Women still struggling

BY CALLEY HAIR    Of the News-Times, September 23, 2016

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SALEM — A detailed report on the status of women and girls in Oregon reveals the state has a long way to go in achieving gender parity, from wage equality to child care to sexual assault.    However, that same report also shows Lincoln County is slightly more equitable than  the rest of Oregon in most categories.   

“Count Her In: A Report About Women and Girls in Oregon,” from the Portland based Women’s Foundation of Oregon, was released Wednesday, Sept. 21. The report is the result of comprehensive   data collection and a 14-stop listening tour, the first of its kind in 18 years.   

“We took our eye othe ball for a generation,” said Emily Evans, director of the foundation. “We wanted the data, because we wanted to know where our investments would make the most impact.”   

Statewide, the report turned up some discouraging results for women of all races and socioeconomic statuses.   

It found that the state’s females have the highest rates of reported depression and alcohol use in the country, and more than half have experienced some form of sexual or domestic violence. The report also shows that nearly half of Oregon’s pregnancies are unintended, while the cost of child care remains among the highest in the nation.   

Women and girls of color face poverty rates twice as high as their white counterparts, the report indicates.   

“It’s alarming”, Evans said. “But the first step in solving the problem is identifying the problem — especially in a   state used to coasting on the progressive reputation of its Pacific Northwest neighbors”.   

“We’re really hoping that it changes the perception of gender equality in the state,” Evans said. “In many ways, Oregon is kind of the stepchild that’s doing a lot worse than its regional counterparts. And we really need to grapple with that.”   

While Lincoln County remains far from immune to gender-specific struggles, the region appears, on the whole, slightly more hospitable to women than the rest of the state — or, more skeptically, equally inhospitable to both genders in some regards.   

Lincoln County’s employment numbers are low, but more even between genders than Oregon’s average.    “It usually means men and boys of that county are doing worse,” Evans said. “Places where there used to be a lot of robust, male dominated industries   , like logging or fi shing.”   

Women in the region are 4 percent less likely than men to join the workforce, but that disparity is smaller than the 9 percent statewide one.   

The wage gap in Lincoln County also remains slightly tighter than the rest of Oregon, with women earning $0.81 on the dollar compared with a statewide average of $0.79.   

The region’s women hold 38 percent of local leadership positions compared with the state average of 30 percent. The county’s 41 city council positions include 17 women, although top spots — including three county commissioners and four paid city managers — are all held by men.     

That’s a pretty common pattern across the state”, Evans said.    “The less accolades and less money involved in a position, the more women are involved in it,” she said. “Counties are so critical to the administration of services, (and) the fact that we have largely men making decisions about the distribution   of these resources seems a little out of proportion.”   

Child care is cheaper on the coast. Keeping a toddler in day care costs around $6,000 per year, half of Oregon’s $11,976 median.   

However, Lincoln County ranks second lowest in economic mobility for women, followed only by Jefferson County. By the time she’s 25, a Lincoln County girl’s location will negatively impact her earnings by an annual average of $1,485.    “There’s not that much opportunity to pull yourself up the economic ladder,” Evans said.     

Lincoln County also lacks a comprehensive reproductive health clinic that offers sexual health, family planning and abortion services.    “Being the most populous county on the coast, that’s a little alarming,” Evans said.   

Evans and her team stopped in Newport on April 5, the second sojourn in a spring listening tour that gathered personal stories from more than 1,000 women. Around 130 women showed up to the   event at Samaritan Health Education Center.   

“It was pretty uncanny, the way that the stories and the text polling we got during the tour lined up with the data,” Evans said.    The report isn’t all doom and gloom. It also found that Oregon’s women participate in public service and serve in the military at some of the highest rates in the nation. They’re also the country’s most physically active females.   

“We tried to have a hopeful report, as much as some of these things are startling,” Evans said. “Oregon women are giving more and getting less … Think about how much they would be contributing if they weren’t facing these daily   challenges.”   

A full copy of the 120-page report can be read at womensfoundationoforegon.org/ uploads/CountHerInreport. pdf   

Contact reporter Calley Hair at 541-265-857 1 ext. 211 or chair@newportnewstimes. com  

Newport News Times, Page A-1

 

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