In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month and the amazing women who have made America great — Sally Ride, the first female in space; Rosa Parks; and many “hidden figures” who have cracked the glass ceiling. This year, that celebration builds upon the visible symbols of women’s unity at January’s Women’s March and the “A Day Without a Woman” event on March 8.
But, marching alone isn’t enough to improve the lives of women across the country. We must also rally together every day to chart a path forward for all women seen and unseen.
REPORT: ECONOMIC ISSUES FOR WOMEN IN TEXAS 2017
Last month, the Dallas Women’s Foundation released a report on Economic Issues for Women in Texas 2017. While women have made great strides, this report gives us crystal clear evidence that more needs to be done. The report highlighted four critical building blocks necessary for women to achieve economic security: childcare, higher education, health insurance and housing.
Here is a sampling of the most compelling statistics and why they should be important to everyone:
Childcare: In Texas, 61 percent of families rely wholly or substantially on women’s incomes. 1.3 million children need child care, but the capacity of all regulated child care centers in Texas is only 1 million. Reliable child care makes the difference for working moms by reducing absenteeism, which costs employers, and helping reduce gaps in employment for women, which impacts their income.
Higher Education: Texas women earn more with every step up in their education. To stay competitive, Texas has a goal of having 60 percent of Texans ages 25–34 have a higher education degree by 2030 (also called 60x30TX). But, we know that women, especially Hispanic and African-American women, face greater barriers to graduation — social stigma, poverty and the costs of education — which cause them to forgo higher education.
Health Insurance: Women with quality health care go farther — they live longer, use fewer sick days, have higher quality of life and contribute more to our communities. Yet, 2.2 million women and girls (16 percent) do not have health insurance, which puts all of this at risk.
Housing: For most Texas women, housing represents the single largest cost in their budgets. Ideally, housing should cost less than 30 percent of their total budget, but 45 percent of families where females are the primary breadwinner pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing. This makes it nearly impossible for them to invest in education, provide for their children, or contribute to retirement.
THE ELUSIVE AMERICAN DREAM
Compared to other states, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research gave Texas receives an overall score of a D and ranked us 47th among states in key indicators of progress. For many women, the American dream remains elusive as they try to balance being great mothers, working hard as employees and taking care of others before themselves. Their struggles not only weigh them down, but they also curb the growth of our economy as a whole.
“The analysis by the Dallas Women’s Foundation is a cry for urgent, systemic innovation — not just because it’s a mountain of evidence about gender inequity, but because it’s evidence of a mountain of lost opportunities that affects everyone.”
As the Dallas Women’s Foundation’s CEO Roslyn Dawson suggested at the report’s release, “The success of women and the success of Dallas businesses are tied together.”
In response to the report’s findings, John Breitfeller, executive director of Educational First Steps, said: “The analysis by the Dallas Women’s Foundation is a cry for urgent, systemic innovation — not just because it’s a mountain of evidence about gender inequity, but because it’s evidence of a mountain of lost opportunities that affects everyone. Obstacles facing women in child care, education, health insurance and housing stifle Dallas County and Texas from growing its economy faster, having a more competitive workforce, generating better ideas and raising a next generation of children ready for their futures. Those aren’t ‘women’s issues,’ they’re critical issues across the board.”
‘BRIGHTSPOTS’: ORGANIZATIONS MAKING A DIFFERENCE
So, what can be done? While the statistics are a bitter pill to swallow, nonprofits across North Texas are working hard to beat these numbers and work toward solutions. I call these programs – “brightspots.”
Here is a sampling of North Texas organizations making a difference:
Sharing Life in Mesquite provides important wraparound services to El Centro students (most are women – 40 percent African-American/41 percent Hispanic) to complete their health-care credentials no matter the obstacles. And this pays off — 86 percent do succeed.
ChildCareGroup in Dallas delivers early care and education to thousands of children through the administration of Child Care Assistance and hundreds of children in their high-quality centers. Through their recent push for two-generation programs (which focus on parents and children), they just recently announced a partnership with Parkland to ensure that parents with children in their centers have easy access to quality health care.
WiNGS (formerly YWCA) in Dallas offers financial coaching at sites across Dallas, including their new Women’s Center, to help women reach their financial goals. On average, they help women increase savings by $3,000, reduce debt by $4,000 and raise credit scores by almost 60 points. All of this adds up to breaking the cycle of poverty for women and their families.
Texas Woman’s University allows women to recognize work experience and prior certificates to shortcut the time and money needed to complete their bachelor’s degrees – which makes what once seemed impossible possible for many women who want to earn their degree.
As Jennifer Ware, CEO of WiNGS, said, “Women in our community need resources to overcome the stark reality presented in these findings. Access to education, quality health care, safe housing and affordable child care continue to disproportionately burden women. Community investments today can change the future for children and families for generations to come.”
While statistics can be daunting, progress for women has been made in the past and will continue to be made through the collective action we take for a better tomorrow. So, as women, let’s march, but let’s also sign up to help a nonprofit in our community turn these statistics around.
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