March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the contributions women have made in our country’s history. Today, we will be looking at how pensions can help guarantee female public employees a secure retirement. 

Female workers encounter unique challenges to retirement security for several reasons. According to the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), women work part-time jobs more often than men, making them less likely to have a retirement plan through work. Additionally, women also are more likely to leave the labor force to provide caregiving for family members, which impacts their ability to save for retirement.  

Even if a woman is a full-time member of the workforce, she will earn less than a man will throughout her career. NIRS has found that the pay disparity between men and women leads to less retirement income, as older women receive 80% of the retirement income that men do. 

Finally, women will also experience higher healthcare costs and housing in retirement since they live longer, putting them at risk of potentially outliving their savings. 

One bright spot that exists, however, is that female public employees make up 60% of the public workforce. As a result, most of them will have access to a defined-benefit pension that will economically support them in retirement. 

NIRS has previously shown that pensions support middle-class women. Their recent study on women’s retirement preparedness examined the major sources of income for women 65 and older among five different income groups. These groups ranged from women who earned less than $20,000 per year to those who made at least $80,000 or more per year. Their findings illustrated that women 65 and older who earned between $40,000 to $79,999 a year in retirement received higher proportions of their income from pensions compared to the lowest and highest-earning groups.

As the ongoing recession continues to disproportionately impact women, it’s more important than ever that policymakers protect pensions, especially for female public employees.