Top Ten Issues Facing Women - August 2001

Denver Women's Commission
Top Ten Issues Facing Women - August 2001

August 28, 2001
Prepared by Chaer Robert
Director, Denver Women's Commission

for Mayor Webb

Top Ten Issues Facing Women

The first two issues permeate all the remaining issues as well:

1. Caregiving Responsibilities-- Our country values "personal responsibility" and independence above all. American women take on their shoulders the responsibilities, in terms of times and finances, which, in other countries would be shared by extended family, government and community. But American women also have a high labor force participation. Colorado has the third highest of the states. So not only do most women work, they also are the primary caregivers to the young, elderly and infirmed. Maternity leave and public assistance for mothers are among the stingiest in the industrialized world. Women with high wages are exhausted by trying to juggle work and family. Lower income women have these responsibilities, plus can afford fewer options to relieve the pressure.

2. Inadequate Income-- The average working woman employed full time earns $26,324 or, in 1999, 72 cents for each dollar earned by a full time working man. The most frequent reason for this imbalance is that the kinds of jobs held by women pay less than the kinds of jobs held by men. To equalize pay by eliminating this job segregation would require an estimated 10 million working women change jobs with 10 million working men.

3. Affordable Housing -- In the last ten years, in Metro Denver, average rents have risen 75%. Average wages have risen 47%. Women earn less than men to start with, and often need more space because of children. Increasingly, Metro Denver's homeless are women -- 44% currently. Two-thirds of Metro Denver homeless families are one-parent families. A woman heads 98% of homeless single parent families.

4. Domestic Violence -- Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women, and the leading cause of emergency room visits. The most unsafe place for a woman is at home. An estimated 1/3 to 1/2 of women are battered at some point in their lives.

5. Access to Affordable Health Care -- Over 16% of Coloradans have no health insurance. More than 80% of the uninsured are employed. More and more of newly created jobs are in the "contingent" work force, i.e. temporary, part-time or contractual. Most of these jobs do not offer health insurance. Dramatic increases in health care premiums will force more employers to drop or reduce coverage. Those who earn under 200% of the federal poverty level will generally not be able to afford their own health insurance premiums.

6. Retirement Income -- Two out of every three working women have no pension.

Social Security provides 90% of income for 41% of older women. Without Social Security, 52.9% of women over 65 would be in poverty.

7. Child Care, Development & Education-- While in two parent families, both parents may share child care responsibilities, it is still the mother who make the child care arrangements. Child care slots are in short supply, with the cost taking a major chuck out of family budgets.

Education rank as a top concern from both men and women, with 27% of Colorado women and 19% of men ranking in their top three concerns.

8. Eldercare -- Over 80% of eldercare is provided by female relatives, who often must forego employment or advancement for their caregiving responsibilities. Frequently such care is provided without any government or community assistance. With the aging of the population, nursing and other health care worker shortage, and with overextended Medicaid budgets, care for frail elderly will grow into a crisis.

9. Transportation- Colorado is oriented around a single passenger vehicle. Those without cars face a significant barrier to employment. Those who also have young children generally have a trip to child care, then employment, then back to child care, then home. Due to sprawl, commutes are lengthening. Due to the high cost of housing in many urban areas, low and moderate wage workers increasingly live farther away from employment. As commutes lengthen, less time is available for civic involvement, volunteerism, and community building activities.

10. Substance Abuse- Women bear the brunt of substance abuse by others. 78% of domestic violence victims report alcohol or drug abuse by the assailant. Up to 60% of sex offenders were drinking at the time of the assault. In 1995, health care spending associated with alcohol; tobacco and drug abuse was estimated at more than $114 billion. Smoking accounted for 70% of the costs. 41.5% of women in Colorado's criminal justice system are diagnoses as alcohol or drug abusive or dependent. One of the most common reasons for grandmothers raising grandchildren is alcohol and drug abuse by parents.