Women on the March

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Watch LWVC Executive Director Melissa Breach’s speech at the Oakland Women’s March on January 21, 2017

March 2, 2017
Women’s City Club

A two-year-old summed it up: “Where are all the ‘she’s?” she asked in looking at a child’s book of US presidents.

The League of Women Voters Pasadena Area took a look at where all the “she’s” are in government and found around 20 percent among elected officials at the local, state, and national levels. Women fared better, however, when it comes to appointments to local city commissions. In fact, women in Sierra Madre outstrip men on city commissions by more than half: 60.6 percent. Five of nine cities were within range of equity: Pasadena, Monrovia, Alhambra, and San Gabriel. La Cañada Flintridge scored at the bottom followed by South Pasadena, San Marino, and Monterey Park. Interestingly enough, South Pasadena has 86 commissioners for a population of around 26,000.

“Work needs to be done in La Cañada,” quipped Donovan Steutel in his report at a League forum on Thursday, March 2, at the Women’s City Club in Pasadena. As chair of the League advocacy committee, which conducted the survey, Steutel said equity disparity on city commissions probably comes from lack of awareness rather than “willful bias.”

The greatest inequities, he said, are on the most powerful commissions: planning, design, and transportation. Women predominate on less powerful senior and youth commissions. Other commissions dominated by men are parks and recreation, personnel, and investment. The more balanced commissions include arts and culture, community services, library, historic preservation, environmental, business, and public safety.

It is important for women to serve on commissions, he said, because they are stepping stones to elected office. As examples, he pointed to the entire current City Council of La Cañada Flintridge. All served as city commissioners prior to election to the City Council.

Steutel said the League will be compiling a report that will go to all nine cities. He ended by quoting Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti who said, “Gender equity is an issue of fundamental human rights.”

The audience of about 90 men and women broke into five groups to discuss strategies for increasing the voices of women in government, in particular on the local level.

—Jackie Knowles

The State of Women in Los Angeles County 2016 report from United Way of Greater Los Angeles shows that in spite of progress, women face wage disparities, high poverty rates, unaffordable housing and daunting health issues. Marge Nichols noted that with a younger population of childbearing age the percentage of Latinos will rise in coming years, while the older White group will decline by nearly 50%. Asians will remain about the same, and the Black population will decline by about1/3. California escapes the problems faced by Europe and Japan, where low birth rates and an aging population create a shortage of workers.

Education needs are essential to developing a workforce that can support a growing elderly population, including better college preparation to reduce the need for remedial education and encourage students to completea college degree or technical education. Women of all groups have been increasing college graduation.

The economic facts of life for women include serious discrepancies with men, including less full time work and wage discrepancies that increase at each level of education. Just 9% of all couples are below the poverty level compared to 28% of single mothers, and the
rates are even higher for those with children under 18. Education makes an enormous difference in poverty rates: 46% of single women with less than high school education fall below the severe federal poverty level, compared to just 10% of college graduates.

More than 13,000 women were homeless and living in shelters, cars or on the street in 2015. The Los Angeles County Health Survey counted an additional 187,000 women who had been near homeless or homeless during the past 5 years but avoided being on the street by staying temporarily with friends or family members.

Poor women have much higher rates than middleincome women for threatening health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and depression. 22% of Latinos have no health insurance, compared to just 8% for Whites, Blacks at 11% and Asians at 12%. This means that county funded health clinics, free clinics and hospital emergency rooms must care for these uninsured residents.

—Marge Nichols