Status of Women : Florida Earns D

What happened when you came home from school with a low grade on your report card? Many of us experienced a team of nurturing parents, teachers, and tutors supporting us to get our grades back on track. Everyone assured us we could do better if we tried a little harder, even if we delayed the inevitable by hiding our report card in the freezer like Beverly Cleary’s beloved 8-year-old fictional character, Ramona Quimby.

The Status of Women in the States 2015 was just released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The report analyzes data related to women’s population, diversity, achievement, autonomy, employment, income, health and well-being. Florida received a disappointing D.
Very concerning is that Florida ranks almost last in the labor force participation rate for women and ranks last of all the states for percentage of women with health insurance.

At The Women’s Foundation of Southwest Florida, we feel like a very concerned and nurturing parent when presented with this report card on the status of women in Florida. I know we can do better to improve the status of Florida’s women and girls.

Did you know in Southwest Florida?

-85 percent of the women earn less than $50,000
-Women own only 26 percent of all businesses
-Less than 10 percent of corporate board positions are held by women
-Southwest Florida is not represented by a woman in the U.S. Congress
-Almost 50 percent of female-headed families with children under five live in poverty
-Less than 14 percent of women ages 25-34 years have earned a bachelor’s degree
-Over 65 percent of the calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center are about sex
trafficking and over 80 percent of those involve women and children?

While many of us have an understanding of the uneven educational, social and economic playing field facing women and girls living in developing nations, far fewer of us have internalized the knowledge that gender inequality is alive and well in our own backyards.

We must learn more to formulate strategies for the allocation of resources for women and girls. Some improvements will be relatively straight forward, like seeing more qualified women holding elected and appointed policy positions in Florida. Other improvements are more complex, like evaluating the economic impact of girls having babies before completing their education and likely facing a lifetime of poverty. And what about the significant number of Florida’s women over 65 living in poverty, much higher than the national average, without access to adequate health care?

Reports like the Status of Women 2015 are effective tools to inform and influence public dialogue and policy of the issues facing women in our community, reaffirming the work that needs to be done.

The Women’s Foundation works locally and within the Florida Women’s Funding Alliance, an affinity group of Florida Philanthropic Network, to support current best practices, identify gaps and shifting needs of women in our Southwest Florida communities and beyond.

To help, join The Women’s Foundation SMART Party 2.0 on Thursday, June 18 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Richlin International showrooms at Miromar Design Center, 10800 Corkscrew Rd. in Estero. This tech-driven event is designed to raise funds to address needs of women and girls in SWFL. For more information, visit www.smartswfl.org.

Let’s not hide this disappointing report card in the freezer like Ramona. It’s time to activate nurturing and pro-active teams who know that Florida can do better. Together we can provide the resources and support to move that grade from a D to an A+.

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