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Workforce Barriers

Understanding the Barriers That Prevent Women From Entering or Staying in the Workforce to Improve Overall Participation 

West Virginia has the lowest workforce participation rate among women in the United States (less than 50%), which impacts individuals, families, the overall workforce and the financial health and future of the state. 

Read more about rethinking dependent care options.

Read more about getting ready for work.


  • Workplace policies that do not address the parenting or flex needs of all employees 
  • Failure of employers to address the needs of pregnancy and parenting infants, including scheduled extended time off, unexpected delivery complications and appropriate breastfeeding time and space
  • Preponderance of low-wage occupations in some fields and parts of the state 
  • Limited availability of affordable transportation to and from work in some parts of the state 
  • Limited access to basic needs due to poverty, emergencies, displacement or domestic violence (including clothing, transportation, food and housing) 
  • Family cost-benefit analysis that favors giving up one’s salary to paying for services like day care and the cost of transportation to and from the workplace 
  • Traditional gender norms and bias about parenting, advancement and specific job roles
  • Lack of objective job posting information and bias-free applicant assessments 
  • A lower level of overall college attainment and training, as compared to U.S. averages 

Opportunities to Get Ready for Work

West Virginia’s greatest asset is our people, yet too many people face obstacles to sharing their talents in the workplace. No one should miss out on a job because of a lack of work clothes. Targeted clothing drives can help West Virginians get Ready for Work. Download a toolkit to plan a clothing drive in your area!

Employment and non-profit organizations report trouble meeting the overwhelming demands to help support people trying to get appropriate clothing to go to work. WV Forward has identified resource organizations and their clients’ most in-demand work clothes. 

By hosting targeted Ready for Work clothing drives that collect specific items for local charities serving clients in your community, you can make a difference.

A statewide survey of West Virginia charities and non-profits show the following items are most needed for women getting to work. 

Solid color scrubs | Non-slip shoes | Closed toe professional shoes | Plus-size clothes | Black pants | White button down shirts | Suits

If you are interested in hosting a clothing drive to support help West Virginians get ready for work, please email A list of statewide organizations and programs that assist those in need of professional attire or resources will be provided, along with a step-by-step guide on best practices to set up your local clothing drive.

Together, we can help all West Virginia women pursue financial success and independence and blaze a path to a more prosperous future.

Ready for Work



The U.S. is the only industrialized country without required paid parental leave.


Low-wage jobs like those in service-based industries impact more women than men. 65% of the projected WV job growth through 2026 will be in low-wage jobs that leave a family of three in poverty.


About 30% of working WV mothers are single working mothers. Of those single moms, some 10,000 have infants, 25,000 have children under 6, and 72,000 have children 6-17.


The average commute to work in West Virginia is 26 minutes, with women’s commutes averaging 22 minutes.


WV women see a “motherhood penalty” of 4-5% per child, translating to a $15,700 pay gap between parents ($34,300 moms to $50,000 dads) that could impact who leaves the workforce for family care.


Some women who leave the workforce face credentialing, licensing or other hurdles to re-enter the workforce later, which can be expensive to obtain and/or time-consuming while unpaid.


Center-based childcare in West Virginia may serve up to 66,000 children and cost $7,300 - $8,300 per child annually (29% of a WV family’s income). Individual day care often costs even more. Many areas are day care deserts with no centers available , and most centers do not provide care for night shift or weekend work.


An estimated 25% - 85% of women experienced some form of sexual harassment at work, but 90% of those women never filed charges or a formal complaint.

West Virginia Summer care.

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Search more than 250 statewide summer care options.

These programs are offered by West Virginia University, Marshall University and others accredited through the American Camp Association. As WV Forward examines long-term solutions to West Virginia's dependent care challenges, this is one short-term solution to help working parents, grandparents and caregivers find educational, active and fun summer care options by county. 

WV Summer Care Options

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*Citations available upon request.