California Women’s Policy Summit 2014
Advancing Women’s Health, Wealth & Power
By: Lenka Bělková, Development and Policy, Women’s Intercultural Network
Although women today fully participate in the economy, they still fare lower in wages than their male counterparts. Notoriously, female led occupations pay less than male occupations with the same level of education. Single mothers are overwhelmingly more vulnerable to poverty, which in turn has an effect on the child’s development and life chances. On the other hand, holistic family health, emotional, mental and physical, and family economic stability endow children with lasting, positive impacts. These points served as the springboard for cross-sector discussions on the status of women and their families in California.
The annual summit on women and families took place at the Sacramento Convention Center, January 16. Conference hosted by California Center for Research on Women and Families presented array of panels addressing burning issues for women and their families. Field experts spoke on the subjects of health care reform, poverty and women economic empowerment, paid family leave, health disparities between race, ethnicity and gender, as well as sexual assault, teen health and opportunities, or early childhood education and childcare.
Here are some takeaways from the Women, Poverty and Economic Empowerment panel with recommended actions.
At the Women, Poverty and Economic Empowerment panel senator Holly J. Mitchell welcomed everyone with statistics: the amount of poor people has risen in California since 1995 and, further, California leads the nation in the highest poverty rates. Today 23.2% of children live in poverty in California and 45% of children living with single mothers in California are poor. Moreover, poverty and access to quality education affect child’s life opportunities and chances to succeed. As Jessica Bartholow, Legislative Advocate at Western Center on Law and Poverty, said the programs that are being cut need to remain to help families, and with the little we can do, at least preserve human dignity: “We are not even talking here about lifting [people] out of poverty, but about building a little respect.” The question today remains how to at least economically stabilize people in need. In all, socioeconomic safety net for families is essential to avoid penalizing children further into their adulthood for being born into poverty.
Here are some recommendations from CalWORKs to keep programs that assist families in need:
- Policy Objective #1
Ease the impact of the 2012 budget cuts to CalWORKs and increase grant levels to reduce deep poverty.
The Budget Act of 2012 (SB 1041) included nearly a billion dollars in cuts to the CalWORKs program, and also restructured CalWORKs in significant ways. Thought grants were increased by 5% in the Budget Act of 2013, they remain below half of the federal poverty level, a level that child development experts say is very dangerous for young children.
A: The Legislature and Administration should closely monitor its new commitment to early, client-focused engagement and act swiftly to postpone the welfare-to-work 24-month cut-off if CalWORKs clients are not receiving early services.
B. The Administration and Legislature should act immediately to increase grants to a level sufficient to prevent harm to children and to stabilize families so that the welfare-to-work investments are better utilized to achieve long-term self-sufficiency.
Policy objective #3
Support work, health and early child learning opportunities for families with parents rehabilitating from prior criminal convictions.
High recidivism rates threaten the economic stability and the safety of our state, communities and families. Following the 2011 prison funding realignment and as the state faces court orders to reduce prison size, we embrace proven models for achieving cost-effective solutions to California’s high recidivism rates and to improve outcomes for families with an adult member re-entering the community after a stay in jail or prison. Research shows that while poverty status is a powerful predictor of recidivism among women, those women who receive state-sponsored support to address short-term basic needs when they leave prison reduce their odds of recidivism by over 80%.
The federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (August 22, 1996) placed a lifetime ban on receiving Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) grants for people with past drug felony convictions. Later, states were allowed a full or partial opt-out of this ban. California maintains the lifetime ban for all CalWORKs parents with prior drug felony convictions and for CalFresh applicants who wre convicted for sale, possession or manufacturing of drugs. Children in homes with an adult who is ineligible due to this rule are denied child care, and their parents are not supported in securing work. The denial of benefits in reality acts as a sentence for further failure.
Enact legislation allowing people who have served their time for a drug felony conviction and are complying with their probation or parole to participate in CalWORKs and CalFresh and stop denying their children access to early learning environments.
To find more recommendations for action go here.
California Domestic Workers Coalition
These are recommended actions from California Domestic Workers Coalition, represented by Katie Joaquin, Campaign Director California Domestic Workers Coalition and Mujeres Unidas y Activas. She related today’s domestic workers fight to the fight of workers in 1938, to the enactment of Fair Labor Standards Act, a legislation that set standards for minimum wage and overtime pay for workers. But, at the time, the law did not include the protection of domestic and farmworkers. Therefore, the implementation of the AB 241 bill is crucial due to persistent human rights abuses, unfair wages, unregulated working hours, and unsafe working conditions in this sector. Accompanied by female entry into workforce, domestic labor is predominantly female. It is an industry that is becoming more and more needed, especially as babyboomer generation approaches retirement and require home assistance.
Policy objective #1
The California Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement (DLSE) should move aggressively to implement AB 241 and increase education and enforcement for all labor protections affecting domestic workers.
Domestic work continues to be seen as an industry in the shadows. There remains a widespread misunderstanding of what qualifies as domestic work and a tremendous lack of knowledge – on the part of state agencies, domestic work employers, and domestic wokers alike – of current labor law protecting domestic workers. With greater education and vigilant enforcement of the current statutes protecting domestic workers, we can make significant strides to shift the culture of domestic work, finally recognizing the dignity and value of the domestic workforce that cares for our homes and loved ones.
- A. The DLSE should provide all district offices guidance on implementation strategies for AB 241. District personnel should be trained on the requirements of AB 241 and other statutes protecting domestic workers and to offer technical assistance to assure domestic workers have ready access to state wage claim enforcement mechanisms.
- B. DLSE district offices should enlist the California Domestic Workers Coalition, with its trainings, materials, and other resources and expertise, to provide district office personnel with an industry overview and to provide resources to domestic worker claimants as needed.
- C. The DLSE should develop and maintain a system to monitor data on claims filed by domestic workers, including information on the type of domestic work performed, the regular and overtime hours worked, the pay received, and the outcome of the case.
- D. The DLSE should assist with outreach to 3rd party agencies and other employers of domestic workers and provide materials that inform them of their responsibilities. The DLSE should utilize the California Domestic Workers Coalition’s practical guides on how to implement AB 241.
For more information go here.
- Women’s Foundation of California
Director of Programs, Nikole Collins-Puri from the Women’s Foundation of California introduced an improved Workforce Investment Act (WIA). A new strategy to develop training and education for women that would prepare them for better paying positions. Up until today, WIA program has overlooked the real problems of women who struggle with chronic poverty and unemployment due to insufficient skills and education. Programs such as this should help women to enter non-traditional female jobs while creating an access to higher wage jobs. Women and Workforce Investment for Nontraditional Jobs Act (Women WIN Jobs Act) is a strategy to develop training and educational programs for women to support economic mobility.
Policy objective #1
The Legislature and Governor should enact a Women and Workforce Investment bill to increase low-income women’s participation in high-wage, high-demand occupations in which women make up less than 25% of the current workforce.
Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs should be equipped to serve as a bridge between the labor market and postsecondary education, serving as a catalyst for women’s career development. Women an dothe disadvantaged groups have specific needs that must be recognized and addressed if they are to enter good, higher paying jobs. As we anticipate the outcome of HR 951, the Women and Workforce Investment for Nontraditional Jobs Act (Women WIN Jos Act), California can position itself as a viable candidate for federal funding that would invest in programs that recruit, train, and retain low-income women in high-wage, high-demand fields that are nontraditional for their gender.
Deliberate attention and a comprehensive set of policies that address the full range of employment barriers will allow our workforce system to better serve women. Passing a Women and Workforce Investment bill would require:
1) workforce providers to increase women’s training and placement in higher wage jobs with career advancement,
2) caseworkers and other agency staff to be trained about workplace laws(e.g. paid sick leave, compensation, discrimination, etc.) and nontraditional employment options for women;
3) employers to cerate a work environment that is flexible and addresses barriers to employment for women;
4) coordinated collaboration between workforce, education, and welfare systems to deliver comprehensive services that minimize barriers to employment for women; and
5) a Workforce Investment Board (State Board) that has established benchmarks and success measures to track the progress of low-income women moving into higher wage jobs that result in sustained self-sufficiency.
For more information go here.
Women and their families need policies that support their social and economic advancement. In an era when women are breaking glass ceilings while millions of others remain on the bring of poverty, the next step becomes to extend the social mobility to others with direct political participation.
What We Have to Do in California – Closing Session
Research shows the continuous under-representation of women in political leadership in the USA. Inter-Parliamentary Union summarized the statistics as follows: The international average of female representatives in national legislative bodies is 19%. While countries like Rwanda ranks 1st with 56%, or Andorra with 53% of women leaders (Scandinavian countries remain in the top 10 along with countries like South Africa or Cuba whose numbers show 39% or higher for women representation in national governments), the US ranks 91st with only 17% of women leaders in legislation (2011). American women leaders do not even reach the international average – data that brings forward many questions on democratic decision-making.
One of the main obstacles, as other research suggests, is the lack of political ambition. Simply put, women do not feel confident enough to run for an office in the US. Betsy Cotton, director of close the gap California, appealed to women during the final session to run for office and help to identify leaders. And to imagine the social, environmental and economic progress that would come with women leadership, Kimberly Ellis, Executive Director of Emerge California, evoked a vivid picture of California where women lead in political participation:
“Women took the lead to redefine the society’s social contract to re-claim their democracy and re-write their constitution […] Women decided to wage in a new age feminist revolution that had five golden pillars: to educate women, to recruit women, to train women, to mentor and support women, and to demand policies be implemented to break down the barriers to women’s ability to advance their health, wealth, and power. And as a result, humanity experienced rebirth. Our environment was cleaned up, restored, protected. Our economy was fair, inclusive, and growing. Universal health care, child-care and pre-school was a law of the land. Our education system was the envy of the world. College was free to anyone who wanted to better themselves and become more educated citizens. Our food was clean, organic and free of hormones and antibiotics […] We had safety nets in place to protect the less fortunate, and we stamped out poverty and homelessness […] We put systems in place to address and correct the impact of generations of institutional racism and sexism […] Pay equity was finally a reality with women making 110% of what men made (…because women live longer). And finally, we no longer had to debate whether or not women would have the right to decide what to do with their bodies, making the reproductive decisions [… ]”
“I believe that our world is ripped for feminine leadership. I believe that having more women involved in politics will offer peace to our planet […] Ladies, this time is for us to rise together to change our state, our country, and the world to advance women’s health, wealth, and power.”