The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem Releases Groundbreaking Report
Economic Status and Needs of Forsyth County Women and Girls
Report reveals that four out of 10 families headed by single mothers live in poverty.
APRIL 27, 2010, Winston-Salem, NC – The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem today released groundbreaking research on the economic security of women and girls in Forsyth County at a community briefing at Forsyth Medical Center Conference Center. The first research of its kind to focus specifically on the circumstances and needs of women in Forsyth County,Through a Gender Lens: The Economic Security of Women and Girls in Forsyth County draws attention to the individual, social and systemic issues and barriers to economic security by examining poverty rates, wages, educational attainment and occupations as well as the cost of necessary expenses such as housing, utilities, food, transportation, childcare and healthcare.
In addition to revealing its key findings, The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem shared several policy and programmatic recommendations with an audience of more than 200 government officials, business and nonprofit leaders, members of The Women’s Fund and individuals interested in the economic health and social well-being of women and girls in Forsyth County.
The impetus for the report was the “tremendous lack of data and research about the status of women and girls in Forsyth County,” explained Michelle Cook, chair of The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem. “As a funder, it is our responsibility to know the realities of those we seek to serve. Without knowledge about how women and girls are faring in our community, we cannot begin to solve the challenges that affect the education and health of our children, the strength of our families and the economic future of our community.”
The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem hopes that Through a Gender Lens — in addition to sharing research focused specifically on women and raising awareness of the strengths and challenges facing women in Forsyth County — will spark a collaborative effort among government, business, nonprofit leaders and individuals to find innovative solutions to strengthening the economic security of women and their families in Forsyth County.
“We know that when you help women become economically secure you help their family become more secure, which ultimately benefits our entire community,” said Tari Hanneman, Director of The Women’s Fund. “We must all work together to identify and support lasting solutions that will ensure that opportunities are available to all those seeking greater economic security.”
While Through a Gender Lens points to many strengths in Forsyth County that hold the potential for women’s economic promise, the research also reveals significant challenges that impede the economic security of our community’s most vulnerable women and their families.
Poverty: Women are disproportionately affected by poverty in Forsyth County, with 16.1 percent of all females compared to 12.5 percent of males living in poverty. Four in 10 families headed by single mothers in Forsyth County live in poverty—a higher poverty rate than their counterparts at the state and national levels.
Gender Wage Gap: While women now comprise 49 percent of the workforce in Forsyth County, this parity in labor participation has not translated into parity in earnings. Regardless of their education or work experience, women earn less than their male counterparts. The median income for full-time female workers over age 16 in Forsyth County is $33,582 — 76.4 percent of the median income ($43,972) of men working full-time. One reason for the continued disparity between women’s and men’s wages is due to the continued segregation of women into female-dominated jobs, many of which are low-paying.
Child Care: Over 10,000 children from low-income families are eligible for child care subsidies, but are not receiving them due to lack of funding. Lack of access to affordable child care can be a serious barrier to a woman obtaining education, job training and skill building—all necessary tools to achieving employment, higher wages and economic security.
Teen Pregnancy: Although teen pregnancy rates significantly fell in 75 of North Carolina’s counties, teenage pregnancy rates in Forsyth County increased 8.2 percent, with 67 out of 1000 Forsyth teen girls ages 15 to 19 becoming pregnant compared to 58 per 1000 statewide. Poverty is both a cause as well as a consequence of teen pregnancy and early childbearing. Forsyth County’s teen mothers are at significant risk of perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of poverty.
The research also revealed consistent disparities between Caucasian women and girls and African American and Hispanic women and girls across a number of indicators, including poverty, accumulation of assets, educational attainment and teen pregnancy rates.
“The findings in Through a Gender Lens point to the need for new programs and policies to help improve the economic status of women and their families,” said Sharee Fowler, a member of the board of The Women’s Fund and chair of the Women’s Issues Research and Assessment Committee. “For example, the workplace has not kept up with the growth of women in the workforce. Women need access to high-quality affordable childcare and family friendly benefits such as paid sick days and family leave so that they do not have to choose between caring for themselves or a family member and earning a living.”
The report includes a number of programmatic and policy recommendations to improve the economic status of women in Forsyth County that fall into the following categories:
- Provide women with the education and training necessary to access higher-paying jobs including those in non-traditional fields;
- Increase women’s income and benefits;
- Support female entrepreneurship and women-owned businesses;
- Build women’s assets and financial literacy;
- Increase access to high-quality affordable childcare for low-income working mothers and students;
- Educate girls to prepare them for future economic success;
- Prevent teen pregnancy and support teen mothers;
- Increase access to work supports that can help bridge the gap between a family’s income and the income needed to meet the family’s essential needs; and
- Ensure that low-income women have access to safe and affordable housing.
The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem will use Through a Gender Lens to help guide its grant making to help women achieve long-term economic security. In May, the Fund will issue its annual Request for Proposals for 2010 grants. In the last three years, The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem has awarded nearly one-half million dollars to local organizations to improve the lives of women and girls. Grants are funded from the pooled contributions of the Fund’s members who determine each year which organizations receive grant funding.
“In addition to using the information to help guide our grant making, we hope Through a Gender Lens will inspire individuals and other funding organizations to increase their philanthropic investments in the lives of women and girls, as well as serve as a resource for individuals and organizations who are interested in advocating for programs and policies that impact women and girls,” noted Women’s Fund Director Hanneman.