Published in The Day on February 15, 2018
By Erica Moser
New London — A recently released report commissioned by the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut details inequities faced by women in New London and Windham counties in the realms of economic security, education, health and well-being, and leadership.
The median full-time income in eastern Connecticut is $46,000 for women and $56,000 for men. While women make up 76 percent of K-12 public school educators nationwide, only 11 of the 41 public school superintendents in the region are women. In 2015, women in the region made up 24 percent of offenders in family violence incidents but 71 percent of victims.
"Equity is not about advancing women at the cost of men," said Maryam Elahi, president of the Community Foundation. "But when you think about equity, it's really about understanding that when women have the same opportunities as men, the family and the community prosper."
The report was released on Feb. 8 at EASTCONN, a regional educational service center in Hampton. A second release event was held Thursday evening at the Garde Arts Center.
The 26-page report was compiled by DataHaven, with data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, DataHaven's Community Wellbeing Survey and more.
The report showed disparities not only by gender but also by race: The average full-time female worker makes 81 cents for every dollar made by her male counterpart, but black and Latina women make 61 and 53 cents, respectively, for every white male dollar.
One in five black women and one in four Latina women in New London and Windham counties lack a high school diploma, compared to one in 10 white women.
The report concluded with recommendations, such as encouraging experiential STEM education in primary and secondary grades, protecting funding for domestic violence shelters and increasing access to treatment for opioid addiction.
"It's not just that we're documenting where women lag, but we're saying: This is what will make a difference in moving women forward," Elahi said.
The keynote speaker at Thursday's event was Frances Padilla, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation.
She said that as Americans, "We believe in the Constitution, but we also believe that people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and sometimes people don't have bootstraps."
The report stated that the labor force participation rate in eastern Connecticut is 85 percent for men and 78 percent for women.
Padilla stressed that this is important because 60 percent of Connecticut residents with health insurance coverage have insurance through their employers, and so "women and families need good jobs to get insurance. That's just a reality."
Also talking about health care was Susan Yolen, vice president of public policy and advocacy for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.
She noted that the Community Foundation's Women & Girls Funds support Planned Parenthood's teen peer education program Students Teaching About Responsible Sexuality.
The Community Foundation has four Women & Girls Funds: Southeast Area, Windham Area, Norwich Area and Northeast Area. They were respectively founded in 1999, 2004, 2006 and 2013.
Beatrice Jennette, president and founder of STEPS Inc., said that support from the Southeast Area fund has allowed the girls-empowerment organization to hold its first young women's leadership conference and extend its programming to sixth grade.
On March 8, International Women's Day, the Community Foundation is going to keep the conversation going by holding an event in Norwich, with an expert for each of the main areas of the report.