On August 18, the Center for the Advancement of Women released the findings of its ninth annual Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California™ at the first in a series of virtual conversations. Recognized thought leaders for gender equity – including New York Times best-selling author and cultural critic Roxane Gay, California Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, First Lady of Los Angeles Amy Elaine Wakeland and the founder of GirlTalkHQ Asha Dahya – discussed intersectional feminism and privilege, anti-racism and the effects of COVID-19 in vulnerable communities.
The 2020 Report, “Equity + Agency: From Earning the Vote to Claiming the Power,” shines a light on a wide range of issues, from educational attainment and occupational disparities to earnings and wealth gaps, safety, and health and wellness — including areas of concern such as mental health, maternal and infant health, caregiving and food insecurity.
“Women and girls fight for equality in a typical year,“ said Ann McElaney-Johnson, Mount Saint Mary’s University president. ”But this year reminds us of the persistent inequities and obstacles still before us. Access to quality education and health care, economic well-being and care of the planet are women’s issues and are central to the future of our state, our country and the globe. To address these issues in a substantive manner, we must understand how the intersectionality of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status and gender determine overt and subtle systemic privilege and discrimination.”
After a brief presentation of some of this year’s key findings, Gay and Mitchell sparked a spirited discussion on the intersections between racism and sexism as well as ways to create systemic change toward equity. “Women’s rights are mutable; they can be given and taken away,” explained Gay while discussing her essay “The Alienable Rights of Women.” “And the same holds for Black people and people of color more broadly. We weren’t given the right to vote and we had to fight for it.
“As we are talking about the centennial of women’s suffrage, not nearly enough attention is being paid to the fact that we are celebrating the centennial of white women’s suffrage,” she said. “Black women’s right to vote didn’t come for nearly 45 more years, which is appalling every time you say it out loud.”
During her concluding remarks, Emerald Archer, PhD, director of the Center for the Advancement of Women and editor in chief of the Report, explained that despite the sweeping improvements in this year’s report relative to prior years, there is still a lot of work to do. “Our current political and cultural climate require that we continue to advocate for women and girls with intensity. We are all called to act,” she said.
A sampling of some key findings from this year’s research include:
- A record-setting 41 women now serve in California’s 120-body state legislature. Of these, 44% are white, 39% are Latina, 10% are Black, and 7% are Asian American. Despite these numbers, California currently ranks only 18th among states for the percentage of women in its state legislature.
- Across California, there are 1.58 million women-owned businesses — more than in any other state — and 59% of those are owned by women of color. The global pandemic has created hardships for many of these business owners and their survival depends on assistance from the government and support from patrons.
- California’s maternal mortality rate is decreasing and it’s lower for every race and ethnicity compared to the nation as a whole. However, Black women and their babies are more vulnerable when it comes to pre- and post-natal care. They remain more at risk than any other demographic — for example, they are three times more likely than their white counterparts to die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth.
- The wealth gap hits hardest for women of color. For every $100 owned by white men nationwide, Latinas hold $3 and Black women have 80 cents.
- More than one in five (21%) of California’s lesbian, gay and bisexual high school students report having attempted suicide.
For a more complete understanding of the gains made and gaps that still persist, view the full Report on our website.
The Center has planned a series of virtual conversations with thought leaders and experts on gender issues to discuss this year’s Report findings. The second conversation took place on August 25 and the third is slated for October 1. Registration for these events is free and open to the public. Check the Newsroom for coverage on the other events in this series and the virtual event recordings page to view this and other events.