Did you know that women in Westchester are more likely to live in poverty than men? Or that, at all levels of education, women in Westchester make less money than men? How about the fact that men outnumber women as Westchester County officials by a factor or 1.7 to 1?
These salient facts — and many more — come from an overview report on the status of women in Westchester, recently released by Westchester Women’s Agenda (WWA), an organization that advocates for equal access to opportunity for women in Westchester. WWA is a coalition that represents more than 50 individual members and organizations, including Community Capital, Hope’s Door, Volunteer New York!, YWCA of White Plains and Central Westchester, and Child Care Council of Westchester Inc. The “Report on the Status of Women in Westchester” — which was published with support from the Eileen Fisher Institute (a member of WWA) — touches upon topics such as education, income, family care, and leadership in business. Much of the news is disheartening, but there are some bright spots as well, like the fact that women have caught up with — and now slightly exceed — the educational levels of men in Westchester.
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Women age 45-55 represent the largest demographic living in poverty.
Noelle Damico, co-chair of the WWA, says the report is not intended to be comprehensive but should instead be viewed as a snapshot into the lives of Westchester women — many of whom are juggling the demands of motherhood, the exorbitant costs of childcare (in 2015, the mean cost of Westchester center-based care for infants was roughly $20,000, according to the report), the county’s higher cost of living, and the struggles of the small business owner.
Damico also recognizes that many of these issues are not just women’s issues. Poverty, for instance, affects all. “These social problems need social solutions. And that means it will take all of us, working from all sides, to create a county where all women thrive and where, consequently, all people thrive as well,” Damico says. “We know investing in women has a positive multiplier effect on the well-being of children and, indeed our whole community.”
Why take a deep dive into these issues? WWA saw the need “to develop data-based and research-informed efforts to pursue progress for women and for everyone in Westchester County,” says Sheila Klatzky, WWA’s secretary. The report also includes a series of recommendations — strategies that WWA believes can help improve the status of women throughout the county:
• Improving the financial well being for women in Westchester by developing new legislation to address barriers to equality and facilitating access to further education.
• Encouraging more women-owned businesses in the county by providing greater access to business training and mentoring programs and expanding opportunities for all small business owners to access capital to grow their businesses.
• Providing greater financial support to reduce some barriers for low- and middle-income women, e.g. transportation and child care costs, and providing opportunities for training in trauma-informed care, including sexual assault and abuse, foster care, and hospitalization.
• Expanding opportunities for affordable and transitional housing.
• Increasing child care subsidy funding at the federal, state and county levels
• Strengthening organizations and platforms such as the WWA and YWCA that focus on gender equality to help improve data and information gathering.
Klatzky says, “We hope that readers will use the report to engage in deeper and broader conversations on the issues raised.”
To read the full report, click here.