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Office of Women’s Policy Releases Report on State of Women and Girls in Santa Clara County

Findings to Provide Road Map for Countywide Initiative to Address Needs,  Coordinate Necessary Strategies and Actions

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Today, the County of Santa Clara Office of Women’s Policy presented a comprehensive report about the State of Women and Girls in Santa Clara County. The document indicates how women and girls are faring in four crucial policy areas: education, the economy, violence and crime, and health.

“Women and girls are half of the population of Santa Clara County and ignoring their most pressing needs to thrive is a mistake we cannot afford to make,” said President George Shirakawa, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors after today’s presentation. “This report is a guideline for policy makers, community leaders and everyone who is ready to transform these challenges into opportunities for the benefit of our entire community.”

Today’s presentation included keynote remarks and policy briefings by County of Santa Clara Supervisors and executives, as well as other stakeholders with knowledge and a longstanding commitment of advocacy for the population targeted by the report.

“This report will be extremely helpful as we focus on the most pressing needs of women and girls in our County,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Liz Kniss, Honorary Co-chair of the report. “Women face many challenges to develop their potential. The data will help us to address impending issues and be mindful of policy decisions that will affect women and girls.”

Supervisor Kniss was joined by Honorary Co-Chairs and former County Supervisors U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren, Blanca Alvarado, Suzanne Wilson, and Diane McKenna, and former State Senator Becky Morgan and former City of San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer.

The State of Women and Girls in Santa Clara County is the result of an effort from the County of Santa Clara Office of Women’s Policy, which in the fall of 2011 convened an Advisory Board comprised of thirty-two stakeholders representing a cross-section of disciplines. The Advisory Board selected indicators, reviewed data, prioritized indicators for action, and identified strategies that have the greatest potential to improve the status of women.

“We are very grateful for the insight and support of the Advisory Board and everyone who understands the importance of keeping a gender lens in decision-making across Santa Clara County,” said County of Santa Clara Office of Women’s Policy Esther Peralez-Dieckmann. “This report gives us powerful information to help those with influence and determination to take action and advocate for the well-being of women, families and the community.”

The goal of this report is to provide a baseline of information in key areas to build a platform by which the Office of Women’s Policy, in collaboration with the Commission on the Status of Women and community stakeholders, can launch a multi-year, countywide initiative to improve the status of women and girls.

“This report will be extremely useful as we launch a strategic and targeted effort to improve the status of women and girls in our County,” said Suzanne Doty, Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women. “The horizon might be challenging, but there are certainly “winnable battles” that will benefit women, girls and our entire community for years to come.”

Next steps:

The Office of Women’s Policy plans to use the Report on the State of Women and Girls in Santa Clara County as a “community document”, and from March through May 2012, the Office will seek community input and feedback to make an inventory of available data resources and potential partners to recruit on key initiatives already underway.

On August 24, 2012, the Office of Women’s Policy will launch countywide policy agenda for women and girls in Santa Clara County at the annual Women’s Equality Day Luncheon hosted by the Commission on the Status of Women.

State of Women and Girls in Santa Clara County 
Report Key Findings



  • Women and girls make up half of the county’s population at 49.8%.
  • In spite of the progress since the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote in the U.S., women today continue to face many challenges that affect their ability to move forward and achieve full equality in society.
  • Antiquated notions of gender roles, bias fueled by the over-sexualization of women and girls in the media, and an overall lack of knowledge about women’s growing economic and political power continue to hinder efforts to advance women and girls today.
  • The State of Women and Girls in Santa Clara County Report addresses four key areas: education, economic prosperity, health, and violence and crime. There are compelling reasons and evidence to suggest that these four areas hold the key to improving the overall status of women and girls in our community.

Education

  • In 2012, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX, a landmark legislation which ensured equity for women in educational programs and activities. Even though the achievement gap between girls and boys K-12 has closed, and, in some instances, girls are exceeding the achievement rates of boys, an unacceptable percentage do not read at grade level or graduate from high school.
  • While women are earning more bachelor degrees than men, it is easy to see a trend where women do not pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • A recent report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) suggests women face significant environmental and social barriers in the classrooms of higher education that block their progress and participation in degree programs leading to these higher wage careers. Additionally, women lack support and mentoring from college into the workplace.

Economics

  • While women in the United States have made great strides toward socioeconomic equality over the past century, gender disparities remain in Santa Clara County as do inequalities among women.
  • Women today continue to face a persistent wage gap, earning 23% less than men for the same job in 80 % of the labor categories in the U.S. and the wage gap is even greater in Santa Clara County. As the economic stability of families has plummeted, women who occupy lower wage sectors (mainly Latinas) such as food service, hotel work, and domestic work, are more vulnerable to wage and labor violations, unsafe and unhealthy work conditions.
  • Women are more likely to be unemployed than men and unemployment rates have spiked in recent years.
  • Women continue to be paid less than men for the same job, and Latinas tend to be clustered into relatively lower-paying occupations. In addition, while there is a wage gap at every level of education, it is widest among the highest educated.
  • The number of women-owned firms in the county has grown since 2002. The most recent estimates indicate that about 30% of privately-owned firms are owned by women.
  • Women are more likely than men to be living in poverty. The poverty rate is increasing for both men and women. In 2010, 11% of women and girls lived in poverty.

Health

  • A recent report by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department underscores how social determinants of health, such as access to medical care and preventative screenings, social status, employment and income, education and housing, result in significant health disparities and inequities for people of color, poor people and women.
  • As Americans are living longer, our community faces considerable health uncertainties. Half of all adults suffer from one or more chronic conditions that, if unaddressed, will result in significant personal and financial hardship as they age. Obesity, both for youth and adults, remains a challenge.
  • While Santa Clara County women tend to be current on preventive screening, a closer look at the data reveals racial and ethnic disparities that point to potential areas for targeted public health efforts.
  • Women’s health insurance coverage has declined in Santa Clara County. In 2000, 93% of women had health insurance; in 2009, 87% were covered. Latina and African American women are less likely than White and Asian women to have coverage.
  • Women report poorer physical and mental health than men do. African American and White women are more likely to report poor mental health than Latina and Asian women.
  • The prevalence of overweight-obese women has increased in recent years and currently they represent 49% of all women. A greater proportion of males than females in the county are overweight or obese.
  • With National Healthcare Reform underway, we have an unprecedented opportunity to create a health care system that will ensure access and coverage for all Americans by 2014. It is imperative that we engage women in the development of this system and advocate for healthcare programs, services and policies that are gender responsive, culturally competent, trauma informed and recovery oriented.

Violence and Crime

  • As in other communities all over the world, women and girls are most vulnerable to certain types of violence and crime. Understanding the types of crimes for which women and girls are most at risk enables the development of effective solutions.
  • In Santa Clara County, girls are more likely than boys to be victims of psychological bullying and cyber bullying at school. As adults, a greater proportion of women than men are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
  • Girls are more likely to be reported as victims of child abuse and neglect, although the rate of maltreatment substantiations in the county has decreased over the decade. In 2010, substantiated cases of child maltreatment reached a 10-year low, at 3.7 per 1,000 girls.
  • The need for emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence has increased along with the numbers of women and children unable to access shelter. In 2011 local domestic violence crisis hotlines answered approximately 13 calls per 1,000 people compared to 10 calls per 1,000 people in 2010. However, the rate of domestic violence calls to local law enforcement in the county has declined over the last 10 years, from 3.9 calls in 2000 to 2.76 calls per 1,000 residents in 2009.
  • Violence against women and the impact of the criminal justice system on women and girls are an ongoing concern.
  • Research by the Office of Women’s Policy indicates that female offenders in our local jail system are generally poor, single women of color who are mothers. Many of these women have children under the age of five. A significant number of these women (an estimated 85%) reported being victims of domestic violence.
  • Cycles of abuse and violence, with overlapping cycles of poverty and educational failure, create a cycle of incarceration that is not only extremely difficult to break, it creates a new problem of inter-generational incarceration with children of these offenders being more likely to experience negative outcomes, including becoming offenders themselves.
  • Of all groups of women, one segment of the population merits considerable focus and advocacy to address the numerous, complex challenges in more than one of the key policy areas we selected for this report. Latinas are less likely to be kindergarten ready, most likely to become teen mothers, and, along with African-American girls, are least likely to graduate. Not surprisingly, they make up the largest percentage of low-wage workers and are disproportionately over-represented in the juvenile justice and adult correctional system in Santa Clara County.
  • Targeted efforts to examine and address issues for Latinas in Santa Clara County must remain high on the County and community’s agenda.

Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Marina Hinestrosa, Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119; Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, Office of Women’s Policy (408) 299-5119 (408) 299-5142 or 398-0541
Posted: March 23, 2012