Reducing Poverty Must Happen Mostly For and By Women



This nation cannot have sustained economic prosperity and well-being until women’s central role is recognized and women’s economic health is used as a measure to shape policy.

So writes Maria Shriver in “The Female Face of Poverty ”  The Atlantic Magazine

The article very concisely describes the importance of women to the economy, the ways in which our society is misaligned with that importance and a call for women of all demographic groups to become active in leading the needed changes.  It is a powerful article that stems from a new study:  “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink”, published with the Center for American Progress.  It “explores the political, social, and cultural reasons for America’s economic gender inequality — and explains what can be done about it.”

You may have known the facts and the impact on women, but the call for solidarity and action by women is rarely articulated in the same context.   This is a welcome recognition that we have the numbers to matter, the insight to know what will work and the obligation to overcome divisions that would undermine the leadership and support that women can contribute to the solutions.  Kudos to Maria Shriver for this.

Here are key points and  quotes  from this first article in a series based on the new study:

The context

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson envisioned the Great Society and called for a War on Poverty, naming my father, Sargent Shriver, the architect of that endeavor. The program worked: Over the next decade, the poverty rate fell by 43 percent.

What has changed

  • Fifty years later, the lines separating the middle class from the working poor and the working poor from those in absolute poverty have blurred.
  • The typical American family isn’t what it used to be. Only a fifth of our families have a male breadwinner and a female homemaker.
  • The new iconic image of the economically insecure American is a working mother dashing around getting ready in the morning, brushing her kid’s hair with one hand and doling out medication to her own aging mother with the other.
  • For the millions of American women who live this way, the dream of “having it all” has morphed into “just hanging on.”

Facts that illustrate the disproportionate nature of the challenges of poverty among women

  • Women are nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers in the country.
  • More than 70 percent of low-wage workers get no paid sick days at all.
  • Forty percent of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income.
  • The median earnings of full-time female workers are still just 77 percent of the median earnings of their male counterparts.

The American people recognize the importance of women to the economy

  • 73 percent of Americans said that in order to raise the incomes of working women and families, the government should ensure that women get equal pay for equal work. And 78 percent said the government should expand access to high-quality, affordable childcare for working families.

The need for taking action to  implement public and private sector changes that will support womens’ rise out of poverty.

  • In other words, leave out the women, and you don’t have a full and robust economy. Lead with the women, and you do. It’s that simple, and Americans know it.
  • …the truth is that for so long, America’s women have been divided…It’s time to come together again. By pushing back and putting into practice the solutions we’re proposing in The Shriver Report, we can re-ignite the American Dream—for ourselves, for our daughters and sons, for our mothers and fathers, for our nation. We have the power—not just to launch a new War on Poverty, but a new campaign for equity, for visibility, for fairness, for worth, for care.




Categories: All Posts, For Social Service Organizations, Poverty Data, Poverty in the News

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