Women: Striving for Self-Sufficiency in a Changing Economy

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By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

Recently, Women4Women presented the Benchmark II: A Study of Woman & Girls 2010 at their annual luncheon. The full report is not due out until later this year but here are some of the major points that were discussed at the luncheon. The first report, Benchmark 2000, was a groundbreaking study on Jefferson County’s women and girls that discussed key issues affecting women and girls.

Benchmark II Key Findings

Education

●        Only 38% of 11th grade girls are excelling in science.  One reason may be poor teaching methods in our schools. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) jobs are predicted to be the best paying jobs in the coming decade.

●        The report suggests that women are more likely than men to gain Bachelor’s and advanced degrees. But Louisville is 5th lowest behind their peer cities in the measure of women age 25 and over with advanced degrees.

The Challenge to the Community is to create urgency around educational areas that will prepare the next generation for success in a changing economy but as long as many of Louisville’s Jefferson County Public Schools continue to underperform the challenge much harder.

Single-Parent Economy

●     Nearly one in three (32%) families with children is headed by a single mother. The breakdown of the family is the main culprit. In a single parent household, education also suffers if the parent is working because of the parent’s lack of time to manage the family and work as well.

●        The poverty rate for single mothers has increased by 16% since 2000 because there has been a significant increase in single mothers during this time.

●        In the single-mother household, child care costs are disproportionately high, accounting for as much as 50% of the median household income.

●        43% of single mother families live below the poverty line. (One question I have is where are the fathers. Are they not paying into the support of the children?)

●        Households headed by single mothers have the lowest median income in Louisville ($25,091).  (One question: Is this income based money from the Federal Government or is this a salary earned? My guess is from entitlements.)

The Challenge to the Community is to encourage more affordable childcare and housing for single mothers. (It’s too bad the 9% unemployed in Louisville who are consistently getting unemployment benefits paid for up to 2 years, could not be re-trained to provide inexpensive child care.  The Federal Government is already paying them to not work so no one would have to pay for this care since taxpayers are already paying for them.  It would take background checks but these workers could provide in-home child care to help with the economic burden on the single mother).

Jobs and Earnings

●        According to the report, the wage gap for women can cause them to lose up to $2 million over a lifetime but the wage gap continues to close.

●        Women are 23% more likely to be poor than men & the poverty rate for women has risen by 21%, especially for single mothers and those of color. But women are usually the caregivers in broken marriages so the full responsibility of raising the children may rest on the single woman’s shoulders.

●        Men outnumber women 3 – 1 in annual earnings over $100,000.

Challenge to the Community is to close income and opportunity gap by creating a more highly educated workforce.  Improving the local public schools may help to improve the higher education agenda. More women may choose education agenda over social life in high school which could put them on pace to increase higher education.

Health & Safety

●        Obesity poses significant issues for many women. Unfortunately, today obesity begins in elementary schools. Parents & schools need to become more diligent in preventing obesity for women and men. Schools would be wise to change curriculum to incorporate more active minutes throughout the day which would also serve as increasing the grades in most cases as well.

●        Women report more mentally unhealthy days than men, with especially high rates among African American women. Education and active lifestyle will help to decrease depression and our community should be champion active lifestyles and better education opportunities by improving the schools locally.

●        The incidence of domestic violence related crimes has risen by more than a third in the past 5 years. According to this report, more than 3,600 domestic violence crimes were reported in 2010. With the economy spiraling out of control and lack of jobs or actual job loss, one might expect high domestic violence.

Challenge to the Community is to ensure adequate access and support for women’s health and safety programs and services for women.

Changing the Negative Outcomes of Louisville Women

The first and foremost challenge for women (and men, too) in our community is education. Providing women with a better path to high education is paramount but the only way is to change the educational climate in the Jefferson County Public Schools. Nationally, charter schools have been effective at increasing the education performance overall which might help the women in our community to excel as well.  Teachers need to challenge their students to learn by effective, creative teaching methods which will keep children engaged in learning.  Teacher accountability is a must so that our children will have access to better education.  In addition, parents need to understand their role accept their responsibility for being a partner in also educating their children by spending time reinforcing what children are learning in schools.  These strategies will help increase the higher educational path for young women and young men as well. And in return for a quality education, the hope is that jobs will be available in the marketplace to ensure economic success to get our women and their children out of poverty for good.

Image from: www.newlifemobile.org

Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N, is a registered dietitian (www.DayByDayNutrition.com) who has been teaching healthy lifestyles strategies to consumers for over 35+ years. Check out Barbara’s new healthy lifestyles website: www.KentuckianaHEALTHwellness.com