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2013 Event Recap


The 2013 Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California™ reveals new trends and insights on why stubborn gender gaps persist in the nation’s most populous state. Released on Thursday by Mount Saint Mary’s University, the Report is the only one of its kind, compiling data on a dozen key issues vital to the well-being of California’s 18.9 million women and girls.   

This year’s Report includes research on demographics, education, employment, poverty, media, technology, leadership, physical health, mental health, violence, incarceration, and women in the military. To read the Report in full, visit

“We publish this Report because if we truly want to inspire our own students to affect change, we must lead by example,” says Ann McElaney-Johnson, president of Mount Saint Mary’s University. “As a women’s college, we have a passion for fostering women’s leadership. We want to empower our students and alumnae to live lives of purpose.”

At Thursday’s public release of the Report, Geena Davis — Academy Award®-winner and founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media — spoke to an overflow crowd of more than 850 people. Davis is chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls.

“Last year, when this Report was released, the California Commission on the Status of Women was on the chopping block,” Davis told the audience. “It was a budget line item to be eliminated.”

Today, thanks to an outpouring of public support, the Commission has not only survived; Davis has helped expand its focus to include girls as well. The state commission’s name now mirrors the breadth of Mount Saint Mary’s Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California.

“We need to focus on all generations of women to create lasting change,” Davis said. “That is why I am working to ensure that positive images of women and girls are instilled at a young age. Until these issues are addressed at an early age, we will never reach our full potential as a society.”

New Report, new findings
During the Report’s public release on Thursday, KCET’s Madeleine Brand moderated conversations with pioneers from the fields of education, business and advocacy.

Panelist Maria Gutierrez Ott noted the Report’s data confirming that women and girls remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. She said changing those statistics requires attention at a much earlier stage: “Getting girls turned onto science begins in preschool,” said Ott, Executive in Residence at the University of Southern California’s School of Education.

In a conversation on health and safety, Kay Buck — executive director of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) — noted that this year’s Report illustrates how Los Angeles has become a primary destination of human trafficking. In the last two years, California has identified nearly 1,300 victims.

“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery,” Buck said. “And traffickers have learned that people here don’t know their neighbors as well as they used to. So they can get away with it.”

A sampling of other key findings from the 2013 Report on the Status of Women and Girls:

  • The pay gap between working women and men in California is real, with the sharpest discrepancies found in health- and business-related fields. 
  • 2013 marks a historic year for the number of women serving in the U.S. Congress, but California women lost ground in political leadership roles at the state level.
  • More than two out of every five women and girls in California have been victims of intimate partner violence.
  • Access to healthcare continues to rise and infant mortality rates have dropped to historic lows. Yet African-American babies continue to die at rates 2.3 times that of white babies.
  • Women comprise 8 percent of California’s veteran population — more than any other state — yet California also has one of the highest rates of homeless female veterans.
  • In a media-rich state, the role of women in media remains far too limited. Women are underrepresented behind the camera, for instance, at a rate of nearly 5-to-1.

The day’s additional panelists, speakers and performers included: Gisselle Acevedo, former CEO and communications professional; Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, KFWB radio co-host of “Unfinished Business”; Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles; Faith Rivera, Hawaiian-born Emmy®-winning singer and songwriter; Anna Marie Valerio, president of Executive Leadership Strategies; and Diane White-Clayton, founding director of The Sacred Praise Chorale.

During Thursday’s release of the Report, Davis also announced that Rebecca Blanton is the new executive director of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls in California. Thursday marked Blanton’s first day on the job.

The Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California is compiled by Mount Saint Mary’s University faculty who gather and analyze data from federal, state and local databases. California’s data is often a leading indicator of national trends.  

“This is a report on the status of women and girls in California, but its significance isn’t limited to women,” says McElaney-Johnson. “Everyone benefits from a diversity of thought, opinions and skills. We hope this report will inspire everyone to take action.”