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Gender and Violence at 100 Days

As you might expect in an Administration helmed by a president who has bragged about sexually assaulting women, the first 100 days have raised concerns about gender violence.  The most obvious questions involve the future of government programs directly targeting gender-based violence, but other policy decisions, from immigration to education, have implications for gender violence as well. The effects ripple outward from leadership to policing reform, transgender rights, campus sexual assault efforts, and programs designed to help the victims of intimate partner (or “domestic”) violence and beyond.

Violence in the President’s Inner Circle

When, on March 31, the President signed an executive order declaring April National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, it felt more than a bit ironic.

Allegations of gender violence have long dogged Trump and members of his inner circle.

At least fifteen women have accused Trump of sexual assault, and during the campaign, the nation was shocked when, just before the election, a tape in which he boasted about grabbing women by the genitals surfaced.

Steve Bannon, the President’s chief strategist, and Andrew Puzder, nominee for Secretary of Labor, have both been accused of intimate partner violence. Bannon remains part of the Administration (though, by some reports, in a less prominent role), while Puzder withdrew his name from consideration.

President Trump reinforced the impression that he is unconcerned about gender-based violence when, on April 5, when he declared Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly a “good man” in response to news that O’Reilly had settled cases in which five women alleged sexual assault or sexual harassment. O’Reilly has since left the network.

Violence Against Women Act

What might happen to the Violence Against Women Act is a particularly troubling question.  VAWA was first passed in 1994 and most recently reauthorized in 2013.  It offers substantial funding for police, prosecutors, courts, civil legal services, and community-based agencies working with victims of gender-based violence.  Under the Trump administration, funding for these programs may be in jeopardy.  The “skinny” budget floated by the Administration before the inauguration in January eliminated funding for the Office on Violence Against Women and all VAWA programs.  Subsequent budget documents have backed away from that position, but

VAWA is scheduled to be reauthorized in 2018; at least three members of the Trump cabinet—Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions—voted against VAWA’s 2013 reauthorization.

Other policy priorities are quite clear, however. The Trump administration is already hurting victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault.

Endangering Undocumented Victims of Violence

Throughout the campaign, the President made it clear that deporting undocumented people would be a priority in his administration.

As promised, on January 25, the President issued an executive order on border security and immigration enforcement.  It had almost immediate, significant implications for people subjected to gender violence.

Two weeks after the order was signed, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested an undocumented woman seeking protection from intimate partner violence in the El Paso County Courthouse.  Within weeks of the arrest in El Paso, prosecutors in Denver, Colorado, Travis County, Texas, and San Antonio, Texas were forced to drop domestic violence cases because the undocumented victims and witnesses in those cases feared deportation if they came to testify.

Women legally in the country are also affected by these actions.

Legal residents and citizens partnered with undocumented men may be leery of calling police for fear of seeing their partners deported.   Some women subjected to abuse rely on their undocumented partners for economic, parenting, and other forms of support and would be left destitute if their partners were deported.  Others fear the destruction of their families through deportation.  And undocumented men may be using the specter of ICE intervention to prevent their partners from seeking assistance, warning that they will increase their abuse if their partners expose them to deportation.  By preventing victims of gender-based violence from seeking assistance, immigration “crack-downs” hold long-term consequences for the health and well-being of many women.

Transgender Protections and Violence

Similarly, it took little time for the incoming administration to pose a threat to protections newly granted to transgender people.

On February 22, the Administration revoked guidelines allowing transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identities.

As a result of the White House’s roll-back of Obama-era protections on transgender issues, the Supreme Court remanded G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, a case involving a transgender high school student’s right to use the boys’ bathroom in his high school, to the Fourth Circuit.  The case was subsequently dismissed, though, as Senior Judge Andre Davis noted, G.G.’s case was about “much more than bathrooms…. It’s about protecting the rights of transgender people in public spaces and not forcing them to exist on the margins.”  President Trump’s actions first 100 days have jeopardized the safety and dignity of transgender people.

Policing and Gender Violence

Under President Obama, the Department of Justice increased its scrutiny of police departments.  The DOJ found evidence of unconstitutional police practices in a number of jurisdictions, including Baltimore, Maryland, New Orleans, Louisiana, Missoula, Montana, and elsewhere. In Puerto Rico, for example, the DOJ found that police officers were not being disciplined for committing intimate partner violence (in some cases, despite multiple arrests). In New Orleans, Missoula, and Baltimore, the DOJ found that the handling of rape and sexual assault cases was deeply problematic. Those jurisdictions and others entered into agreements with the DOJ, called consent decrees, to remedy these problems.

Gender-biased policing was among the issues covered in those consent decrees; police departments agreed, for example, to obtain specialized training on trauma-informed interviewing and investigation of sexual assault claims.

President Trump’s choice for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, though, has been publicly skeptical about the value of these consent decrees, and would not, in his confirmation hearings, commit to their continued enforcement.  On April 3, Sessions ordered a review of the consent decrees to determine whether they were consistent with the administration’s goals of working with law enforcement to ensure public safety.  The review has raised doubts about the Administration’s commitment to police reform generally and combating gender-biased policing specifically.

Reproductive Health and Victims of Violence

The Administration’s international and health policies are troubling, too.  On January 26, the Administration reinstated the “global gag order,” a rule preventing organizations receiving U.S. funds from providing abortions or information about abortions, even in cases of rape and sexual assault.

On April 4, the U.S. blocked all funding for the United Nations Population Fund, which provides support to women experiencing humanitarian crises, including rape and sexual assault and has, in the past, provided medicine to prevent HIV infection to victims of sexual assault in South Sudan.

And on April 12, President Trump signed legislation designed to cut off all federal funding to Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions (despite the fact that it has never been legal for these groups to use federal funds to pay for abortion services). If these policy changes were made with any attention toward their impact on victims of intimate partner and sexual violence, that consideration was apparently dismissed.

Sexual Assault on Campus

It remains to be seen whether the Trump Administration will continue to support efforts to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

During her confirmation hearings, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos refused to commit to continued adherence to what is known as the “Dear Colleague” letter, a document from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights which stresses that sexual assault is a form of sexual harassment actionable under Title IX.

The President’s nominee for general counsel to the Department of Education, Carlos Muñiz, represented Florida State University in a Title IX action brought by a student who alleged that she had been raped by FSU’s star quarterback, Jameis Winston.  During that case, Muñiz made it clear that he did not agree with the DOE’s decision to independently investigate the matter.


Anti-violence advocates had grave concerns about the Trump Administration.  Its first 100 days have done little to allay those fears.  Instead, we’ve seen a stunning lack of concern regarding the impact of leaders and policies on gender-based violence in the U.S. and internationally.  If the Administration wanted to change the perception that it cares little about gender violence, fully funding VAWA, committing to continued enforcement of criminal and civil laws, and protecting the health, welfare, and dignity of those subjected to gender-based violence would be a good start. For victims of gender-based violence, such support cannot come soon enough.

– Leigh Goodmark, Professor, University of Maryland Carey School of Law

— Photo by U.S. Embassy Pakistan

A More Inclusive Trade Agenda Must Include Gender

Yesterday, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström accepted the Association of Women in International Trade’s prestigious woman of the year award in Washington, D.C. In her acceptance speech, “Building bridges, smashing glass ceilings”, Commissioner Malmström emphasized that trade liberalization and gender equality are mutually supportive, noting that the two most trade-enabling countries in the world —The Netherlands and Singapore— are also “highly gender equal” when it comes to wages. This point is an important one to emphasize within the current debate on the costs and benefits of trade agreements to which the United States is a party, and is supported by research.

According to late University of Chicago Economist Gary Becker’s classic model of discrimination, costly discrimination cannot persist with increased market competition. Because trade promotes international competition, it may also reduce firms’ ability to discriminate against women.

In fact, studies in the U.S. have found that the residual gender wage gap narrowed more quickly in trade-affected manufacturing industries that experienced larger increases in competition with trade reform. The Council of Economic Advisers’ 2015 Economic Report of the President similarly demonstrated that U.S. industries with larger decreases in tariffs experienced larger relative income gains for female employees between 1989 and 2009. These findings are important to remember, particularly in light of the fact that at current rates, the gender wage gap in the United States is not projected to close until 2059.

Not only may trade contribute to greater gender equity, studies have also found that advancing women’s equality could add 12 to 28 trillion dollars to global GDP by 2025.

Although many recognize that gender equality and economic growth are mutually supportive, this relationship is seldom studied and as Commissioner Malmström notes, there is “too little data on how trade can impact on women’s opportunities.” Indeed, a joint report released in early April by the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, entitled “Making Trade an Engine of Growth for All”, contains a mere paragraph on gender.

This World Bank Report argues that we must respond to the increasing calls for inward-looking economic policies by the current U.S. administration and other countries around the world with a more “inclusive” trade agenda.

If inclusion is truly the goal, then this response must entail more than a passing reference to gender equity.

In Commissioner Malmström’s own words: “In an age when there is increasing – and justified – attention on those who seem ‘left behind’ by globalisation…we shouldn’t forget those who have been – or continue to be – left behind in other ways.”

Cosette Creamer is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota and affiliated faculty at the University of Minnesota Law School

— Photo of Cecilia Malmström by Johannes Jansson

Serving their States, Building Potential for the Future

Center for American Women and Politics findings on Women of Color in State Legislatures

When the story of women in 2016 congressional elections was written, the overall number of women serving in Congress remained the same, but the number of women of color grew significantly. Of the 14 new women elected to Congress, nine were women of color. Three new women of color entered the U.S. Senate, expanding the total there from one to four and quadrupling all-time high to serve simultaneously. In the U.S. House of Representatives, six new women of color brought the House total to 34, also an all-time high.

Since state legislatures often serve as pipelines to higher office, the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) examined the number of women of color in each state legislature, both as a proportion of women and as a proportion of legislators overall.

Nationally, women of color hold 5.9 percent of all state legislative seats; 23.7 percent of women lawmakers are women of color.

As more policy authority is devolved to states, representation of women and women of color becomes even more important substantively, as well. For example, last minute changes to the American Health Care (ACA replacement) proposal included the option for states to decide on essential benefits, receive Medicaid funding as a block grant, instead of a guaranteed benefit, and require able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work. Recent plans to revive an ACA replacement proposal would give states even more authority on aspects of the law.

In other Gender Policy Report posts, ACA impacts on racial disparities in health insurance access and the many ACA provisions that benefit women and LGBTQ populations have been spelled out.

Research tells us that women of color bring their distinctive voices and experiences to elective office.

For example, African American women state legislators have been found to be distinctive from other legislators in their focus on women’s interests and African American interests. A similar pattern is emerging for Latinas in state legislatures.

The state with the largest proportion of women of color among its women legislators is Hawaii (76.2 percent), followed by Texas (62.2 percent), Alabama (60.0 percent), California (57.7 percent) and Mississippi (54.2 percent). Hawaii also has the largest proportion of women of color in its legislature overall (21.1 percent), followed by New Mexico (16.1 percent), New Jersey (15.0 percent), Nevada (14.3 percent) and Maryland (13.8 percent).

At the bottom of the list, three states have no women of color in their legislatures: North Dakota, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Maine has one woman of color (1.6 percent of all women, .5 percent of all legislators) in its legislature.

Since communities of color have always been underrepresented in government, it’s important to strengthen their presence and impact at every level. We made progress in the recent elections, but we need many more women of color to run and win.

— Debbie Walsh, Director, Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers

— Photo of Representative Susan Allen, one of four Native American women serving in the Minnesota legislature, by Paul Battaglia, Minnesota House Information


Proportion of Women in State Legislatures

*States with the exact same percentages within their category are given the same rank; states with no women of color share the rank of 48.


Additional details:

More information is available about women in state legislatures and women of color in elective office on the CAWP website.

Dine-out Economy Rests on the backs of Women

America loves dining out. In fact, the restaurant industry is among the fastest growing economic sectors in the United States. So popular is the restaurant industry that few of us are aware of its worst kept secret: the subminimum wage for tipped workers. While consumers receive prompt service and delicious food from food service professionals who take great pride in their work, most consumers do not know the extent of poverty, discrimination, and sexual harassment faced by millions of women in this industry. In the absence of and unlikely prospects for federal action under the Trump administration, the policy changes necessary to end this dehumanizing and gender inequitable status quo are occurring at the state and local levels.

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) is an organization I co-founded that advocates on behalf of America’s 12 million restaurant workers. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of tipped workers, among these 12 million, are women. They work in casual dining establishments like Denny’s or The Olive Garden. They are reliant on tips—and thus, the whims of customers—to survive. Financial insecurity is commonplace.

The restaurant industry includes 7 of the 10 lowest paying jobs in the country.

Half of the women in the minimum wage workforce are tipped workers.  Segregation of women, particularly women of color, in these jobs is a major contributor to the gender pay gap.  Servers are twice as likely to use food stamps as the rest of the US workforce, and three times as likely to live in poverty.

In my travels for ROC, I have heard countless horror stories of workplace sexual harassment. These anecdotal reports are backed up by data.

In fact, restaurants are the single largest source of sexual harassment claims in the U.S.  Seven percent of American women work in the restaurant industry, yet 37% of all sexual harassment claims to the EEOC are from the restaurant industry.

Verbal and physical abuse is rampant. Cat calls and inappropriate touching are a regular occurrence. In our survey, 90% of servers said they have experienced sexual behavior that is scary or unwanted; sometimes coming from a regular customer, other times an employer or a coworker.

These are professional women who take pride in their work. Yet, they are among the most vulnerable workers in America. Reliance on tips requires women to perform and dress in gender stereotypical ways (Hooters is one of the most egregious examples, but the reports are rampant from “family restaurants” like the Olive Garden) and dissuades women tipped workers from fighting back. When customers provide the bulk of their wages; pleasing them at all costs becomes an extra strong imperative. Servers and their bosses believe they can make more money if servers are “grab-able.”

Challenging an employer could impact their job status or even their schedules. A week of undesirable shifts means they go home to their children with less money for groceries or diapers.

The demeaning and inequitable consequences of America’s subminimum wage for tipped workers should come as no surprise. The practice is rooted in slavery and racism. As examined in my most recent book, Forked: A New Standard for American Dining, post-slavery America viewed tipping as a practice fit only for former slaves. Business owners loathed having to pay them. The practice of tipping solved that problem. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of groups like the National Restaurant Association (NRA), this legacy of exploitation persist today through the subminimum wage system.  The federal minimum wage for a tipped worker is just $2.13 per hour and has not changed for more than two decades.

The NRA argues that a tip penalty is a good thing. Experience from seven states that have already established one minimum wage, rather than the two-tiered approach that provides a sub-wage for tipped workers and is codified at the national level, suggest otherwise. In these states, we find that restaurant industries have higher restaurant sales per capita and higher job growth than the 42 states with lower wages for tipped workers.  In these state, tips are not eliminated.  Tipping is a bonus, not a base, and does not decrease when one minimum wage is instituted.

In addition, our survey results show that reports of unwanted or scary sexual behavior are twice as high in states with a two-tiered minimum wage than in those without it.

The federal minimum wage law does require employers to ensure that tips make up the difference between the lower minimum wage and the regular minimum wage. Unfortunately, the US Department of Labor reports an 84% violation rate for this provision.  And even a 100% compliance rate would not address the underlying structural inequalities that result when a largely female workforce must live off tips for any portion of their base wage, leading to exploitation and the worst sexual harassment of any industry.

Our research and experience suggests that such a system does not really work for employers either.  Enforcement of the two-tiered wage system is incredibly burdensome. Proving that workers have met the minimum wage level with their combined hourly wage and tips is challenging and has created tremendous liability. Our research has found that restaurants in New York, a two-tiered minimum wage state, face three times the liability as restaurants in Los Angeles; California has no lower wage for tipped workers. As a result of this increased liability, many high profile New York employers, like Danny Meyer, have voiced their support for the elimination of the lower wage for tipped workers or One Fair Wage.

Despite benefits for employers and workers, neither Congressional leadership nor the Trump administration has spoken out in favor of the three federal bills that have been introduced to create one federal minimum wage, leaving it to other levels of government.  Five states are currently considering “One Fair Wage” legislation. If successful, they would join the seven states that have already have addressed the structural inequalities inherent in a two-tiered minimum wage law (see map above).  Without this policy change, we will continue to dine out at the expense of women and the families they increasingly support.

— Saru Jayaraman directs the Goldman School of Public Policy’s Food Labor Research Center at the University of California Berkeley and co-founded and co-directs the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC).

— Map produced by Aimee Fritsch, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, University of Minnesota

— Photo by Thomas Hawk


Why Deregulation May Be Especially Bad for Women

The Republican party has traditionally sought to reduce regulation on business, and the Trump administration has made such reductions a priority. De-regulation features prominently in its recent budget plan (“America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again”: as a way to save money and restore America’s greatness. By burdening businesses, the document explains, regulations “function much like taxes that unnecessarily inhibit growth and employment” (p. 9).

Thus, the administration has outlined three actions: a federal-level, 60-day “regulatory freeze” on the creation of new rules; the creation of bodies within each federal agency to carry out the new regulatory priorities; and a new requirement that all federal agencies cut two existing regulations for each new one issued.

This Executive Order “konmari” or housecleaning includes a regulatory cost cap of $0 for 2017—any new regulation must be, effectively, costless.

To many, this approach sounds fantastic. Removing regulations on businesses, it is hoped, will relieve employers of the costs of regulatory compliance and allow them to create more jobs, thus improving the economy. But here’s the catch:  many regulations exist to protect people – consumers, employees, and average citizens.

Although it is difficult at this point to predict which regulations are likely to be culled, it seems reasonable that if the “one regulation forward, two regulations back” approach holds, many of the regulations that are discarded are likely to be from OSHA.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), part of the United States Department of Labor, is responsible for enacting many of the regulations related to work. Created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, OSHA is charged with assuring “safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards.”

OSHA is a likely target for “regulation fishing” for three reasons. First, OSHA exists almost solely to set and enforce standards and regulations. The sheer number of regulations involved in its operation makes the agency a target. Second, OSHA rules constrain businesses, and the cost of business would likely be lower without many OSHA rules. Third, OSHA is not a hugely prominent body in the public consciousness (unlike, for instance, the EPA), and many of OSHA’s individual regulations are so mundane or limited in scope that a widespread public backlash is unlikely to ensue if its rules are cut.

If OSHA rules are discarded, this will hurt workers of all genders, but in starkly different ways. Data, for instance, suggest men and women suffer differentially in workplace accidents.

According to OSHA’s workplace fatality data, there were 1,268 workplace fatalities in fiscal year 2015. Trucks, ladders, collisions, roofs, vehicles, forklifts, and trees were especially deadly, collectively accounting about half of these deaths (624). Only 7% (36) of these are identifiable as women. Changing regulations with regard to industries like construction could, thus, have a very severe effect on men, who are far more likely than women to die on the job.

Yet, gratefully, not all workplace injuries are fatalities. In the same year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 902,160 non-fatal occupational injuries. Though men accounted for just about 62% of these non-fatal injuries in private industry, certain categories of injury appear distinctly gendered. Men, for example, represent far more of the nonfatal workplace injuries associated with dangerous jobs: 91% of nonfatal workplace injuries that result in amputations, 93% of injuries involving trucks, 92% of injuries involving fires or explosions, and 80% of injuries involving getting caught in equipment affected men.

On the other hand, we can identify two categories of workplace injury that distinctly affect women: those related to repetitive work or office work and those involving being injured by another person while on the job.

First, women account for 60% of injuries caused by “repetitive motion, involving microtasks”, 66% of incidents of carpal tunnel syndrome, and 62% of reported tendonitis. Regulations regarding office work and other repetitive motion are distinctly un-sexy, un-prominent rules that are easily presented as unnecessarily burdensome to companies, but dispensing with them would harm female employees disproportionately.

Second, women are far, far more likely than men to be hurt by other people while on the job. In 2015, women accounted for 68% of “intentional injury by another person” and 70% of injuries caused by “injury by person unintentional or intent unknown”, as well as 62% of those caused by “violence and other injuries by persons or animal” while on the job (“animal and insect related incidents” are a separate, fairly gender-balanced category of injury). Violence against women at work is a known issue, but one that still receives less attention that it deserves. In addition to explicit violence, women are likely to be hurt by others because of the jobs they have. Specifically, women account for 81% of injuries in health care and social assistance and 60% in education services.

Nursing assistants are injured more often than workers in any other occupation, according to the BLS, and nursing assistants are primarily women.

Framing regulations as easily dispensed impediments to business—and repeating that rhetoric loudly and often—makes it easy for the public to believe all regulations are drains on the economy. Yet many were created to protect people. Just as we don’t know precisely how well existing regulations work to protect those workers, we cannot know how many additional workplace fatalities or injuries would occur in the absence of current regulations that currently exist. We can only say that their removal would not improve workers’ conditions. Moreover, removing or loosening many of these regulations could easily represent a very gendered policy: men are more likely to be killed at work and more likely to be injured while doing dangerous work, but women suffer much more from routine-use injuries, workplace violence, and other interactions with people. Since these issues are less obviously dangerous, they may be more susceptible to cuts. The de-regulation of workplace safety is very much a women’s rights issue.

— Jane Lawrence Sumner is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota

— Photo by abbamouse