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Mount to Release Groundbreaking Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California

March 7, 2012 – Far fewer California women than men are pursuing the high-demand, high-wage science, technology and engineering jobs that provide the biggest income payoff, according to The Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California to be released March 29 by Mount Saint Mary’s University. Moreover, the new report reveals, women are severely underrepresented in areas of public sector influence, with just 38 percent of the state's U.S. representatives being female, and only 9 percent of California cities being led by women mayors.

The report shines a light on the 18.7 million women and girls who call California home – a number representing more than half of the state's residents. Among the employment findings highlighted in the report, women's annual earnings are shown to be consistently less than that of men. In some occupations, annual earnings for women fell short of those of men by nearly $20,000. A panel discussion featuring top women leaders in entertainment, business and public policy will address the gathering to be held at 10 a.m. on the Doheny Campus, 10 Chester Place, Los Angeles. The event is free and open to the public.

Data confirm that women are vastly underrepresented in elective office, scientific fields, partnerships in law firms and in the boardrooms of California, in spite of great strides in the last 100 years. By examining areas key to economic, political, social and physical well-being – and an array of studies in these areas – the report confirms the undeniable trend that women lag behind men in reaching positions of power.

Disparities start early in life; high school girls are less likely than their male counterparts to excel in advanced science classes such as physics and chemistry. "As a women's college with a mission to serve and to lead, MSMU has an inherent interest in the forces that shape women's lives," says Mount President Ann McElaney-Johnson. "This report provides a snapshot of the environment California women face today, with hope of progress for the women of tomorrow."

"Mount Saint Mary’s University deserves a standing ovation for shedding light on the shortage of strong female characters in family films," says Geena Davis, a panelist and the Academy Award winning actor who founded The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. "Our daughters are watching us. This report helps us come together to reduce stereotypes and create a wide variety of female characters for entertainment targeting children 11 and under."

"To be informed is one of the only ways that we can protest, improve or change," says Azure Antoinette, a poet and spoken word artist and photographer who is performing at the event. "Without factual information, we speculate or base our emotions on bias. That is dangerous. With the Mount's status report, we are armed with credible information, thereby making change more than possible – making it eminent."

"During the past 40 years, women have gained access to just about every educational and career opportunity," says Women's College Coalition President Susan Lennon. "And yet – at a time when our nation must tap into the diverse skills and talents that everyone brings to the table – women remain underrepresented in STEM, in key leadership positions in the workplace and in the board room, and in Congress. The education and success of women and girls is the unfinished agenda of the 21st Century."

Mount faculty members from varied disciplines including psychology, nursing, sociology, business and education spent several months pulling and analyzing data from federal, state and local databases to compile the report. The College looks forward to sparking lively discussion and invites a call to action from all segments of women.

The College offers programs and initiatives designed to close some of the gaps highlighted in the report. The Mount is the exclusive California partner with Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics in its push to hold a series of public events to bring more women into public office. And the Mount launched the first bachelor of science in nursing program in California 60 years ago and continues to enroll and graduate more than 600 nurses annually. The tradition has grown to support strong leadership roles for women in health care organizations to advocate for better health care for women. Its Student Ambassador program sends Mount students throughout Los Angeles to inspire 7,500 girls annually – many of whom live in poverty – to go to college. The program provides essential college preparatory and mentoring support to high school girls in large, urban public schools.

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Among the key data in The Report:

  • In California, women represent only 24 percent of the Boards of Supervisors; 9 percent of mayors; 30 percent of state senators; 28 percent of state assembly members and 38 percent of U.S. representatives.
  • Only 3 percent of CEOs and only 10 percent of board directors are women in California's Fortune 400 companies.
  • Women of color comprise more than half of California's female population; 28 percent of those are foreign born.
  • The state's female workforce is at a disadvantage to men from an earning-power perspective when it comes to the four occupations with the highest projected growth in California: biomedical engineers, network systems and data communications analysts, biochemists and biophysics, and medical scientists.
  • Reflective of California's diversity, the majority of K-12 girls – 71 percent in public schools – are from an ethnic minority background.
  • Girls report less interest and confidence in STEM fields, particularly after middle school. Girls comprise only 36 percent of those students enrolled in advanced placement physics.
  • The state leads the nation in women-owned businesses; still, in 2007, women-owned businesses accounted for just 30 percent of all California businesses compared to 49 percent owned by men.
  • By ethnic group, Latinas, American Indian and African American women are the most likely to live in poverty, as defined by the federal government. More than one in five California girls under age 18 and one in nine women 65 and older live below poverty level, the report shows;
  • California women are twice as likely as men to report depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Maternal mortality rates in California have more than doubled since the mid-1980s. African-American women are four to five times more likely to die from obstetrical complications than all other races. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the state, affecting nearly 12 percent of women over age 55.
  • From 2006 to 2009, only 19.5 percent of employed characters in G-rated family files were females – none of whom were depicted as members of the medical sciences, as business leaders, in law or in politics. Women are also underrepresented behind the scenes, with five men for every one woman holding key production roles.
  • Mental health stands out as an important issue for California's girls. The state's girls are twice as likely as boys to be treated for depression, and anxiety and bipolar disorders are also drawing more girls than boys to treatment;
  • Substance abuse among California women is strongly tied to methamphetamine use. One-third of California women in treatment programs are seeking help for methamphetamine abuse, while the substance is responsible for addiction in just 8 percent of women nationwide. The report reveals that most criminal offenses committed by women in California correlate to supporting a drug habit;
  • In California, 46 percent of girls in 7th-through 11th-grades report being bullied about their ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation, compared to 33 percent of girls nationwide.
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