News Archive January/February 2014

News Junkies 2.0

 

Women's Policy

Forum's first News Junkies event of 2014 featured a new time, new location and new focus on current events

Karen Myers,left, and Dr Emily Farris, TCU, at February luncheon where Farris was the featured speaker on "Gender Bias in Politics."

TCU Professor Dr. Emily Farris Outlines Women’s Political Progress

 

Dr. Emily Farris, who studies the impact of gender and racial bias on politics, tracked the evolution of voters’ attitudes towards women serving in political office, beginning with women’s suffrage and concluding with the number of women now serving in local, state and national office.

 

“I’m cautiously optimistic about opportunities for women to serve in political office,” she said. “Although there are more women elected to state and local offices, there seems to be bottleneck that prevents experienced women politicians from rising to national office,” she said.

 

Farris said she didn’t have a good feel, based on her studies, why more women aren’t leveraging state and local experience to run for higher office. “It may just be a matter of time before more women make that decision,” she said.

 

She said that many young women don’t have the self-confidence to take on leadership roles. “Research shows that most young women want to be leaders but lack the self-confidence about their qualifications. Support from family and peers is especially important in the development of young women leaders. “Girls need to be socialized to learn about and be involved in leadership positions, which will give them the confidence to seek political office,” Farris said.

 

Farris explained the evolution of attitudes toward women serving in political office. Biases against women serving in political office ran deep for years after women won the right to vote with almost 90 percent of both men and women believing only men should serve as mayors in 1949. Also, the same percentage said they would vote against a woman presidential candidate.

 

However, both men and women were supportive of women serving in some leadership roles in organizations like the local chapters of the American Red Cross and Parent Teachers Associations because those organizations were viewed as outside of the traditional world of politics.

 

In the late 1960s, attitudes began to change with the women’s rights movement influencing attitudes towards the proper role of women in politics and society. By 2000, more than 90 percent of both men and women were willing to vote for a qualified woman for president. The greatest surge in women serving in political office emerged in 1992 when the number of local female elected officials rose from 6 percent to 10 percent and the percentage of state female elected officials rose from 18 percent to 20 percent.

 

Today, 24.2 percent of state legislators are women. “Women are making inroads into state leadership positions. Four of the last six presidents have been governors, which bodes well for women rising to higher office,” Farris said.

Women's Policy Forum Strategy Session 2014

Women's Policy Forum members met on Jan.25 to prepare goals and objectives for the upcoming year. Twenty-two members discussed the target topics: education, health care and politics and developed potential strategies for 2014. The results of the meeting will be presented to the board in February.

Forum Hosts First Appreciation Reception for Women

Elected Officials

 

On Wednesday, Jan.15, members of Women’s Policy Forum saluted women who have been elected to political office in Tarrant County with an inaugural Appreciation Reception.

 

More than 70 members and guests attended, including 22 elected office holders. Representing local public school districts and city councils as well as Tarrant County College, the elected officials and WPF members gathered to compare notes, share ideas about how to address community problems and discuss strategies for expanding women’s political influence.

 

Rachel Malone, WPF chair, greeted elected officials at the reception and reminded members and guests that women have come a long way, but there is much more to do.

 

“According to the 2014 Shriver Report , one in three women, 42 million women, are living in or on the verge of poverty," she said.

 

Mayor Betsy Price called on WPF members to mentor young women and encourage them to assume leadership positions. “I know from personal experience that it’s hard when you’re trying to work and raise a family to commit to leadership roles.” WPF members can help with advice, counsel and support, she said.

Cheong, Blue Interpret Results of Tarrant County Trends Study

 

The first general meeting of 2014, “Shifting Demographics in Tarrant County”, presented sobering statistics on the impact on women of emerging trends regarding education, race/ethnicity, marital status and age.

 

Patricia Cheong, assistant vice president for advocacy, research and education at United Way of Tarrant County, presented selected results of a 2012 United Way Community Assessment Update based the most recent national census. Dr. Susan Blue, founding partner of Neurological Services of Texas, interpreted the findings and potential impact on women.

 

According to Cheong, Tarrant County’s expanding population grew twice as fast as the U.S. overall in the decade from 2000 to 2010. In that time, Tarrant County’s population became more diverse, with close to 50 percent of its residents being people of color.  Cheong added that several issues emerged where people of color were affected more adversely than Anglos, including poverty, diabetes and infant mortality.

 

The county’s older population is a small, but a growing, segment. “Aging is a women’s issue,” she said, “because women live longer.” Grandparents, mainly women, are increasingly taking over the care of grandchildren as the state has invested less in foster care. Women are also more likely to be widowed or divorced.

 

In Tarrant County, unmarried women leading households with children are often living in poverty. Further complicating the situation, women earn less than men and are clustered in management, service and sales or office jobs. Child abuse and neglect is on the rise with confirmed victims of abuse and neglect up 12.5 percent since 2000. Children represent one in four homeless in the county. Finally, Cheong noted that 40 percent of Tarrant County adults have only a high school diploma or less.

 

Dr. Blue, who placed the demographic shifts in the state and Tarrant County in context, said that the status of women is most directly affected by three factors: marriage, self-esteem and education. Unmarried women who are leading households are more likely to be poor and to be high school dropouts. Globally, heads of households without a high school diploma are poorer than those with one or more years of college. Citing the 1985 U.S. Census, Dr. Blue also pointed out that 48 percent of poor families are maintained by women with no husband present.

 

Persons 85 years old and over were twice as poor as those aged 65 to 69, which translates to more women living in poverty because of their longevity. Women who are married or have been married earn up to 30 percent less than men, which affects long-term economic health. Blue also noted that women in poverty are more likely to be victims of sexual exploitation, which erodes self-esteem and confidence in the future. Mobility, information, skills, money and social support are necessary for these women to have power over their own lives. 

 

Below, Flora Brewer, WPF member, comments on presentation.Carol Stanford, left, and Barbara Lamsens, both WPf members, were among those hearing the Cheong-Blue presentation

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