TUESDAY BLAST - Chicago Foundation for Women's Weekly eUpdate

April 22-28, 2008

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Tuesday Special

The wage gap: Women are still struggling to catch up
Today is Equal Pay Day, the day when the average woman’s wages since Jan. 1, 2007 finally match what men made in 2007—almost four months late. Check out our News section for an analysis of economic security with statistics, legislative updates and suggested actions you can take to improve women's financial odds starting now.

Tuesday Stars

Health care and access
Equip for Equality
, a Foundation grantee, won a ruling on behalf of a 29-year-old woman with disabilities whose guardian had petitioned the court to have the woman involuntarily sterilized. The woman, identified only as K.E.J., is sexually active and on contraception, though she testified that she wants to have children in the future. Her guardian, V.H., wanted K.E.J. to undergo tubal ligation. The Foundation gave Equip for Equality a grant to address involuntary sterilization from a policy perspective, which helped them win this precedent-setting Illinois appellate decision that also draws “a useful roadmap for possible legislation on this issue,” says Barry Taylor, Equip’s legal advocacy director. Read more from the Chicago Tribune.

News - analysis, what's missing, Foundation updates

Economic security
Lower wages, care-giving responsibilities and smaller retirement cushions
are three main reasons women in Illinois are particularly vulnerable to poverty, according to a new report released Wednesday by Heartland Alliance's Mid-America Institute on Poverty (PDF). The report includes a new “Spotlight on Challenges to Women’s Economic Well-Being” (starting on page 16), funded with a grant from Chicago Foundation for Women to put a sharper gender lens on the persistent problem of poverty. The “Spotlight” illuminates the income disparities and social factors that present a crushing economic burden on women, and it offers solutions. One strategy is the creation of a state-level commission to address poverty--and we congratulate Heartland Alliance on its successful advocacy for this commission, which passed the Illinois House unanimously and heads to the Senate soon.

Economic security by the numbers

$35,192: Median annual income for Illinois women, which is $11,518 less than men--or $0.75 for every man’s dollar. 

$0.72 and $0.60: What African American and Latina women, respectively, earned for every man's dollar nationally in 2006. 

Age 55-64: When the pay gap is widest for women, at about 52 cents. Women also own fewer assets (such as property and retirement accounts) than men do.

149,460: The number of female-headed families in poverty in Illinois in 2006. This is 2.6 times higher than the overall poverty rate for families.
The wage gap is not women's fault, despite what you read in the news, 
according to Ellen Bravo. Though many stories say women simply aren't asking for raises or negotiating salary, as ABC News reported recently, the truth is more complex, Bravo says. Bravo, a long-time activist for working women and author of "Taking On the Big Boys" (for which the Foundation co-hosted a reading last summer), points out that society undervalues women's work across the board, from housework to nursing to women in traditionally male trades. Read her essay at Women's Media Center.  

Almost half the workers in Illinois have no paid sick days. San Francisco and Washington, D.C. have legislation guaranteeing workers paid time off to take care of a sick family member or their own illness, but no states have this. The Foundation supports the Healthy Workplace Act (HB 5320), which would allow Illinois workers to accrue sick leave gradually, up to seven days per year for a full-time worker.

What you can do...

  • About sick days: Tell your story. How has paid sick leave helped you? Is there a time you needed paid sick days but didn't have them? Visit Women Employed's webpage on the Healthy Workplace Act and click "share your story" or just learn more about the bill.

  • About poverty: Attend our May 16 briefing. Join us from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Friday, May 16 for an update on two important reports on women's economic security by Heartland Alliance's Mid-America Institute on Poverty and Voices for Illinois Children. Registration is free--sign up online.

  • About personal finances: Come to workshops. The Foundation’s leadership councils and Alumnae Council are sponsoring workshops to help you build “A Foundation for Your Financial Future.” Next up is a program on “Demystifying Retirement” on May 7, and then on June 11 get a lesson on philanthropy today in “Giving Beyond Tithing." Both are 6-8 p.m. with a suggested donation of $20 per session.

What's missing
The story: “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey was convicted of "laundering, using the mail for illegal purposes and racketeering." Sentencing is scheduled for July 24. Many women who worked for Palfrey were called as witnesses and answered sexually explicit "D.C. Madam" clients Randall, Vitter and Ullmanquestions from prosecutors, but the prosecution did not examine the clients—high-profile men including Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), Harlan K. Ullman (the military strategist who developed "shock and awe") and Randall L. Tobias, former deputy secretary of state who stepped down due to these prostitution allegations. The men were on the witness list but were never called, the Washington Post reported. 

What’s missing:
The high-profile clients are not being charged. Not only were they not called on to testify, they are not likely to face prosecution for their involvement in the sex trade. Also, only photos of Palfrey are gracing media coverage. We are showing the faces of Vitter, Ullman and Tobias here, even if we didn’t get to see them entering the courtroom.

Foundation news

On April 17, the Foundation held a conversation about Margaret Garner--a woman whose flight from slavery with her family remains relevant today--with young women from Literature for All of Us. The organization, a Foundation grantee, leads teenage girls who are pregnant or parenting in discussion groups to read and write creatively. LaVida Davis (left) facilitated the discussion about gender, poverty, race and why Margaret Garner's story resonates today. Learn more about the Foundation's work with Margaret Garner.

Read more at our Press Room and our Past Events at


Action: End abstinence-only sex ed funding in Illinois
Thanks to a statewide day of action last Tuesday, April 15, there is momentum building in Illinois to reject some federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage sexual health education. We still need your help: Visit our abstinence-only info page to learn how you can contact your legislators, call the Office of the Governor or send a letter to the editor of a local newspaper. Also check out a slideshow from the demonstration in downtown Chicago on April 15.

Find more advocacy opportunities at our Online Action Center.

Our Events
Our website calendar lists all our programs, events and cosponsorships.

In the spotlight
APRIL 27-MAY 1 (Sun.-Thu.): "Body and Sold" play on sex trafficking, 7-9 p.m. each day
MAY 7 (Wed.): A Foundation for Your Financial Future: Demystifying Retirement
     (all-council event series), 6-8 p.m.
MAY 13 (Tue.): Build the Movement: Empowering Asian American Voters (with
     Asian American Leadership Council), 6-8 p.m.

New this week
MAY 8 (Thu.): Grantees: The Budgeting Laboratory (capacity-building workshop),
     9 a.m.-12 p.m.
MAY 15 (Thu.):Grantees: Executive Director Roundtable: Developing the Development
, 12-1:30 p.m.
MAY 16 (Fri):Poverty’s Impact on Illinois Women and Girls: Economic Security Briefing,
     8:30-10:30 a.m.

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