A just future begins with bold ideas

We win economic equity for all women and eliminate barriers to their full participation in society. As a leading national think tank, we build evidence to shape policies that grow women’s power and influence, close inequality gaps, and improve the economic well-being of families.


The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that engages in research and dissemination to shape public policy and improve the lives and opportunities of women from diverse backgrounds. As a nonpartisan organization, the independence of our research is essential to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and quality. IWPR seeks to ensure these standards through internal and external peer review processes. In most cases, reports receive one to two external reviews; some shorter products receive external review as well. All publications are reviewed by in-house researchers not involved in their production.

IWPR researchers may receive input from advocates, policymakers, funders, and other interested stakeholders on different aspects of the research, but IWPR makes the final decisions on its research activities, conclusions, and recommendations. IWPR employs research methods that are scientifically sound and engages in research and related activities that advance its mission and values.

IWPR believes this independence is essential to achieving the organization’s goals. When IWPR comments on public policy, it wants to be heard by an array of groups and parties across the ideological spectrum. It is critical that these groups and individuals can trust that IWPR’s statements are the result of credible research, and are not a reflection of the vested interests of a third party. The Institute’s reputation for integrity and quality is an invaluable asset that we seek to strengthen and safeguard.

IWPR Priority Areas

History and Impact

A 30-year Track Record on Illuminating Gender in Policy Debates

Named a top think tank in the United States, IWPR has shifted conversation on issues such as the gender wage gap, employment and job discrimination, Social Security, welfare reform and access to public benefits, educational access, child care, and many others.  Our ongoing Status of Women in the States project and other state-specific research initiatives produce real outcomes for women and families. In recent years, IWPR expanded its Status of Women model globally, working with partners to produce a series of reports on the Status of Women in the Middle East and North Africa.

Our work and experts are cited and appear regularly in more than a thousand news items each year, including in The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, USA Today, The Atlantic, broadcast, cable, and satellite, and digital media outlets such as The Huffington Post, Vox, Buzzfeed, The Daily Beast, and others.


  • Produces the most widely-cited research on the gender wage gap in the United States. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow recognized that IWPR has “done some of the most important and most highly publicized work on this issue.”
  • Testifies regularly before Congress on issues related to women’s economic security, employment opportunities, and retirement income.
  • Informs critical state and local policies:
    • Produces cost-benefit analysis that helps make the case for policies that provide paid sick days, enabling more low-income people to keep their jobs when they need to take care of themselves or their families.
    • IWPR’s report, The Economic Status of Women in Arizona, made the case for $6 million in domestic violence shelter funding and $9 million for child care subsidy rate increases.
    • IWPR cost estimates on child care and early childhood education helped Kathleen Sebelius, then-governor of Kansas, expand early care and education funding in the state by $14.1 million.
  • Helps workers identify and address employment discrimination, leading to better jobs and higher pay:
    • In 2008, an IWPR report on nurses’ wages helped make the case for thousands of nurses in Albany, NY, when Northeast Health agreed to a $1.25 million settlement to raise the wages of nurses.
    • An IWPR report analyzed injunctive relief in over 500 employment discrimination cases and found that court-ordered interventions following class action lawsuits effectively address discrimination in the workplace. The Workplace Class Action blog stated, “the IWPR Report should be required reading for any corporate counsel facing workplace class action litigation…”
    • In 1991, IWPR’s president gave the lead testimony before the House of Representatives regarding the proposed Civil Rights Act of 1991, documenting continued discrimination against women in the labor market, contributing to its passage.
  • Gives voice to the unique experiences of women during major events. Within two months of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in 2005, IWPR researchers were among the first to study women’s circumstances along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Experts on gender and disaster called IWPR’s early, critical empirical data “a beacon of light.”

Our History

IWPR was founded in 1987 out of a need for an organization whose distinct purpose was to develop comprehensive, women-focused, policy-oriented research. By conducting rigorous analyses using federal data, the social scientists at IWPR shook the gendered and racialized assumptions underpinning public debate.

In its founding year, IWPR analyzed the costs to American workers of not having unpaid leave for childbirth, personal health needs, or family care giving in its inaugural publication, Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave. A companion fact sheet on the estimated impact of the new law on Black women showed that they lost more than white women by the lack of leave because they were the very workers to go back to work after childbirth sooner but lacked leave and thus had to search for a new job guaranteeing lower wages. IWPR’s research showed that, by not recognizing the need for work-life balance in all families, established policies not only failed to support workers and their families, but were costly to taxpayers. Now nearly a quarter century later, the Family and Medical Leave Act has become a cornerstone of U.S. employment law and human resource policy.