Pervasive poverty affects the quality of life and future prospects of many women and girls in Monterey County. While more women are in the workforce, they are disproportionately represented in low-wage jobs. Meanwhile, economic hardships are driving more elder women into the workforce. Housing costs and the struggling local economy make it even harder to find or keep an affordable place to live. Additionally, finding and paying for quality, reliable child care are major hurdles. And, even though public assistance is the main safety net for poor women, some earn too much to qualify for services but not enough to adequately provide for their families.
- 1 in 7 women and girls and 30.6% of single mothers live in poverty (earning less than $22,050 per year to support a family of four).
- 2/3 of women who work full time earn less than $50,000 annually.
- The median income for local full-time working women is 13.5% less than that of men.
- Women are over represented in low-paying jobs and under-represented in management positions (40% in 2009 compared to 47% in 2004) and other higher paying jobs.
- Housing costs often exceed 30% of income.
- Older women tend to have fewer assets and less generous retirement benefits than men.
- 2/3 of local women surveyed in 2009 could not afford any childcare or could not afford quality childcare.
- Licensed childcare for an infant or toddler can range from $7,000 to 10,000 annually.
WHAT WE HEARD
The economic security of women is challenged by
- Gender pay inequities
- Lack of educational opportunities for adult women, particularly working women
- Eligibility requirements for public benefits and services, when the woman’s income places her above the federal “poverty line” but beyond her financial capacity to provide for herself and her family
- Eligibility barriers for single women without children seeking shelter and public support
- Lack of jobs that offer a living wage and of opportunities to advance to higher paying positions
- Lack of affordable, quality childcare
- English language proficiency and legal residency status
- Cost of housing.
CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS
Access to education is essential for women’s and girls’ economic success and for breaking the cycle of poverty. Low- or no-cost educational opportunities for adult women and working mothers should be pursued.
The availability of affordable, quality childcare remains a high priority.
Mentoring, leadership, civic participation, and mutual support programs and “places” that provide women with the opportunity to come together, to encourage and learn from one another, and to address the social/cultural barriers to their education and personal development.
Local women of all ages – especially those without traditional family and economic supports – can benefit from mentoring and training in financial literacy, job-search and employment skills, negotiation and communication and self-advocacy.
The specific economic needs of elder women require creative solutions: intergenerational job sharing, training in the use of technology, economic incentives for construction of affordable senior housing, and youth employment opportunities in areas of in-home support for elders.
Advocacy and education to overcome traditional expectations that women and girls should remain in the home caring for family members instead of improving their prospects through education or employment outside the home. For some, language barriers and lack of documentation of legal residency or citizenship are significant obstacles.