow.

“Electing women isn’t just about checking a box,” says Representative Brittany Pettersen, one of many women who faced a fierce election fight and went on to ultimately win. “It’s about ensuring that people in positions of power are going to be a voice and perspective that is absolutely needed. … [Women] also need to be there, fighting for these policies because we’re going to fundamentally change what that actually looks like, ensuring that we meet the needs of the women in Colorado.”

Those policies include paid family and medical leave, equal pay for equal work, expanding education and training programs for women, as well as a slew of initiatives to put Colorado in a position to address the rapid changes the future of work is sure to bring. While many of these policies have long been considered “women’s issues,” the Bell Policy Center’s latest brief — The Future of Work: Implications for Colorado Women — shows solutions to these inequities have positive benefits for Colorado women and beyond, whereas the failure to meet the moment is to the detriment of all Coloradans, including women, their families, their employers, and the state economy.

“It just goes to show that Coloradans are not only voting for change, but they’re also creating it with women at the lead,” says Michal Rosenoer, executive director of Emerge Colorado.

How Will the Future of Work Affect Colorado Women?

Modern labor realities perpetuate inequity in women’s economic mobility. In this brief, we apply a gender lens to aspects of this research. We explore technology’s influence on the changing nature of work, highlight how women are uniquely affected, and raise up policy levers that can position women for economic success. Policymakers should consider how factors shaping the future of work will impact women workers in a distinct way.

Colorado women are a crucial piece of our state’s workforce, and their economic potential has yet to be fully tapped. Consider the following:

  • Nearly 63 percent of Colorado women are in the workforce, according to the Economic Status of Women in Colorado.
  • Over two-thirds of young children in Colorado live in households where all adults are in the workforce.
  • New research from the Bell finds Colorado middle class families are far more likely to live a middle class lifestyle if two parents work and hold professional or managerial positions.
  • Five percent of Colorado working women overall and 20 percent of families headed by working single mothers live in poverty.
  • If Colorado increased women’s workforce participation to equal men’s, enabled more women to move from part- to full-time work, rebalanced unpaid work between genders, and changed the mix of sectors in which women work, we could add $40 billion to our state’s economy by 2025.

Read “The Future of Work: Implications for Colorado Women” now, and learn about the policy and program changes Colorado can design that keep women’s strengths and needs front and center in our changing economy.

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