From the Report

Executive Summary

Strengthening economic opportunity for women is critical for the future success of our state.

In an effort to address the predicted shortage of 500,000 skilled workers by 2025, Alabama is rethinking state and local workforce development systems with the objective of creating a more integrated and cohesive system. The ongoing reorganization of the state’s workforce system presents state leaders, industry, educational institutions, and nonprofits with an opportunity to fill Alabama’s labor gaps by focusing on an untapped resource: women. This requires thinking differently about how to find and support talent by addressing and investing in the unique needs of targeted populations, like women. Investing in families is investing in the economy.

Clearing the Path: Building a Sustainable and Inclusive Workforce, a report by The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham and based on research by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) examines the question of how the state’s workforce development system serves women and their families and provides recommendations for building a workforce development system that truly works for women.

In an effort to address the predicted shortage of 500,000 skilled workers by 2025, Alabama is rethinking state and local workforce development systems with the objective of creating a more integrated and cohesive system.1 The ongoing reorganization of the state’s workforce system presents state leaders, industry, educational institutions, and nonprofits with an opportunity to fill Alabama’s labor gaps by focusing on an untapped resource: women. This requires thinking differently about how to find and support talent by addressing and investing in the unique needs of targeted populations, like women. Investing in families is investing in the economy.

Clearing the Path: Building a Sustainable and Inclusive Workforce, a report by The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham and based on research by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) examines the question of how the state’s workforce development system serves women and their families and provides recommendations for building a workforce development system that truly works for women.

Key Findings

  • Women in Alabama are well-represented in workforce development programs, yet remain under-represented in the labor force. Compared to men, Alabama women are employed at lower rates, more likely to be under-employed, and earn lower incomes. Women are also more likely than men to hold multiple jobs to make ends meet.
  • Raising Alabama’s labor participation rate to the national average could add an estimated 80,941 women to the workforce.

Alabama has the 6th highest poverty rate in the United States, and women are among the most likely to experience poverty. Even in seemingly well-designed workforce development systems, women face additional barriers. This means a functioning and seamless workforce system is crucial for thriving families and a thriving economy. Meeting Alabama’s workforce attainment goals will require community leaders to intentionally engage with the workforce development system and advocate for targeted public policy solutions. Women must be a targeted part of the solution to Alabama’s workforce challenges. A workforce development system that works for women works for Alabama.

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WATCH: Highlights from the Clearing the Path Event

On May 10, 2019, The Women’s Fund hosted over 300 community, business, and elected leaders convened for a conversation about how public policy, programs, and funding can create a workforce system that leaves no woman behind. Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield gave the keynote address. (Video courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter.)

About This Project

Alabama stands at a critical turning point.

The state is successfully recruiting industry and proactively driving toward a brighter economic future, yet Alabama has the nation’s second lowest labor participation rate in the country and the needs of too many families are going unmet.

The prevailing workforce development narrative presents job creation as the key to financial security for all Alabamians. While the availability of good jobs is certainly key to economic opportunity, other workforce structures and wraparound supports are essential to combating Alabama’s high rates of economic insecurity, especially among families headed by women.

Clearing the Path: Building a Sustainable and Inclusive Workforce for Alabama begins to establish a common understanding of the state’s workforce development structures as well as how public policy can create a workforce system that leaves no woman behind.

Leveraging research to illuminate the issues most impacting women to influence public dialogue and corporate decision-making is core to The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham’s mission. Clearing the Path, our research platform, commissions and communicates sound evidence highlighting critical barriers to economic opportunity for women.

Previous Clearing the Path reports focused on barriers to employment facing single women with children and highlighted family-friendly workplace policies from 19 companies in the Greater Birmingham region effectively attracting and retaining diverse talent. This year Clearing the Path expands our conversation on women and workforce to include innovative public sector solutions. Long-lasting systemic change for women is not possible without scaling our philanthropic efforts to create access to postsecondary education, affordable child care, better jobs and sustainable employment for Alabama families.

The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham is proud to present, Clearing the Path, our first comprehensive summary of Alabama’s workforce development system and exploration of how the system can meet the unique needs of women and their families. We hope this report and the action it inspires will accelerate economic opportunity for women. Because when women move forward, entire communities and the state of Alabama moves with them.

From the Report

Help Clear the Path for Women

  • Design and Connect women to workforce development programs that work for them and their children
  • Engage workforce system leadership to design programs where women and their families can thrive.
  • Advocate for the integration of social services with workforce development programs.

Read more about these recommendations starting on Page 21.

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