Emerging Issues Symposium
Explores Need for Education,
Child Care Options
for Texas Women
On Oct. 27, Women’s Policy Forum’s Emerging Issues Symposium, “In the Driver’s Seat: Fueling Economic Security and Opportunity for Women” explored education and child care, as well as other issues affecting the upward mobility of women in Texas and the region. More than 130 people attended the fourth annual symposium in Fort Worth.
The half-day meeting featured panel discussions by leaders in business, nonprofit and government areas, as well as the Dallas Women’s Foundation’s update on the economic status of women in Texas, “Education and Child Care: Critical Building Blocks for Success.”
Road Map to Success
Rep. Kay Granger and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price in a moderated discussion with Rose Bradshaw, co-chair of the symposium, updated Dallas Women’s Foundation's survey data indicating 25 percent of women and men in Texas have some college education. Forty-one percent of women ages 24-34 have a higher degree or credential, eight points higher than men. Granger said, although women’s participation in higher education is improving, “We need to encourage young women to go to college and connect them .”In the future, 71 percent of all jobs will require at least a two-year degree,” said Price.
Granger said a college degree is achievable because of the presence of many educational institutions in Tarrant County willing to work with students in need. Education is essential to improving job opportunities, she emphasized.
Child care is often a barrier to attending college or sustained employment. Price pointed to a high teen pregnancy rate in Texas – 35 of every 1,000 teens have a child – as an obstacle.
“Child care is the single biggest expense for many families, up to 30 percent of income, if you can find quality child care, “ she said. “Many resort to family members or friends who are not equipped to give children a good start. We have to do better.”
Women are more likely than men to live in poverty in Texas. Women fall behind early because they earn 60 cents for every $1 earned by men. For women of color, the difference is even more stark, 48 cents for every $1. Granger encouraged women to fight for parity in wages. Price said women have “cracked the ceiling, but not broken through.”
Improved child care arrangements, including on-site day care,
and on-the-job training can help move women up the economic ladder. Businesses must be shown data that prove such assistance helps contribute to an educated work force in the future.
“Every one of you should be in your elected officials’ offices annually to discuss education,” Price said. “Show them the data and pepper them with questions about how they plan to ensure children in Texas are receiving the education they need.”
Education and Child Care: Critical Building Blocks for Success
Dr. Dena Jackson, Dallas Women’s Foundation’s senior vice president of grants and research, presented research conducted in 2014 and updated annually on the economic status of women in Texas. Prefacing her results on the impact on child care and education, she pointed out that Texas has 14 million women and girls in its population. Sixty-one percent of families rely on women’s income to make ends meet. Women are more likely to live in poverty than men. Education and child care both have an impact on upward mobility.
“The intersection of race and gender in education is important. We need to close the ethnic and racial gaps in higher education,” Jackson said. “Cost is a high barrier for most women. We need to reduce the number of students who go to college but don’t finish.”
Needs-based scholarships and grants and affordable baccalaureate programs should be expanded.
“Those programs need to be flexible to allow students to pay for housing and books. Students standing in line at food banks was not on my radar, but it’s happening. Hunger is a real issue,” she said.
Once women graduate, they need help with child care. Access to child care increases women’s employment, stability and advancement. Because women are the primary caregivers, they miss work to have children, to care for sick children, and to cover for inconsistent child care.
“Women steadily lose ground on wages because of job disruptions,” she said. African-American and Hispanic women pay a higher price in wage drop off. In fact, African-American women worked until July 31 to earn as much as a man did last year; Hispanic women will work until Nov.2 to earn the same amount.
Solutions include expanded public Pre-K grants and basic Pre-K program, coordinated applications for assistance and child care and introducing family-friendly workplaces and policies.
Dr. Linda Garcia, co-chair of the 2017 Emerging Issues Symposium, moderated a wide-ranging panel discussion on women in business with Marianne Auld, managing partner, Kelly Hart, Kara Waddell, chief executive officer, Child Care Associates, and Grace Protos, regional administrator, US Department of Labor.
Protos, who represents a bureau established in 1920 to break down barriers for women, emphasized that 70 percent of women in the U.S. have children under 18. She said workplace supports are imperative to move women into higher-paying jobs. “The nuclear family is gone. Many women are single mothers,” she added.
“Paid parental leave doesn’t exist in the United States. The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that does not offer paid leave, “ Protos said. “We must move to a place where we ask what a job pays, not what an applicant’s previous salary history has been. Women are consistently underpaid because of this practice.” Salary transparency should be required by law to ensure fair treatment, she added.
Businesses have to be more intentional in their policies, the panel agreed. Waddell said she led the drive to provide 12 weeks of paid parental leave at her nonprofit, while Auld said Kelly Hart offers paid parental leave.
“There is a cultural hurdle to get young men to take family leave offered to them,” Auld added. “Our challenge in business is to be who we say we are on paper.”
Culture is a big issue, Protos agreed. In France, the government is attempting to influence attitudes by viewing untaken leave to be as risky to a career as taking leave. Auld recommended investing personal effort in the early stages of your career to ensure you are valued when you need family leave.
In closing, Women’s Policy Forum’s Chair Pat Cheong reviewed the high points of the symposium, remarking on some of the more surprising aspects of the presentations. “I heard the call to be intentional, walk the walk and get out of your comfort zone. Start some new conversations. Engage and bring people together,” she said.
Women’s Policy Forum hosts an annual symposium to explore issues critical to Fort Worth and the region. WPF’s mission is to investigate and support policies and initiatives that will effect positive change for Tarrant County women and our community.