Mi Casa attended the 2013 Research Summit of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado (WFCO) to learn how to better help female Coloradans reach their full potential.
WFCO’s research revealed that much of the state’s female population face obstacles to financial security and career path advancement. As WFCO CEO Louise Atkinson said, “Colorado’s women and girls are on the edge of many issues, and if we don’t make a change, they will fall off the cliff.”
- More than 580,000 Colorado women are poor or near poor
- Lack of work supports (ie child care assistance, paid sick days, etc.) prevents some women from entering the workforce, or forces them to work part-time
- The average fee for an infant to receive child care in a center is 48% of the median income for a single mother
- The average salary for a Latina is $28,000, compared to $40,656 for Caucasian women
- Denver county has a 14% poverty rate for women
- Education helps protect women and their families against poverty (27% of women with less than a high school diploma live in poverty, compared with 4% of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher)
- Full-time women earn 80 cents to the dollar compared with men, and the gender wage gap has been growing for minority women
The Research Summit also focused on The Cliff Effect, when a small increase in income results in a drastic reduction or termination of government benefits, pushing families into greater economic distress. A quick overview of this phenomena from Rocky Mountain PBS is below:
- Working families can lose government benefits such as subsidized child-care worth thousands of dollars a year with modest raises, plummeting the family into worse financial shape.
- Colorado is the only state in the nation that lets counties set income levels for child care assistance eligibility, creating major disparities from county to county in available assistance levels.
- Most experts say higher education is the essential key to escaping poverty. Yet, eleven counties don’t give child-care help to parents attending college
- Some families facing the cliff effect report employing strategies such as declining raises, promotions or better jobs elsewhere to avoid losing an essential benefit.
- Most proposed reforms center on phasing out payments gradually as family incomes rise toward self-sufficiency. Yet, when Colorado lawmakers twice tried to require counties to phase out the benefits, the proposals were watered down after lobbying by Colorado counties to make them voluntary.
The Hope of the WFCO is that its research will enable individuals and organizations across the state to focus efforts and create “bold change.”
WFCO’s recommendations for change include:
- Education young girls about the effects of their educational and career decisions on their long-term economic security
- Advising employers on how to implement best practices for recruiting and retaining women
- Holding public authorities accountable for establishing gender balance in training and education
- Increasing the accessibility and affordability of child care for working parents, and especially single mothers pursuing continued education and training
- Supporting the efforts of organizations that provide mentoring, networking, and training to prepare women for leadership roles
How can you help? To learn how you can partner with Mi Casa’s work to help women and their families trade poverty for lasting economic stability, click here.