Women's Economic Security Campaign
March 8, 2010: Public hearing in Chicago for the
Illinois Commission on the Elimination of Poverty
Chicago Foundation for Women believes that all women and girls in the Chicago metropolitan area are entitled to education and training that enable them to become financially self-sufficient and able to care for themselves and their families in all stages of life. To help achieve this goal, Chicago Foundation for Women has established a partnership with three sister funds: The Women's Foundation of California
, The Women's Foundation for a Greater Memphis
and Washington Area Women's Foundation
, working in collaboration with the Women's Funding Network
The Women's Economic Security Campaign (WESC)
is dedicated to increasing opportunity for low-income women and their families. Its tools include public policy, advocacy, education and grantmaking to organizations that strive to eliminate poverty by helping women in need. Read more in the WESC fact sheet
More Information and Resources
Women's Economic Security Collaborative
The Stimulus Package - Through a Gender Lens
As seen in the March 3, 2009 Tuesday Blast
For months, the economic crisis has remained front and center on the national media agenda. We've heard how Americans are losing jobs at alarming rates, and that the housing market is barely afloat. But how are women faring? To find out, we need to use a gender lens—to see women's relationships to public policies and other systems. When women suffer economically, so do their children, partners, aging parents and countless others who depend on them. That also means that women are uniquely positioned not only to get themselves and their families out of an economic crisis, but also to lift up their communities.
Some essential facts help shed light on women's roles in our economic future. Woman-headed households account for about 14 million American families, 8.3 million of which include children under age 18, according to the U.S. Census 2005-2007 American Community Survey. The ACS also shows that 37 percent—more than one in three—single-mother homes make no more than poverty-level incomes. Women constitute 47 percent of the workforce and the majority of workers in the education, health and social service fields. However, women also constitute the majority of low-income people (Women in the Labor Force, 2007).
On Feb. 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a $789.5 billion stimulus package. When we apply our gender lens to the stimulus package, we can see how it will help women, as well as identify gaps and suggest strategies to close them.
The following figures from the recovery package illuminate some of the benefits for American women and their families, as well as demonstrate the strength of advocates' and women's voices:
To reduce job cuts for educators and teachers, nearly $45 billion was allocated to the Department of Education.
Medicaid, which supports the health of more than 20 million women, will receive $87 billion.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families received $1.1 billion, as well as $20 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps).
Community child care got $2 billion and child support enforcement received $1 billion, both of which help single mothers thrive.
Clearly, these big ticket health, education and income support provisions will directly affect women and, consequently, their dependents. However, the package is only the beginning. While significant funding was allocated to child care, education and health care, a large portion of money for family planning was removed. Despite the well-documented reduction in health care costs associated with provision of contraceptives, funds allowing states easier access to Medicaid-covered family planning services were cut. This is a dichotomy, bucking the trend of change promised by Obama by continuing the historic trends of inadequate federal funding to women-centered programs (Bernikow, 2009). It is our hope that this issue will be revisited soon, as the President's proposed 2010 budget promises it will be. In addition, although President Obama's first piece of legislation was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the companion Paycheck Fairness Act awaits Senate action. (See our What We Support page for more information.) Even though this not a new issue, as long as women continue to earn less than men in comparable positions (Lips, 2009), they will continue to constitute a disproportionate percentage of the low-income population.
The stimulus package exemplifies the necessity of using a gender lens while crafting legislation. For women, economic security is inseparable from their freedom from violence, access to health care and other human rights not always afforded to women. Perhaps if a gender lens had been used when crafting the stimulus bill, the relevance and importance of Medicaid-covered family planning services and fair pay would have been recognized and included. In the future, President Obama, Congress and state and local governments must use a gender lens when designing, funding and implementing programs, both to avoid more setbacks for women and to encourage community growth. Furthermore, if women and their families are to weather this financial storm, elected officials should ensure that women remain a priority when stimulus funds are allocated at the state and local levels. To support America’s families, our legislators must support America’s women.
Learn more about the Women's Economic Security Collaborative
References and Resources
Beyerstein, L. (2009). Women's Groups See Success in Stimulus: Feminist Organizations Say Pressure Campaign Paid Off. Retrieved February 2009, from the Washington Independent: http://washingtonindependent.com/27846/women-and-the-stimulus
Bernikow, L. (2009). New Deal Slighted Women in Recovery Plans. Retrieved February 2009 from Women’s eNews: http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/3906/context/ourstory
Lips, H. M. (2009). The Gender Wage Gap: Debunking the Rationalizations. Retrieved February 2009, from Womens media.com: http://www.womensmedia.com/new/Lips-Hilary-gender-wage-gap.shtml
National Women's Law Center (2009). How the Senate American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan Addresses Women's Needs. Retrieved February 2009, from The National Women's Law Center: http://www.nwlc.org/pdf/SenateAmericanRecoveryReinvestmentSummaryFeb09.pdf
Sullivan, A. (2009). Behind the Family-Planning Flap. Retrieved February 2009, from Time:
United States Department of Labor, Women's Bureau (2007). Women in the Labor Force in 2007. Retrieved February 2009, from United States Department of Labor, Women's Bureau: http://www.dol.gov/wb/factsheets/Qf-laborforce-07.htm
U.S. Census Bureau. 2005-2007 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates. S1702: Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months of Families. Retrieved March 2009: http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/STTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=01000US&-qr_name=ACS_2007_3YR_G00_S1702&-ds_name=ACS_2007_3YR_G00_&-redoLog=false