Women’s Foundation releases report on status of women in Colorado

The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, has released a new report aimed at raising awareness of the issues and concerns faced by women in the state. The Status of Women and Girls in Colorado hopes to “inform program development and grantmaking in the state, build a uniform research and advocacy agenda, and provide information that can be used to create public policies that help women and girls in Colorado reach their full potential” (WFCO).  The report addresses the concerns of women and girls in five specific areas: economic security and poverty, employment and earnings, educational opportunity, personal safety, and community leadership.

More than 2.5 million women and girls call Colorado home, and while women have made significant progress in many areas in recent decades, they also continue to face significant challenges: “Women earn less than men and are more likely to be poor. They are also underrepresented in public offices and experience persistent racial and ethnic disparities, as well as disparities across different regions in the state. In addition, many women and girls lack personal safety. These challenges are often underrecognized but must be addressed for the state as a whole to thrive” (WFCO).

Key findings from the report include:

  • Families headed by single mothers have the lowest median income of all family types at $26,705. This median income is 63% of the median income of families headed by single fathers, and 31% of the median income of married couples with dependent children.
  • In 2011, three in ten women aged 18 and older had family incomes below or near the federal poverty line.
  • Poverty varies among racial and ethnic groups. Half of Latina women, and nearly half of African American and Native American women live at or near poverty level, while 25% of Asian American women and 22% of white women live at or near poverty level.
  • Women continue to face a gender wage gap. In 2011, women’s median full-time income was 80% of men’s median full-time income. The gender wage gap is largest for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Only 26% of women are among the state’s highest earners, while 53% of women are the state’s lowest earners.
  • While 36% of women in Colorado hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, an estimated 155,501 do not have a high school diploma. Educational attainment varies widely among racial and ethnic groups. 41% of white women hold a bachelor’s degree, compared to 13% of Latina women.
  • The cost of full-time child care for single mothers is 48% of their annual income.
  • In 2011, the 46 domestic violence crisis centers in Colorado served 24,685 clients, an increase over those served in 2010.
  • Colorado has the sixth highest lifetime prevalence of rape in the nation. Nearly 24% of women (451,000) have been victims of rape. 10% of high schools girls reported that they had been forced to have sex.
  • 27% of high school girls report having experienced depression. 17.5% have seriously considered suicide.
  • In 2013 Colorado ranked first in the nation for women’s representation in state legislatures. However, only four women have ever represented the state in the US Congress. (WFCO)

The issues raised in this report are all interconnected. If girls lack educational opportunity, they will likely face economic insecurity as women. If women cannot afford child care, their economic security will be threatened. If women do not feel safe, all areas of their lives are impacted. If girls are suffering from depression, their educational attainment will suffer. As local and state governments debate current and future legislation, it would be wise to take all of these issues into consideration. When girls and women thrive, communities thrive. It really is that simple. If you would like to view the report in its entirety, go to www.wfco.org.

Diane DeBella

As a writer, teacher, and speaker Diane has spent over twenty years examining women’s issues. She is the author of the collective memoir *I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves*, and editor of the anthology *I Am Subject Stories: Women Awakening*. As a long-time faculty member at the University of Colorado, she received the CU Women Who Make a Difference Award and the CU-LEAD Alliance Faculty Appreciation Award. Through her organization I Am Subject, Diane helps us understand how we—as women—are impacted by the society in which we live. By claiming ourselves as subjects of our own lives, we become empowered and also provide strong role models for other women and girls. In healing ourselves we help others—a beautiful way for women to create nurturing, supportive communities.

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