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Ask a Working Woman

Posted: 05/21/08 06:48 PM ET

As working mothers, we struggle to balance work and family and sometimes fear we won't be able to make ends meet when we take unpaid maternity leave. As working women, we worry about affording health care or retirement security while suspecting we're being paid less than our male co-workers.

The AFL-CIO and our community affiliate, Working America, are offering America's working women a chance to share those concerns through our online 2008 Ask a Working Woman survey. Our bi-annual survey enables working women to share workplace concerns about such issues as equal pay and stronger family and medical leave laws. The Ask a Working Woman survey runs through June 20.

We'll compile the survey results and give them to candidates running at all levels of public office to help shape the policy agendas of incoming lawmakers.

Today, 87% of Americans say the economy is getting worse -- and women are at an even greater economic risk, according to a new study. In the past year, women's real wages fell by 3 percent, compared with half a percentage point for men's wages.

When we held the Ask a Working Woman survey in 2006, more than 22,000 women took part -- with the majority saying they were worried about such fundamental economic issues as paying for health care, not having retirement security and pay not keeping up with the cost of living.

Since then, health care has become even more unaffordable. Wages aren't keeping up with inflation or productivity. And working women are especially vulnerable in this economic crisis. Here are a few reasons why:

Women have significantly fewer savings to fall back on in a time of economic hardship. Non-married women have a net worth that's 48% lower than non-married men, and women are less likely than men to participate in employer-sponsored retirement savings programs.

Women are disproportionately at risk in the current foreclosure crisis, since women are 32% more likely than men to have subprime mortgages.

The wage gap between men and women has been stuck at 77 cents on the dollar -- 72 cents for African American women, 60 cents for Latinas. The gap has narrowed -- but primarily because men's pay has decreased, especially men of color. The wage gap is greatest for women with the most education and longest hours. And the mommy wage gap -- the difference in pay between women with kids and everyone else -- has increased.

About two-thirds of the women who responded to the 2006 AFL-CIO Ask a Working Woman survey said they don't have paid family leave benefits. And 93% said they are concerned for the next generation of working women.

Our Ask a Working Woman survey is about today's working women. But it's also about the future of our children -- a future about which we all should be concerned.

Please take a minute to take the survey here and here to share it with working women.