2014 Event Recap
Los Angeles, March 28, 2014 – Mount Saint Mary’s University yesterday issued its 2014 Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California. For the first time, the Report includes an in-depth comparison between the more than 19 million women and girls living in California and the 5 million-plus females living in Los Angeles County.
The Report, which is available at statusofwomen.msmu.edu, was released during a public forum at the College's Doheny Campus. A crowd of nearly 1,000 heard from speakers such as Constance Rice, co-founder of the Advancement Project, award-winning national journalist Tess Vigeland, and Academy Award winner Geena Davis.
"Gender equality is not just a women's issue. It is a human issue, and it is an economic issue that is key to the vitality of our state," said Mount Saint Mary’s University President Ann McElaney-Johnson. "Only by pulling together disparate data can we see a complete picture of the current challenges facing women and girls – particularly those of color – in Los Angeles County and California."
During the event, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced, via video message, a new research partnership between the City of Los Angeles and Mount Saint Mary’s University.
"A key part of my ‘Back to Basics' agenda is to make City Hall a place where decisions are based on data, and we track progress with concrete metrics," said Garcetti. "I'm pleased to announce that the City of Los Angeles is partnering with Mount Saint Mary’s University to develop a series of briefs that will provide data on women and girls specific to our city that will better enable my administration to identify the greatest needs and prioritize our work to address them."
Mount St. Mary's research faculty will develop reports profiling Los Angeles' female population, focusing on demographics, leadership, workforce development, public safety and veterans.
Geena Davis, who is also the founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University, addressed the issue of gender equality in the television industry.
"Women – and men – of color continue to be extremely underrepresented on television. An overwhelming 85 percent of all primary characters were white and 80 percent of all secondary characters were white," said Davis, who also serves as chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls. "This rate of ethnic representation on television still does not reflect the current and increasing diversity of the United States."
Tess Vigeland moderated two panel sessions focusing on the socio-economic challenges facing the region's female population and public policy perspectives on closing gender gaps.
Many of the conversations focused on the interconnectedness of issues facing women. Dr. Susie Baldwin, chief of the health assessment unit at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, called poverty the most important health-related issue for women in the nation's most populous county: "People may think poverty is an economic issue, it's a social issue, but is it really a health issue? Yes, it is. If we could lift people out of poverty we would eliminate a lot of the health disparities that we see."
Somjita Mitra, an economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, stated that the wage gap is costing the Los Angeles economy about $6 billion. "If we were able to close the wage gap around the nation for all full-time, working women, that would increase our national GDP by 2.9 percent, which would give our economy $450 billion." That is about 14 times what the state and federal government spent in 2012 on the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Act.
Helen Boutrous, chair of Mount St. Mary's History and Political Science department, highlighted several key challenges that are identified in this year's Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California:
- Wage gap: California and Los Angeles County women still earn less than men in all occupational categories. In Los Angeles County, the greatest earnings differences are in STEM positions (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
- Poverty: Nearly one-third of California women living in poverty are under the age of 18. From among the 1 million females living in poverty in Los Angeles County, 31 percent are under the age of 18 and 63 percent are Latina.
- Business: California's estimated 1.1 million women-owned businesses represent 30 percent of all companies in the state. However, women still hold only 3% of CEO positions among California's 400 largest public companies.
- Intimate partner violence: Approximately 40 percent of California women have experienced intimate partner violence during their lifetime, which is significantly higher than the national rate of 24 percent.
- Politics: In Los Angeles County, women hold only 22 percent of city council seats. Over the past decade, California has dropped from 10th to 19th place, nationally, in the number of women serving in state legislative office.
Other panelists and speakers included: Erika Anderson, publisher of Los Angeles magazine; Vicky Brown, founder, Idomeneo Enterprises, Inc., and board president, National Association of Women Business Owners, Los Angeles chapter; Ana Guerrero, chief of staff to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti; Kelly Jenkins-Pultz, program analyst, U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau; Sheila Kuehl, former California state senator, founding director of Santa Monica College's Public Policy Institute.
About Mount Saint Mary’s University
Mount Saint Mary’s University offers a dynamic learning experience in the liberal arts and sciences. The only women's college in Los Angeles, Mount St. Mary's has a diverse student body, with 50 percent of our students the first in their families to attend college. We are dedicated to providing a superior education enhanced by an emphasis on building leadership skills and fostering a spirit to serve others.