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2016 Event Recap

March 31, 2016 -- Mount Saint Mary's University, the only women's university in Los Angeles, yesterday issued its fifth annual Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California™, which found continuing challenges for women, particularly in political representation and in the entertainment industry, as well as notable progress in high school graduation rates, state university preparedness and business ownership.

The findings were released at a free public forum held March 30, at L.A.'s Skirball Cultural Center. The sold-out event was attended by nearly 1,000 people.

The report, which is available online at  is designed to enlighten the public and to guide leaders in developing and implementing solutions to the barriers that prevent women — who represent half of the state's population — from playing a full role in the future of California.

"In 2012, Mount Saint Mary's produced the first Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California," said University President Ann McElaney-Johnson, who presented the 2016 report's key findings. "As a women's university, we remain motivated to produce this report because we all need to understand the challenges women and girls face today in leadership, health and economic well-being, as well as promote solutions to those challenges."

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke at the event and discussed L.A.'s own gender equity efforts. "For the first time in Los Angeles history, over 50 percent of the city's more than 300 commissioners are women and there is not a single commission that is all men in the City of Los Angeles," he said. Garcetti added that Los Angeles recently became the country's second city to create a transgender advisory council.

All of the city's gender-equity efforts, he noted, are based on a five-part study on L.A.'s women and girls, conducted last year by Mount Saint Mary's for the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women.

Wednesday's event also featured three leading experts who focused on broader issues facing women and girls at the state, national and international level:

  • Nancy Kirshner-Rodriguez, executive director of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls;
  • Maria Echaveste, senior fellow at UC Berkeley Center for Latin American Studies and former deputy chief of staff to President Bill Clinton; and
  • Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, a leading foundation for gender equality that supports nearly 5,000 women's groups in 175 countries.

The three also participated in a roundtable discussion moderated by Mary Melton, editor-in-chief of Los Angeles Magazine. 

Echaveste, who was only the third woman deputy chief of staff — and the first deputy chief of color — for a U.S. president, said, "Part of the reason we see disparities is that we, as a country, are not really grappling with the fact that women are, for the most part, the primary caregivers in their families. Women carry forward the human race and that is an awesome responsibility. But we are also doctors, lawyers and astronauts. Unless we start to recognize that women are trying to do several jobs – and our work should be valued and compensated accordingly — the fact that we are primary caregivers should not be a barrier to full parity."

In discussing some of the broad socio-economic development issues facing women and girls worldwide, Dr. Kanyoro said, "More than 196 nations have adopted 17 international sustainable development goals that include 600 indicators. We've looked at the gender issues for every one of them because gender and human rights are essential in building democratic societies and in promoting human dignity and freedom. If we want to succeed in those areas, we have to work collectively. There's no future in working alone."

From the Report 
With 19.5 million women and girls living in the state and the percentage of women of color increasing 6 percent between 2005 and 2014, California faces both opportunities and challenges.

Opportunities: 

  • Between 2002 and 2014, the percentage of girls completing all courses for University of California or California State University undergraduate admission increased to 47% from 37%.
  • Women either own or equally co-own nearly half (46%) of all California firms. More than half of women-owned firms are owned by women of color, compared with 43 percent in 2007. In 2012, minority women owned 55% of all women-owned businesses in California, up from 20% in 2002.
  • In 2012, the state's teen pregnancy rate dropped to 25.7 per 1,000 women, compared with 40.1 per 1,000 women in 2007.California's maternal mortality rate decreased by more than half between 2003 and 2013, compared with significant increases nationally.

Challenges:

  • Progress in closing the gender wage gap remains slow. In 2014, median earnings of California women working full time were 84% that of men, compared with 82% in 2006. That gap represents $8,000 in lost annual wages.
  • California is one of the nation's largest television and film production centers. Yet, over the last 15 years, fewer than one in five women has served as a director, writer or producer.
  • California has the fewest number of women in the state legislature since 1998 and ranks 20th nationally in terms of women's state legislative representation. Women serving in the state legislature still secured the passage of several bills benefitting women, among them the Fair Pay Act.
  • Women represent less than 20% of board directors at California's largest public companies, with white women holding 90% of those positions.

About the Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California™
First issued in 2012, the Report is one of the most authoritative and comprehensive compilations of current research focusing on the issues and trends affecting the more than 19.5 million women and girls who call California home. Its analysis includes demographics; educational attainment; employment and earnings; poverty; media; business leadership; political representation; physical and mental health; violence; and veterans.

About Mount Saint Mary's University
Mount Saint Mary's is the only women's university in Los Angeles and one of the most diverse in the nation. The University is known nationally for its research on gender equity, its innovative health and science programs, and its commitment to community service. As a leading liberal arts institution, Mount Saint Mary's provides year-round, flexible and online programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. Weekend, evening and graduate programs are offered to women and men. Mount alums are engaged, active, global citizens who use their knowledge and skills to better themselves, their communities and the world. msmu.edu