Through a Gender Lens: The Economic Security of
Women and Girls in Forsyth County
Spring 2010 Executive Summary
The Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Fund of Winston-Salem
Women and girls make up over half (52%) of the population in Forsyth County. They are our mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends. They can be found in almost every sector of our community as students, business leaders, educators, medical professionals, elected officials, and community volunteers. Despite this, The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem discovered a tremendous lack of data and research about the status of women and girls in our community. While there are many reports about the status of our community, none of them focus specifically on women’s circumstances and needs. As a funder, it is our responsibility to know the realities of those we seek to serve. Without knowledge about how women and girls are faring in our community, we cannot begin to solve the problems that exist. Therefore, we undertook a study of the status of the economic security of women and girls in our community.
By economic security, we mean a woman’s ability to have the income, resources, and assets to meet her needs and those of her family. On a daily basis, it means that she can afford basic and necessary expenses such as housing, utilities, nutritious food, transportation, child care, and health care. In the longer term, it means that she can build her family’s assets to provide a safety net for the future. Our Through A Gender Lens report is a first step toward examining and understanding the factors that contribute to the economic security of women and girls in Forsyth County. The report paints a complex picture of how women are doing in our community. There are many strengths in our community and much cause for celebration. For example, we found that: • Forsyth County’s female population is slightly more diverse than that of North Carolina or the United States. This diversity in race, ethnicity, and culture enriches our community. • Women make a tremendous contribution to the local economy, with 60% of women participating in the labor force. • Forsyth County has a slightly more educated population of women than the state or nation, with nearly 39% of women aged 25 or older having an associate’s degree or higher. • Girls are less likely to drop out and more likely to graduate from high school than boys, and women earn higher degrees at equal or higher rates than their male counterparts. • Forsyth County is fortunate to have several colleges and universities, providing many opportunities for educational advancement.
In Forsyth County,
However, there are also significant challenges regarding the economic security of our most vulnerable women and their families. We found that: • In Forsyth County, poverty disproportionately impacts female-headed households, especially those headed by single mothers. • 78% of single female-headed households with children in Forsyth County earn less than the Living Income Standard needed to meet basic expenses for a family of three. • Too often, key work supports that help raise low-income women out of poverty are either not available due to insufficient funding, or not accessed due to complicated and confusing application processes. • Regardless of their education or work experience, women earn significantly less than their male counterparts. • Women are concentrated in sex-segregated occupations and in low-wage jobs. • Either because they are working part-time or in lowwage jobs, women frequently lack access to benefits such as health care coverage, paid leave, and retirement. • Access to affordable, high-quality child care is a significant barrier to women achieving economic security. • Despite state and national declines in teen pregnancy, Forsyth County’s teen pregnancy rate has increased and is significantly higher than the overall state rate. • Women of color and their children fare worse than their white counterparts on almost every indicator in the report.
women working full-time earn just over 76 ¢ for every dollar earned by men.
A COMMUNITY AGENDA FOR SOCIAL CHANGE The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem is committed to finding solutions to address these challenges, so that all women and girls have equal opportunities and the skills and resources to be independent, self-sufficient, and contributing members of the community. We offer the following broad recommendations as a way to begin the community dialogue and advocate for the changes needed to bring about economic security for women and their families. Specific program and policy recommendations for each of these areas can be found in the full report.
Increase Women’s Income and Provide Benefits that Make Work “Work” for Women • Provide Women with the Education and Training Necessary to Access HigherPaying Jobs. We must ensure that women have the education and/or training to develop the skills and tools necessary to find better employment and advance in their chosen fields.
• Increase Women’s Income and Benefits. Women need greater earning opportunities and benefits in order to be economically secure and support their families. • Support Female Entrepreneurship and Women-Owned Businesses. Entrepreneurship and small-business ownership not only give women opportunities to improve their economic security, they also allow more flexibility in balancing work and family responsibilities.
Build Women’s Assets and Financial Literacy • Help women build assets. Assets provide an essential safety net to help families endure unexpected financial hardships; they can lay the groundwork for the building of wealth and economic prosperity for future generations. • Increase the financial literacy of women and girls. Understanding basic economic concepts and responsible financial behaviors — and giving women the tools to navigate financial systems, access banking services, build good credit, and manage their financial resources — will help promote economic security.
Invest in our Children • Increase access to high-quality affordable child care for low-income working mothers and students. Lack of access to afford-
able child care can be a serious barrier to a woman obtaining education, job training, and skill building – all necessary tools to achieving employment, higher wages, and economic self-sufficiency. • Educate girls to prepare them for future success. Educational attainment is a major determinant of employment and financial stability. Today’s girls should receive support to maximize their educational attainment so they can be economically secure in the future. • Prevent teen pregnancy and support teen mothers. Teen mothers are much less likely to graduate from high school and thus are at serious risk for an economically insecure future for themselves and their children.
Ensure Basic Needs are Met • Increase access to work supports. Work supports can help bridge the gap between a family’s income and the income needed to meet the family’s essential needs, yet not enough people are accessing these supports. • Ensure that low-income women have access to safe and affordable housing.
Having an affordable, safe, and stable place to live impacts a woman’s ability to maintain employment and is a critical component of economic security. We hope that community organizations, governmental agencies, policymakers, employers, funding organizations, and concerned individuals will review the full report and join us in implementing these recommendations and other innovative solutions so that together we can build a more vibrant, inclusive, and productive community for women and their families.
Download the complete report — Through a Gender Lens: The Economic Security of Women and Girls in Forsyth County at www.womensfundws.org.
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