Founded in 1987, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is “a public policy research organization dedicated to informing and stimulating the debate on public policy issues of critical importance to women and their families.” IWPR states that it “specialize[s] in the use of quantitative techniques and original research, interpreting the data through the lens of the special conditions of women’s lives, paying close attention to gender and racial disparities.” The Rockefeller Family Fund describes this group as “a research backbone of the women’s movement.”
IWPR compares the relative positions of men to women in each of five program areas, attempting to show gaps that are inequitable to women:
(a) Poverty and Welfare: This program opposes the welfare reforms that were codified in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Ignoring the fact that welfare rolls shrank by 50 percent and some 2.3 million fewer children were living in poverty by 2002, IWPR contends that “fewer recipients [now] have access to health insurance, fewer have acquired at least some college education, … more are concentrated in urban areas. … the caseload itself is increasingly made up of people of color … improvements to economic well-being are nominal.”
(b) Family and Work: This program advocates paid family leave and publicly funded child care for working mothers.
(c) Employment and Earnings: Claiming that women earn only 76.5 cents for every dollar earned by their equally experienced, equally qualified male colleagues, this program focuses on such issues as pay equity, the “wage gap,” the “glass ceiling,” affirmative action, and the role of women in unions and management.(d) Health and Safety: This program focuses on women’s access to government-funded health insurance, preventive health services, abortion-on-demand, and domestic-violence intervention.
(e) Women’s Civic and Political Participation: This program encourages women’s greater involvement in the political process, as activists, voters, candidates, and policy-makers. It concludes that “gender gaps” in any of these areas are prima facie evidence of discrimination against women requiring government intervention.
In its 2004 report, “The Status of Women in Our Country: A Community Research Tool,” IWPR identifies a number of resources available to individuals seeking statistical information on how American women fare, as compared to men, economically, politically, and in terms of their health care options. Among the organizations that IWPR names as reliable sources of information on this topic are the League of Women Voters, the Michigan Democratic Women’s Caucus, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the National Council of Women’s Organizations. A similar IWPR report, titled “The Status of Women in the States,” further recommends publications produced by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Organization for Women (NOW), the National Women’s Law Center, the Older Women’s League, the Service Employees International Union, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Contributing as an advisory committee member to this report was Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal.
IWPR advocates unrestricted access to taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand, stating that “access to abortion is essential to the economic well-being of women and girls, and the ability of women to control their reproductive lives influences educational and employment options, thus impacting their ability to escape or avoid poverty.”
Following 9/11, IWPR posted on its website a report titled “Why Gender Matters in Understanding September 11: Women, Militarism, and Violence,” written by the organization’s Study Director Amy Caiazza. The author suggested that a lack of regard for women was at least partially responsible for the U.S. government’s failure to prevent the atrocities of 9/11. “Perhaps our collective neglect of the treatment of women in Afghanistan,” said Caiazza, “was a missed opportunity to foresee or even prevent the events of September 11, 2001. … The seeds of terrorism are sown in violence against women and the repression of women’s rights.” Caiazza also opined about the causes of the relatively new phenomenon of Palestinian female suicide bombers: “Some women take part in terrorism when there are few perceived outlets for gender equality. … [W]omen who become terrorists do so because they see few alternatives for pursuing political change. They are frustrated by their economic and political insecurity. They have little trust in government or other institutions.”
The founder and current President of IWPR is Heidi Hartmann, who oversees a staff of some twenty employees. Hartmann, who is also the Vice-Chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO), demands that women be given “equal pay for comparable work” – endorsing an arrangement which would guarantee that “women in such careers as nursing would be paid the same amount of money as men in careers such as engineering.”
IWPR is a member group of the National Council of Women’s Organizations. Among the members of IWPR’s Board of Directors are Mariam Chamberlain, the Founding President of National Council for Research on Women; and Linda Chavez-Thompson, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO and Vice-Chair of the Democratic National Committee.
IWPR raises funds partially through its membership fees, which range from $35 annually for students to $1,000 for “Corporate Affiliates.” There are four intermediate membership levels between those two.
IWPR also receives significant funding from the AFL-CIO, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Otto Bremer Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Levi Strauss Foundation, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Rockefeller Family Fund, and the Rockefeller Foundation.