Overview of Department of Labor Programs and
Policies that Impact Women and Girls
Prepared for the White House Council on Women and Girls
U.S. Department of Labor
This report provides a brief overview of the existing and planned programs and policies affecting women and girls at the Department of Labor (DOL). DOL fosters and promotes the welfare of job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the United States by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits, and helping employers find workers.
As the former Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, Secretary Solis is committed to improving the lives of women and girls. While DOL’s Women’s Bureau will play a key role in achieving the vision of the White House Council on Women and Girls, the Secretary has tasked all DOL agencies with addressing issues facing women in the workplace.
Women now make up slightly less than half of the workforce. Secretary Solis’ vision for DOL is “Good Jobs for Everyone.” A good job pays fairly, provides a safe and healthy workplace, allows flexibility for family needs, boosts retirement security, and helps families enter into and stay in the middle class. All of DOL’s agencies will work together to ensure that good jobs are not out of reach for anyone, especially women.
DOL is currently awaiting the confirmation of the Director of the Women’s Bureau (WB) (since this report was completed, Sara Manzano-Díaz was nominated by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on February 11, 2010 as the 16 th Director of the Women's Bureau at the United States Department of Labor). The WB is the only unit at the Federal government level exclusively concerned with serving and promoting the interests of women in the workforce. Within DOL, the WB provides leadership and coordination of DOL activities that impact women in the workforce. Specifically, t he mission of the WB is to improve the status of wage-earning women, improve their working conditions, increase their efficiency, and advance their opportunities for profitable employment. The WB will work closely with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy to ensure that issues affecting women are considered by all agencies within DOL. The Secretary is committed to h elping working women and their families meet new challenges. Please find attached at the end of this report a sample list of activities focused on women that Secretary Solis has hosted or participated in since her confirmation.
Programs Which Improve the Lives of the Federal Workforce
Secretary Solis is working to improve the lives of all employees at DOL. In 2009, DOL employed 16,025 individuals, approximately half (49 percent) of whom are female. DOL’s Office of WorkLife and Benefits Programs (OWLBP), which is overseen by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Adminstration and Management, aims to facilitate employees’ ability to mitigate the stressors inherent in juggling work, personal and family responsibilities. OWLBP distributes resource materials on a variety of topics, including pregnancy/prenatal care, and the DOL Child Care Subsidy Program. OWLBP also actively promotes the following services to DOL employees:
- LifeCare Resource and Referral, and Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Services
In 1998, DOL contracted with LifeCare to provide free educational materials, personalized referrals, and a comprehensive Web site for DOL employees and their immediate family members on a variety of topics such as financial management, parenting, education, adult care, legal concerns, and other daily life concerns. LifeCare’s goal is to relieve tension between home obligations and work responsibilities.
DOL also contracts with Federal Occupational Health to provide Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services. The EAP is a professional resource that helps DOL employees and their immediate family members resolve life challenges through confidential counseling and consultations with experienced, licensed counselors. Utilization of LifeCare by all employees during 2009 was 42 percent on average, compared to 35 percent utilization in 2008. Approximately 78 percent of individuals who utilized LifeCare were women. During 2009, approximately 65 percent of employees who used EAP Services were women.
- Employee Health, Wellness, and Safety Programs
DOL Health Clinics and Voluntary Health Services offer on-site medical assessments and referral services for employees. Screening services are provided through the mammovan program on a periodic basis. DOL also provides lactation rooms for working mothers. In 2009, 1,774 visits to lactation rooms were made. In addition, OWLBP periodically runs health campaigns and seminars to help employees maintain awareness of the importance of engaging in healthy behaviors. Topics include “ Heart Disease Awareness in Women,” “Preventing Childhood Obesity,” and “Care Giving.”
DOL recognizes telework as a key work/life balance strategy and as a mitigation strategy to protect employees and sustain the DOL mission in the event of an influenza pandemic or other emergency situation. The Department has made progress in increasing the percentage of DOL teleworkers to ten percent of the workforce, which is up from nine percent in previous years.
- Child Development Center
DOL was the first federal agency to establish an onsite child development center, opening one as a grant-funded demonstration at its former headquarters building in 1968. The Esther Peterson Child Development Center opened after DOL relocated to its current headquarters, the Frances Perkins Building, in 1977. Today it provides full-time care for approximately 120 children ranging from six weeks through five years of age. The Center primarily serves children of DOL’s employees (more than 60 children enrolled are children of DOL employees) but is also open to children of families not employed by DOL, as space permits. The Center provides financial aid to eligible DOL employees and actively seeks to find families who can benefit from the aid offered. The Center's hours of operations are Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., year round, excluding Federal holidays.
- Child Care Subsidy Program
In keeping with DOL’s commitment to foster a quality workplace for all employees, the Department implemented a child care subsidy program in 2001 to assist lower income employees and their families in their efforts to obtain quality, licensed day care for dependent children, thus enabling them to work while ensuring the safety and well-being of their children. In 2009, 85 DOL employees utilized this program. Ninety percent of employees who were enrolled in the program were female.
- Leave Bank and Leave Transfer Programs
Unforeseen medical hardships can deplete what appears to be a sufficient amount of leave in a surprisingly short period of time and place employees in a “leave without pay” status. DOL offers a Leave Bank Program and a Leave Transfer Program, two Federal Leave Sharing Programs that help to ease the emotional and financial burdens felt by employees who are impacted by medical emergencies but have exhausted all available paid leave. In 2009, 88 percent of all National Office employees who used the Leave Bank Program were female, and 77 percent of all departmental employees who used the Leave Transfer Program were female.
- Support for DOL Employees and Families Facing Deployment
DOL recognizes the challenges encountered by our employed civilian servicemen and women who are called to active duty, and the impact of deployment on their families. OWLBP developed a comprehensive guide for these employees to facilitate awareness of information and resources available to assist them and their family members to prepare for deployment. The Deployment Resource Guide, posted on the DOL Intranet, provides a wealth of valuable information and resource links for DOL employees called to active service and their families.
- Fatherhood Initiatives
DOL has partnered with the National Fatherhood Initiative to improve the well-being of children, including girls. By promoting ways that DOL fathers can improve their parenting skills and more effectively balance work and family, the initiative seeks to increase the proportion of children growing up with an involved, responsible, and committed father. DOL has sponsored two parenting seminars facilitated by National Fatherhood Initiative and distributes information to fathers.
- Support Group
DOL offers a variety of peer support groups for employees dealing with work/life issues. The DOL Parenting Support Group is a bi-monthly forum facilitated by a mental health therapist, parent educator, and/or WorkLife consultant, and is designed to bring together parents/guardians to discuss the challenges of combining their work and family life and receive practical answers/feedback to parenting questions from a skilled expert. The DOL Elder Care Support Group provides an opportunity for employees that are caregivers to share experiences and techniques for coping with stress, and to discuss the rewards and challenges faced when providing care for an elderly parent or relative. The DOL Cancer Support Group offers a support system for employees who are affected by this disease.
- Financial and Retirement Planning Seminars
Financial and Retirement Planning seminars are provided to help employees manage their finances into retirement. Studies indicate that women tend to have longer lives than men. Recognizing that women may have long term financial and health needs that extend well beyond their working careers, women are encouraged to take advantage of several seminars that DOL provides to help plan for their retirement. DOL provides financial and retirement planning seminars for all federal employees who are new to DOL, for mid-career employees, and for employees about to retire. OWLBP conducts Financial and Retirement Planning Seminars to teach employees about DOL-specific and Federal benefits programs, in addition to basic financial education.
- Future Efforts
OWLBP continues to explore how DOL can improve the lives of its workforce. For example, low utilization rates for the Child Care Subsidy Program are being examined. OWLBP attributes low utilization to cost-of-living adjustments or step increases. The threshold for eligibility of $59,999 annual household income has not been adjusted since the program’s inception to reflect annual cost of living increases. This means that many employees who might benefit from this program are ineligible due to annual household income that exceeds the current limit. Consequently, discussions are taking place regarding a possible increase in the total income cap by at least $10,000 so that more employees will be eligible for the program.
Programs Which Improve the Lives of Women and Girls in the United States and Around the World
DOL oversees many programs that are intended to improve the lives of women and girls in the United States and in other countries. Below are descriptions of DOL programs that impact women and girls:
- Careers in Science
- Women in Nanotechnology
DOL’s Women’s Bureau developed the Women in Nanotechnology (WIN) project to promote interest in careers in nanotechnology/nanoscience fields among women in Chicago-area community colleges. Through WIN, students learn about nanotechnology and nanoscience occupations and participate in seminars, field trips, networking, and mentoring that prepare them for further education at a four-year university and a rewarding career in a cutting-edge field.
In addition to a Web site, www.womeninnanotechnology.org, WIN utilizes social media or Web 2.0 resources, such as Facebook, as networking and learning tools for participants and mentors to disseminate information, provide online seminars and promote discussion to enhance students’ learning experiences. The Women’s Bureau works with the University of Illinois at Chicago, Truman College and College of DuPage.
- STEM Career Awareness Program
The Women’s Bureau developed a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) career awareness program to encourage and prepare women to enter high-wage/high-demand STEM fields. This program will emphasize the cutting edge STEM fields through mentoring, peer support, lab experiences, educational seminars, and access to a case manager to assist with life challenges.
- Financial Literacy
The Women’s Bureau oversees Wi$eUp, a financial education project available to young women and all new employees in the workforce, job seeking individuals, recent graduates and others to improve their economic security by increasing their savings and/or reducing their debt. The centerpiece of the program is an eight-module curriculum offered online, as well as in a classroom setting, in educational institutions and other organizations in all ten Women’s Bureau regions. Participants may also take part in a series of free, bi-monthly one-hour teleconference calls with featured speakers and question and answer sessions.
Two recent calls were “Achieving and Maintaining the Dream of Homeownership,” which included a Treasury Department presentation on the Administration’s “Making Home Affordable Program,” and “Putting the Pieces Together to Weather the Economic Downturn,” which covered topics such as unemployment insurance. Since the project’s inception in FY 2004, over 9,000 participants have received online or classroom instruction. Sixty-nine percent of participants have completed modules that cover credit, savings, and/or investing. Over 60 organizations have replicated Wi$eUp to serve their own members.
Five 30-second Women’s Bureau Wi$eUp PSAs are available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/WiseUpWomen. They were also sent to 630 radio stations. The Wi$eUp Web site available is at www.wiseupwomen.org.
- Employee Benefits Security Administration’s Retirement Publications
Of the 62 million wage and salaried women (age 21 to 64) working in the United States, just 45 percent participate in a retirement plan. While all workers need to save for retirement, women tend to live longer than men, and may have an increased need to save. However, they may face added obstacles to saving adequately for retirement, since women have lower earnings and more often work in industries with low or no retirement coverage. Women have higher job turnover and generally work fewer hours, often in order to care for children or family members, which might make saving for retirement even more challenging. T he Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) provides assistance and information to help women and men plan for retirement and take charge of their financial future, particularly through employment-based retirement plans, if available. EBSA’s publications include Women and Retirement Savings; Taking the Mystery Out of Retirement Planning; Savings Fitness; Time Is On Your Side; and What You Should Know About Your Retirement Plan. In FY 2008, EBSA distributed more than 200,000 copies of these publications, which are also available on its Web site: www.dol.gov/ebsa.
- In addition, because pension savings represent one of the most significant assets for many Americans, the division of a participant's interest in a pension plan is an important consideration in separation, divorce, and other domestic relations proceedings. EBSA has a publication that focuses solely on qualified domestic relations orders or "QDROs,” which are court judgments or orders creating or recognizing a spouse's or former spouse's interest in an individual's pension benefits.
- Economic Security
- Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO)
The Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) Act of 1992 authorizes the Department to promote the recruitment, training, employment and retention of women in apprenticeable occupations and nontraditional occupations. The Women’s Bureau and Employment and Training Administration’s (ETA) Office of Apprenticeship jointly administer the WANTO grant program. From 1994 to 2003, the program provided grant funds to eligible community-based organizations that provide preparatory education to help women obtain soft skills and industry specific training. Grantees also provide technical assistance to help employers and labor unions recruit, place and retain women in registered apprenticeship programs that lead to non-traditional occupations. In 2006 and 2007, DOL required grantees to place 100 women per grant year in registered apprenticeship programs in the construction industry.
With American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) investments now beginning to put people back to work, the WANTO projects are positioned to facilitate employment for women in nontraditional occupations, particularly in construction and green jobs. With recent modifications to existing WANTO grants that extended and increased funding for Program Year 2008, WANTO grantees have the demonstrated systems, infrastructure, relationships, and pipeline of participants to quickly place women in ARRA-related jobs in construction and related activities.
- Women and Green Jobs
DOL has placed an emphasis on expanding the inclusion of women in the green jobs movement and in other high-growth industries. To mark Earth Day 2009, Secretary Solis hosted a discussion on Women and Green Jobs with Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. For the first time at the Department of Labor, more than 35 leading women from labor, business, academia, government and the non-profit sectors around the country shared how they are shaping our green economic strategy and how we can work together to ensure that women have access to the green economy.
Following the roundtable, the Women’s Bureau collected information on over 50 training programs that serve women or want to expand training to women in green careers, non-traditional occupations or apprenticeship programs. The Bureau then hosted 32 green roundtables throughout the country, which brought together business and community leaders to create awareness of green job opportunities, build local partnerships, and identify best practices to recruit and retain women in green jobs. Information from the roundtables and the training programs will be incorporated into “A Woman’s Guide to Green Jobs,” that will be released in the fall of 2010. The publication and online curriculum is designed to increase women’s awareness of and access to high-growth and emerging industry occupations in the green jobs sector.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $500 million to ETA to be used for research, labor exchange, and job training projects that prepare workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. With this funding, ETA issued five Solicitations for Grant Applications to support a number of green job activities. These grants are not solely focused on serving women; women will benefit by receiving industry-certified skills training. For example, the Energy Training Partnership Grants may serve populations such as women and minorities that have not traditionally been employed in construction and skilled trades occupations. ETA continues to reach out to train women and individuals with multiple barriers to employment.
- Economic Recovery Events
The Women’s Bureau is hosting ten regional economic recovery events providing information to women, women’s organizations, and women business owners to help them access resources to address the financial challenges resulting from the downturn in the economy.
- Military Spouse Resource Center
As part of its efforts to aid the spouses of military personnel, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for ETA, in cooperation with the Department of Defense, jointly sponsors the Military Spouse Resource Center. The Center is an online learning portal and resource guide that helps military spouses access training and career opportunities, community resources, and their local workforce development system. The Web site is: www.milspouse.org.
- MilSpouse Career Advancement Accounts
This is a demonstration grant jointly funded by ETA’s Office of Workforce Investment and the Department of Defense. This grant program provides training and education to military spouses seeking employment in high growth, high demand, portable careers. The demonstration targets 18 military installations in eight states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington. To date, over 6,375 accounts have been awarded to military spouses and $18.6 million has been obligated.
- Workforce Investment Act Dislocated Worker ProgramETA has also issued policy guidance encouraging the workforce system to take advantage of flexibility built into the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Dislocated Worker Program in order to better utilize Federal assistance in serving the education and training needs of military spouses. Military spouses experience frequent and often very significant education and career interruptions due to service members’ assignments to new duty stations. While the program is gender neutral, it contributes to the goal of improving women’s earning potential because of the high percentage of female participants in the target group. In addition, displaced homemakers are a separate eligible category under the WIA Dislocated Worker Program.
- Young Parents Demonstration program
This program, which began in 2008, provides educational and occupational skills training to assist expectant mothers, fathers-to-be and young parents, ages 16-24, in gaining job skills in industry sectors and occupations projected to experience significant growth or demand, leading to family economic self-sufficiency for participants. The demonstration is gender neutral. It contributes to the goal of improving women’s earning potential because of the high percentage of female participants in the target group and will improve the earnings of families. Seven grants totaling five million dollars were awarded with PY 2008 funds. Six additional grants will be awarded with PY 2009 funds this year.
- Native American Women Project
The Women’s Bureau’s Native American Women project trained Native American women in Northern Arizona to become entrepreneurs. The project also helped Native American women in the Yakama Nation and the Colville Nation in Washington State transition to better jobs/career opportunities. This project provided mentoring/coaching and financial literacy and other life skills training to help women become self-sufficient throughout their lives. Mentors and coaches were Tribal members who had successfully transitioned into careers and served as role models for project participants. Approximately 200 Native American women were served by this project.
- International Labor Cooperation Program
DOL’s Office of Trade and Labor Affairs (OTLA), located in the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, oversees projects funded as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Central America-Dominican Republic-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) Labor Cooperation Program. One such project, which ran from 2005 until April 2009, included a specific gender focus. The Cumple y Gana (Comply & Win) Project created a public awareness campaign in seven countries and addressed specific violations pertaining to gender discrimination in the workplace with an emphasis on pregnancy testing and pregnancy-related dismissals in the maquila sector (which includes the garment industry). The project resulted in 1,958 radio spots and 70 training courses with approximately 2,000 participants specifically targeted on issues relating to gender discrimination in the workplace. Another component of the project, operating in Nicaragua, taught labor rights and leadership skills to 33 women leaders in the maquila sector. These women, in many cases working through their unions, subsequently trained over 260 of their female colleagues, helping to make them a vital source for educating women suffering from labor rights violations.
- Federal Contract Compliance Programs
The Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OCFFP) enforces three legal authorities that require equal employment opportunity and affirmative action by federal contractors: Executive Order 11246, as amended (Executive Order) Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Section 503); and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended (VEVRAA). These laws prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran. Under the Executive Order, OFCCP’s strong enforcement efforts have successfully resulted in favorable settlements in compensation cases, including women in managerial positions. In addition, for the last two years, OFCCP resolved cases where discrimination was found that impacted more than 9,500 women. To this end, investigating and eradicating discrimination based on gender, specifically wage disparities, will continue to be a priority for OFCCP.
Finally, OFCCP has several upcoming programs to improve the lives of America’s women and girls.
- Work-Family Balance
The Women’s Bureau’s (WB) Flex-Options project helps businesses create or expand workplace flexibility policies and programs for their workforces. The project brings together corporate executives and employers who volunteer to mentor business owners and other employers interested in developing flexible workplace policies and programs. Workplace flexibility solutions, such as flexible work schedules, family-friendly leave policies, and telework, help employees navigate their work, family, and personal responsibilities while simultaneously helping employers meet their recruitment/retention needs and strive for a greener environment by easing traffic congestion and reducing carbon footprints.
Since the project’s inception in 2003, 1,100 employers have implemented nearly 2,000 workplace flexibility practices affecting over 1 million employees. WB regional offices have worked with supporting organizations to organize over 400 events touting the benefits of workplace flexibility. The WB also conducts bi-monthly teleconferences featuring workplace flexibility experts and business owners. Recent teleconferences included “Creative Alternatives to Downsizing” and “Telework Trends and Best Practices.” More information on Flex-Options is available at www.flexoptions.org.
- Customized Employment Initiative
DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) promotes the successful outcomes from its evidence-based Customized Employment initiative through education, outreach, and collaborations with other federal agencies and private organizations. ODEP educates employers on how Customized Employment can be an additional workplace flexibility policy and/or practice within the workforce, which can be particularly relevant to successful employment outcomes for women since some women have complex needs. ODEP's Customized Employment strategies received recognition from the Harvard Innovations in American Government award program in January 2009 as implementing "established best practices." In addition, ODEP’s Customized Employment initiative funding to the Montgomery County (MD) Workforce Investment Board (2003-2007) was the basis for the Montgomery County’s Customized Employment Intern Project, which earned a 2009 National Association of Counties Achievement Award. The initiative was also listed as one of the major strategies in the DOL-led Taskforce on the Aging of the American Workforce report in February 2008. This Taskforce considered strategies to be promoted and adopted for mature workers, including women.
- Enforcement of Family and Medical Leave Act and Child Labor ProtectionsWhile the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) does not have programs specifically geared towards women and girls, the WHD is involved in many areas of significant interest to those demographics, including the administration of the Family and Medical Leave Act and enforcement of child labor protections. In addition, WHD enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act, which protects low-wage workers, many of whom are women.
- Data Collection
DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a key resource for assessing the current situation and for monitoring progress related to women in the workforce. BLS collects, analyzes, and disseminates information to the public and to any interested parties. BLS provides extensive labor market data on women (and other worker groups) through its news releases, publications, and Web site. Users have access to data on women’s employment, unemployment, and earnings by industry, occupation, education, age, marital status, and other characteristics. Data are also available on how women use their time and on workplace injuries and illnesses experienced by women. This information can be accessed at http://www.bls.gov/bls/cpswomendata.htm and at http://www.bls.gov/cps/demographics.htm#women.
In particular, BLS publishes Women in the Labor Force: A Databook , which provides historical and current labor force and earnings data for women and men from the Current Population Survey and Highlights of Women's Earnings . From December 2008 to June 2009, Women in the Labor Force: A Databook was accessed more than 10,000 times on the Internet. In addition, Current Population Survey data on employed women by industry are available monthly in the BLS periodical Employment and Earnings and Current Employment Statistics on women employees on nonfarm payrolls by industry are available monthly. In addition, Current Employment Statistics on women veterans by period of service and age are available monthly.
- Elimination of Child Labor
DOL’s Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor and Human Trafficking (OCFT), in the Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB), oversees projects to combat the worst forms of child labor. These projects seek to withdraw children from exploitive labor situations, and prevent exploitive child labor in the first instance, in countries around the world by providing them with education and training alternatives. As a matter of practice, OCFT targets boys and girls as direct beneficiaries of projects. In many cases, OCFT’s projects target girls as a particularly vulnerable group. Among the areas where girls generally represent a higher proportion of child laborers are domestic service and commercial sexual exploitation. Girls are also often more likely to be deprived of the benefits of schooling. OCFT’s projects seek to gather quality data on the problem, to raise awareness and mobilize local actors, and to build local capacity to address child labor. Since 1995, ILAB has worked with approximately 50 organizations to combat exploitive child labor in over 80 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. As a result of that funding, DOL has succeeded in rescuing approximately 1.3 million children from exploitive child labor, many of them girls.
On June 10, 2009, Secretary Solis held a workshop at the Department of Labor to commemorate the World Day Against Child Labor – Give Girls a Chance and to celebrate the 10 th Anniversary of the adoption of the International Labor Organization’s Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Senator Tom Harkin and Tina Tchen of the White House Council on Women and Girls participated in the workshop along with representatives of academia, non-governmental organizations, labor and industry, and key U.S. government agencies working on this issue.
- Women and Trauma Federal Partners’ Exploratory Committee
Along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/Center for Mental Health Services, DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) co-leads the Women and Trauma Federal Partners’ Exploratory Committee. Traumatic experiences can be dehumanizing, shocking or terrifying, singular or multiple compounding events over time and often include betrayal by a trusted person or institution, and a loss of safety. Trauma can result from experiences of violence. Trauma includes physical, sexual and institutional abuse, neglect, intergenerational trauma and disasters that induce powerlessness, fear, recurrent hopelessness and a constant state of alert. The primary goal of this Committee is to build awareness and stimulate action regarding women and trauma issues within the health and human services, justice, education, and workforce policy systems to coordinate and advance all appropriate Federal agencies' services and supports for women and trauma issues (due to the current lack of integrated services and supports in general). During the 2009 National Equal Opportunity Professional Development Forum hosted by DOL’s Civil Rights Center, the Women and Trauma Federal Partners’ Exploratory Committee will participate in a plenary session that focuses on the relationship between violence and women’s work productivity and how it affects both employers and employees.
- Worker Safety and Health
- Women and Job-Based Health Benefits
The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) provides information on women and job-based health benefits. EBSA administers laws related to employment-based health coverage and provides assistance to participants and their families in health plans. Women are more likely to be the primary health care decision maker for the family as well as the caregiver. Women also utilize more health care, in part because of their need for reproductive services. Therefore, the Department provides publications and assistance to help men and women understand their rights and responsibilities under the federal health benefits laws. Last year, EBSA distributed more than 365,000 consumer publications, in both English and Spanish, to provide critical information on the health coverage considerations related to key life events (such as marriage, birth, adoption, the aging of children out of dependent status, divorce or legal separation) and key work events (such as job loss or joining a new employer’s health plan). This includes publications on the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), publications focused on specific events, such as job loss, and specialized publications on particular aspects of the law that the agency administers that are relevant to women.
- For example, EBSA has a publication for new and expecting parents on the t he Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act, which provides that health plans and insurance issuers may not restrict a mother’s or newborn’s benefits for a hospital length of stay that is connected to childbirth to less than 48 hours following a vaginal delivery or 96 hours following a delivery by cesarean section.
- Another EBSA publication provides information on the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA), which contains protections for patients who elect breast reconstruction in connection with a mastectomy.
- EBSA also offers a publication entitled A Compliance Assistance Guide for Qualified Medical Child Support Orders to assist plan and state officials in complying with the provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and thereby assuring that more children receive health coverage.
- International HIV/AIDS Workplace Education Program
Working closely with the U.S. Department of State's Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, DOL’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) oversees a workplace-based program that provides HIV/AIDS education/awareness and prevention services to workers . Since 2000, the DOL HIV/AIDS workplace program has worked with 700 enterprises that employ at least 2.9 million workers. The DOL HIV/AIDS Workplace Education Program assists enterprises with developing workplace policies that address HIV/AIDS-related discrimination at work, promote equal opportunities, and establish zero tolerance for violence and harassment against employees at work. The program also provides workplace education for men and women that include sexual and reproductive health, men's and women's social and economic roles, and family responsibilities.
- Young Worker Initiatives
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) young worker initiatives are designed to reach teens (of either gender), their parents, educators, and employers. OSHA’s Web site features materials that are designed to reach young women ages 14-24 with information that will contribute to their safety and health in the workplace. In this effort, OSHA is joined by a number of other Federal agencies to share resources and information through the Federal Network for Young Worker Safety and Health, which aims to prevent occupational injuries and illness among workers from age 14 through 24. Each summer, OSHA focuses on summer jobs for young workers and develops special outreach programs for this seasonal influx of new workers. Among the regional initiatives are efforts to join with the Girl Scouts of America in local programs. For example, OSHA’s Providence, Rhode Island Area Office helped their local Girl Scout organization establish a safety and health merit badge.
- Women in Construction
The OSHA Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Heath (ACCSH), which advises the Secretary of Labor and Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, has an ongoing work group that focuses on women in construction. The work group is currently engaged in several activities including: reviewing and considering updating the 1996 Health and Safety of Women in Construction (HASWIC) report, which contains recommendations for improving workplace conditions for women in construction; compiling a list of manufacturers and vendors who provide personal protective equipment and clothing designed for women; developing recommendations for improving sanitation conditions for women on construction sites; and developing other recommendations for combating harassment and alienation of female construction workers. The work group is also exploring harassment and alienation as barriers to safety for female construction workers.
- OSHA and the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) - Chapter 96 Alliance
OSHA and the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) - Chapter 96 in Delaware recently launched an alliance to promote workplace safety and health for all women in construction. The alliance will provide the association's members and others with information, guidance and access to training resources that will help protect workers’ safety and health, particularly by reducing and preventing exposure to construction hazards.
As part of the alliance implementation, staff from OSHA’s Wilmington, Delaware Area Office will visit vocational schools this fall to encourage students to participate in a Mentoring a Girl in Construction (MAGIC)* Summer Camp. This is a one-week day camp designed to introduce high school girls to careers in construction, and an opportunity to learn about the avenues of employment available to women in the construction industry. NAWIC Delaware Chapter # 96 will hold its first MAGIC camp in the summer of 2010.
OSHA, the Georgia Local Section of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers, the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Education, and the G eorgia Tech 21(d) Onsite Consultation Program AllianceIn April 2009, the group participated in the Construction CareerExpo at the Georgia International Convention Center (GICC). This event included exhibitors, demonstrations and hands-on activities. Approximately 30% (1,844) of the 6,145 participants in the event were women or girls. The Alliance also conducted OSHA 10-hour (construction and general industry) safety and health classes at nine high schools and career development programs for 278 students. The participants in these courses included several female students. On June 15-19, 2009, an Alliance representative from OSHA served on a panel for the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) MAGIC* (Mentoring a Girl in Construction) Camp in Lawrenceville, GA. Approximately 16 girls participated in the event.
OSHA’s Atlanta Region, the Georgia Local Section of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers, the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia, Georgia Department of Education, and the G eorgia Tech 21(d) Onsite Consultation Program formed an Alliance to provide career/technical education teachers, students and others with information, guidance and access to training resources that will help protect career/technical education students’ health and safety in the construction and general industries.
- Additional International Efforts
- Gender and the International Labor Organization
DOL’s Office of International Relations (OIR), located in the Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB), oversees U.S. government representation at the International Labor Organization (ILO). The ILO is working to integrate gender perspectives into all aspects of its work. The June 2009 International Labor Conference (ILC) in Geneva convened a Committee on Gender Equality, which focused on the theme “Gender Equality at the Heart of Decent Work.” DOL’s Women’s Bureau, assisted by ILAB, led the United States delegation to this Committee. DOL officials worked with government, employer and worker representatives to chart a strategic course for the ILO’s future work on gender equality. The Committee examined the key elements that should form part of the international and national responses to address the gender-specific challenges of globalization. The Committee also discussed immediate, intermediate, and long-term measures needed to achieve gender equality and offset the negative gender effects of the current global economic crisis. DOL officials underscored the Administration’s commitment to gender equality by sharing examples of program and policy best practices, including the establishment of the White House Council on Women and Girls.
- Gender and the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor (IACML)
OIR represents DOL at the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor (IACML). The IACML brings together ministries of labor from the 34 democracies of the Western hemisphere. OIR, in coordination with DOL’s Women’s Bureau, participated in an IACML study and a July 200 workshop that examined the structure and processes employed by gender offices within government ministries. Study results formed the basis of a report and recommendations for enhancing the capacities of ministries to promote gender equality in the world of work. Follow-up activities will include sharing of best practices and bilateral technical exchanges.
At the 16 th IACML in October 2009, Secretary Solis joined other ministers in adopting a Declaration that calls for, inter alia, working towards a continuing reduction in the general gender gap and the integration of a gender perspective in employment policies and economic recovery programs.
- Future Programs
Since her confirmation, Secretary Solis has spent time with DOL agencies to assess the Department’s programs and policies. The Secretary has asked several agencies to improve existing programs and create new programs that impact the lives of women and girls. Below are several programs and policies, which are a result of these meetings, that will begin in the near future.
- Health Care Worker Training
The Department is investing in the training of workers for careers in the health care industry. For example, under the Recovery Act, DOL has announced approximately $220 million in competitive grants for high growth occupations, with a focus on health care. Women continue to make up a disproportionate share of workers, such as nurses, in health occupations. The Department is working to ensure that successful career ladders will assist workers in the industry to move into occupations with family sustaining wages.
- Women’s Bureau National Web site
The Women’s Bureau will create a national Web site that serves as a forum where workers, workforce development professionals, employers, and unions can communicate, access, and share information and resources pertaining to high-growth and emerging industries and occupations. It shall provide a means of increasing women’s interest in, and awareness of, employment in high-growth and emerging industry sectors, and shall include relevant information on support services for women.
- Work-Life Issues
DOL is committed to reducing work-life conflicts for all workers. Changes in the labor force and evolving definitions of modern families mean that DOL needs to carefully examine how it can best address the conflicts between workers’ personal and work-related responsibilities. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy has convened an internal working group of relevant DOL agencies to review how DOL can improve programs, policies, and regulations to better meet the needs of today’s workers.
- Women Veterans
Women veterans are served through Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) Jobs for Veterans State Grants (employment services through the One-Stop Career Center system), the Veterans’ Workforce Investment Program (employment programs targeting recently separated service members and veterans with employment barriers) and the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP). Some HVRP grantees provide specialized services for women veterans within the framework of their overall operations (such as reserving a certain set of rooms in transitional housing for women).
For FY 2010, the Secretary has directed VETS to create an initiative specifically to serve women veterans who are homeless. Because the mainstream HVRP program often experiences difficulty in enrolling women veterans, VETS will work with the Women’s Bureau and the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a demonstration program to serve women veterans who are homeless. The Women’s Bureau has conducted research with women veterans that are homeless in six geographical areas to identify the barriers to employment, and VETS will use that information to tailor the demonstration program.
- Women and Discrimination
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has several upcoming programs to improve the lives of America’s women and girls. These initiatives include:
- Reevaluation of its construction enforcement program under the Executive Order’s implementing regulations at 41 CFR 60-4 to ensure that federal contractors not only take affirmative action to reach out to women in the construction trades, but provide them with an environment that is free of discrimination and harassment.
- Establishment of a special emphasis, both during the complaint investigation and compliance evaluation process, to detect and resolve sex discrimination. In this area, OFCCP will incorporate specific audit steps to ensure that employees are not being discriminated against for exercising their family medical leave options, are provided with equal opportunities in hiring and promotion, and are not treated disparately in termination.
- Evaluating its Section 503 and VEVRAA enforcement programs. With more and more veterans returning from Iraq and the high unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities, OFCCP stands committed to ensuring that they are provided with good jobs.
- Health Care Worker Training
- Women and Disabilities
DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) plans to work with the DOL's Women’s Bureau (WB) to address the specific needs of women with disabilities who are in the workforce and/or desiring to enter the workforce, as well as the needs of women who are caregivers for children and/or adult family members who have disabilities. This initiative will include information and outreach activities about existing laws and programs, promote and encourage "best practices" by the Federal government and other employers, and establish baseline data to better measure performance. Best practices will include ODEP’s evidence-based Customized Employment as a critical flexible workplace strategy. This project is planned to be a one year collaborative agreement between the WB and ODEP starting in FY 2010. The collaboration will expand employment opportunities for all job seekers and employees by increasing employers’ understanding of disability employment issues, including issues that women with disabilities may share as common barriers, and the utilization of Customized Employment strategies within the broader area of workplace flexibility for the global workforce.
- Women with Disabilities and Entrepreneurship
ODEP plans to initiate a three-year Self-employment for Women and Minorities with Disabilities project that will document models of self-employment assistance and identify policy themes nationally and in select states to advance self-employment for women and minorities with disabilities. The goal of this FY 2010 initiative is so that women and minorities with disabilities will have increased access to information, finances, and other supports.
- In celebration of Women’s History Month, Secretary Solis hosted Women Members of Congress at the Department. The discussion highlighted the various roles and responsibilities the Department of Labor has, both domestically and abroad. [March 25, 2009]
- Secretary Solis joined Department of Labor employees at a Women’s History Month event with author, journalist, editor and broadcaster Nancy Nichols. This event focused on environmental impacts and health, complementing the theme of Women’s History Month, “Women Taking the Lead to Save our Planet.” [March 20, 2009]
- To mark Earth Day 2009, Secretary Solis hosted a discussion on Women and Green Jobs with Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. For the first time at the Department of Labor, more than 35 leading women from labor, business, academia, government and the non-profit sectors from around the country shared how they are shaping our green economic strategy and how we can work together to ensure that women have access to the green economy. [April 22, 2009]
- Secretary Solis spoke at the Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) workshop for grantees titled, “A World Without Child Labor: Dream, Design and Deliver.” This workshop highlighted some of the strategies the Department of Labor is engaging in to help remove children throughout the world from exploitive work and to increase their opportunities for education. [April 22, 2009]
- Secretary Solis visited with the leadership of Working Mother’s Magazine to discuss how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act can benefit women. [April 29, 2009]
- Secretary Solis hosted a workshop at the Department of Labor to commemorate the World Day Against Child Labor – Give Girls a Chance and to celebrate the 10 th Anniversary of the adoption of the International Labor Organization’s Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Senator Tom Harkin and Tina Tchen of the White House Council on Women and Girls participated along with representatives of academia, non-governmental organizations, labor and industry, and key U.S. government agencies working on this issue. [June 10, 2009]
- Secretary Solis released three reports on child labor and forced labor, including a list of 122 goods from 58 countries made using child labor and forced labor. [September 10, 2009]
- The Women’s Bureau awarded a contract for development of a publication designed to increase women’s access to high-growth and emerging industry occupations in the green jobs sector nationwide. [September 30, 2009]
- Secretary Solis spoke at the 16 th Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she spoke about reducing poverty and creating opportunities for women and vulnerable communities. [October 7, 2009]
- Secretary Solis joined discussions with DOL employees and two prominent Latina economists. Participants learned more about how DOL can develop strategies to ensure that everyone, including women, has access to good jobs. [October 20 and 21, 2009]
- Secretary Solis delivered the keynote remarks and participated in a question and answer session on the release of "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything." She also spoke at the 23 rd Annual California Governor and First Lady’s Conference on Women. [October 19 and October 27, 2009]
- Secretary Solis joined the Veteran’s Employment and Training Service (VETS) in hosting DOL's annual "Salute to Vets" in honor of the service and sacrifice made by our nation’s veterans. The event featured a panel discussion with Secretary Solis and two women veterans. [November 5, 2009]
- Deputy Secretary Harris testified before the Senate HELP Committee to announce the Administration’s support of the Healthy Families Act and other proposals that advance workplace flexibility. [November 10, 2009]
Women, and in particular women of color, face numerous challenges in the workplace and in their personal lives. In addition to the challenges faced by women of color, women with disabilities are further disadvantaged because of combined discrimination based on gender and disability. Women continue to earn less than men, and the wage gap is even greater for women of color. New challenges, such as the global pandemic of 2009 H1N1, can be a particular concern to working women. Helping working women and their families meet these new challenges is a priority of the Department.
Addressing issues that adversely impact women and girls will improve the lives of working families and will help women achieve their full potential in their personal and professional lives. The Department of Labor is committed to promoting the work-life balance not only for our own employees but for working people across the country and is actively working to achieve equity for women and girls from all socioeconomic groups in the United States and around the world.
Issues related to work-life balance are a priority for the Secretary and for the Administration. Work-life balance is not just an issue for working women - the Administration knows that it is a family issue. One of the key components of a good job is having workplace flexibility for family and personal caregiving. DOL is examining work-life policies such as paid and unpaid leave, flexible work schedules and teleworking, employee assistance programs, childcare, and eldercare support. DOL will work to improve work-life policies, and efforts are underway to see how we can better meet the needs of modern working families.
Secretary Solis has directed all DOL agencies to integrate the interests of women and girls with respect to new initiatives, such as green jobs. The Secretary is committed to helping women attain high paying, career ladder jobs in nontraditional fields. Under her leadership, DOL will seek to ensure that families, especially women, have access to employment and economic opportunities as a means to address poverty and promote worker rights. DOL will continue to create and implement policies that empower women and girls in the United States and internationally.
Sample of Department of Labor Activities
Related to Women
MAGIC* Camp (Copyrighted) was originally started by two women in the Georgia NAWIC Chapter # 360, in the summer of 2007. It was then adopted by National NAWIC. Since 2007, 15 NAWIC Chapters from across the U.S. have adopted the MAGIC program.]