A March report by legal aid attorneys in Philadelphia suggests that women of color with criminal records are facing roadblocks to employment at disproportionate rates compared to their male counterparts.
Between 2012 and 2013, nearly 1,400 people with criminal histories asked Community Legal Services for help expunging their records and other tools aimed at improving their job prospects. Most of the clients were women, even though many more men in the United States had been arrested in recent years.
In particular, young women with criminal records sought aid from the nonprofit. Of those clients who were ages 17 to 30, almost 64 percent were women. The vast majority of those, 93 percent, were black or Latina.
The report notes that the Urban Institute also found that a higher percentage of men had been hired after prison than women in a 2000-2006 survey of four states.
Jamie Gullen, an employment lawyer at Community Legal Services, says women may be striking out at higher rates because they are more likely than men to apply for jobs in the retail, childcare and health care fields. Those industries tend to utilize criminal background checks. Also, Pennsylvania bars some people with criminal histories from working in fields such as childcare.
“One theory is that because women are looking more toward those types of fields that are heavily regulated, they’re having much harder times breaking into them,” said Gullen, “whereas men are more likely to be looking at fields like manufacturing, construction [and] transportation, which are fields that are more willing to hire people who have criminal backgrounds.”
One solution, Gullen says, is expanding the eligibility for expungement.