A Change of Pace: Accelerating Women's Progress

Jun 01, 2004
  • Description

With this 2004 Change of Pace update, WOMEN'S WAY makes good on its promise to carefully monitor the status of women and girls in our region. Statistical data has been updated where possible through January 2004, and text and policy recommendations revised as appropriate. Through A Change of Pace, WOMEN'S WAY capped its 25th Anniversary with a powerful call to action -- a call that resonates just as clearly one year after the initial release of the report. This report, the first product of a unique collaboration between WOMEN'S WAY, the University of Pennsylvania's Alice Paul Center for Research on Women & Gender and Solutions for Progress, takes stock of women's status in our region. Its findings are sometimes encouraging, but more often startling and disturbing measures of life for American women in the 21st century. While the findings demonstrate that women have made tremendous strides since WOMEN'S WAY's founding, A Change of Pace concludes that many of these victories ring hollow, particularly for women of color and low income women. The cumulative effects of poverty wages, scarce affordable housing, child care and health care, threats of violence and insufficient social supports create barriers for women struggling to attain the economic self-sufficiency and sense of security necessary to provide adequate care for themselves and their families. Even for middle-class white women whose relative economic security affords them a greater sense of well-being, the dream of equal pay for equal work, a life free from gender-based violence, a secure retirement and true reproductive freedom is far from realized. Are Women Worth Three-Fourths of Men? In 1976, women working full time earned 61 cents for every $1 earned by men. In 2002, women earned 77 cents for every $1 earned by men. In a quarter century, the gender wage gap has decreased 16 cents. That leaves another 23 cents to go. Every dollar women lose to gender inequality is a dollar they and their families do not have to pay for housing, child care, health care or food. White, Blue and Pink Collar Jobs Despite gains in the last quarter century, women are still concentrated in low-paying "pink collar" occupations such as health care support and personal care. They remain underrepresented in higher-paying ones such as management and architecture. Even within the same occupations, women working full time are paid less than men. Women's Business A growing number of women are taking their livelihoods into their own hands by becoming entrepreneurs. However, with less access to capital, loan financing or bonding to start a business or bid on a larger project, women's businesses struggle to survive. Women owned businesses in the Philadelphia metropolitan area account for less than 5% of total sales and 10% of total employment. Hard Times Above and Below the Poverty Line Women are more likely to be poor than men, and families headed by women are disproportionately poor. Families headed by single mothers are 15% of all families in the region, but more than 54% of the region's poor. For many women, work and poverty go hand in hand. In Pennsylvania, 20% of full-time working women have "low earnings" -- less than $8.77 per hour -- compared with 11% of fulltime working men. Penalized for Caregiving Women are penalized in the labor market as paid and unpaid caregivers. They are more likely than men to work part-time or be out of the workforce because of care responsibilities, and more likely to hold jobs that involve care work for children, people with disabilities and the elderly. While hourly earnings in the Philadelphia area averaged $18.65 in 2002, "care work" jobs averaged less than $11 per hour. Retirement Insecurity For many women, retirement means insecurity. The "three-legged stool" on which retirees depend -- Social Security, personal savings and employer pensions -- fails for many women. In the Philadelphia region, one in ten women 65 and older lives below the official poverty line. Older women in the Philadelphia region have only 52 cents to every $1 of income of older men. Scarce Affordable Housing Affordable housing is central to economic security for women and their families, but it is in short supply. In the Philadelphia region, 43% of renters and 25% of homeowners spend more than the affordability standard of 30% of their income on housing. Nearly one in four renters spends more than half her income on housing. Fewer than one in four families eligible for federal housing assistance receives it. Health Care Not Ensured One in nine women in Pennsylvania is uninsured. Lack of health insurance typically means lack of preventive care, delayed or substandard treatment, and greater risk of disease, disability and death. Uninsured and low-income women in the region are much less likely to receive preventive cancer screenings. Women are more likely to forgo or delay medical care for financial reasons. Defending Reproductive Freedom WOMEN'S WAY agencies have been at the forefront advocating for and protecting reproductive rights. Their struggle has been uphill. Underfunded family planning services in Philadelphia can meet only half the current need for services. Pennsylvania limits access to abortion through state-mandated lectures, waiting periods and parental consent laws. Access by low-income women is particularly limited because Pennsylvania excludes abortion from Medicaid coverage except in cases of rape, incest and threat to a woman's life. Women Under Assault With continued pressure from women's organizations, law enforcement officials and the medical community have improved their response to sexual assault and domestic violence. There is a partial safety net of shelters and other services. Despite this progress, however, violence against women is still endemic in our community and the resources for survivors too few. Corporate Brass and Glass Ceilings Women have made progress in entering administrative and managerial ranks over the last four decades, but when it comes to top leadership roles, women are still woefully underrepresented. Eight out of nine corporate board members and top executives at the largest 120 public companies in the Philadelphia region are men, and nearly 45% of the largest companies in the region have no women in top executive positions. Political Underrepresentation Pennsylvania has only one U.S. Congresswoman and no women in the U.S. Senate. If the State Legislature were representative of Pennsylvania's adult population, women would hold 133 seats instead of the 35 they currently hold; the Philadelphia region would have 43 women legislators instead of just 20. Only 14 states rank worse than Pennsylvania in appointing women to key state policy positions. The gross underrepresentation of women in corporate and government leadership positions suggests primary reasons why many of the foregoing inequities persist. What is clear and encouraging, however, is that women and men in our region recognize the barriers facing women today and are ready for a change of pace. 2002 WOMEN'S WAY Change of Pace Survey The Change of Pace Survey, conducted in September and October 2002, provides insight into the views of men and women in the five county Philadelphia region on issues of importance to women and their families. A majority of respondents surveyed:

  • Agree women face discrimination in the workplace;
  • Are concerned about domestic violence;
  • Favor increasing the minimum wage;
  • Favor extending family leave to cover all workers; and
  • Support expanded health care, affordable housing, education and training programs.
If we are to address these community concerns and create that long-discussed level playing field, each of us must play a part. And so, WOMEN'S WAY issues A Change of Pace as a call to action, an invitation to become a positive agent of change for women and girls in our community. For its part, WOMEN'S WAY commits to leading critical community dialogues, challenging our region's business and government leaders and mobilizing all who are committed to eradicating inequities that hamper the safety, health and well-being of our entire region. Specific recommendations for action are presented for each topic covered in the report. Read on. Choose your challenge. Commit to A Change of Pace.