Impact Feature Issue on Employment and Women With Disabilities

Findings on Gender Differences in Employment of Individuals Receiving Rehabilitation Services (sidebar)


Heike Boeltzig

Jaimie C. Timmons

John Butterworth

Federal policy shifts over the last two decades have led to increased emphasis on supporting people with disabilities to enter integrated employment. Even so, there remains a significant gap in employment rates between people with and without disabilities, and the situation for women with developmental disabilities (DD) in particular is problematic.

A study of employment outcomes of 706 men and women with DD who recently entered individual employment with the support of a community rehabilitation provider was conducted between 2004 and 2005 by the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. The findings, based on an analysis of theNational Survey of Community Rehabilitation Providers - Individual Employment Outcomes Survey, suggest that while men and women with DD are earning meaningful wages, women with DD are working fewer hours in low wage jobs and earn less money, although only the latter was found to be statistically significant. On average, men worked more hours than women (24 versus 20). Most men and women worked part-time while 21% of men and 15% of women worked full-time (more than 36 hours per week). On average, men earned more than women; the median weekly wage was $152 for men and $127 for women. Gender differences across all wage ranges were significant. Findings also showed that men earned more on average than women in almost all job types, except assembly, manufacturing, and clerical jobs. No significant gender differences were found in regard to client access to benefits such as paid time-off and health care. Significant gender differences were found, however, with respect to the types of jobs men and women with DD held in individual employment. More women than men worked in food services and clerical services, while more men worked in the maintenance and janitorial sector, in assembly, manufacturing, and packaging.

Effective employment supports need to provide access to a full range of occupations and address individual interests and economic priorities. Both men and women with DD fall short of earning a living wage, and these survey data suggest that respondents lack access to the full range of job options.