Summit at UNCC presents research on issues for women and girls in Mecklenburg County

The Charlotte Observer
Lake Norman News (University City News)
Friday, April 18, 2014

Former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe autographs her book, “Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress” and talks to fans in the ballroom lobby.

Former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe autographs her book, “Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress” and talks to fans in the ballroom lobby.

In her keynote address at the Women + Girls Research Alliance’s 2014 Summit on April 11, former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe urged women to band together to create policy change that improves the lives of women.

To do so, said Snowe, a Republican from Maine, will require focusing on the facts and electing officials willing to reach out beyond political party lines.

The summit, titled “Convergence: Mapping Success, Well-Being + Empowerment,” drew more than 400 women to UNC Charlotte’s student union, where the Women + Girls organization presented current research on issues for women and girls in Mecklenburg County.

Every two years, the alliance underwrites grants to UNCC faculty for research that concerns the economic and social well-being of women and girls in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The research – focused on education, employment and economic change; civic and political engagement; poverty and income security; health and safety; and work and family – is presented at the biannual summit.

Suzanne Leland, professor and director of public administration at UNCC, opened by discussing improvements women had made since last year’s summit. She said more women had graduated with bachelor’s degrees and that more were holding management positions.

Leland also said women had narrowed the gender wage gap by 1 percent since 2005. Women still lag far behind in median income, however, which is $51,068 per year for men and $38,823 for women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Over 400 attendants from diverse backgrounds, including students, government employees, foundations, non-profits, corporations, small business owners, and entrepreneurs.

Over 400 attendants from diverse backgrounds, including students, government employees, foundations, non-profits, corporations, small business owners, and entrepreneurs.

Current research and topics concerning success, well-being and empowerment of women and girls were presented in 25 small groups. Five of the sessions delved into research funded by UNCC in cooperation with the alliance. Among the data findings in those areas:

•  Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Entrepreneurship: Of those working in Mecklenburg County, 11 percent of men and 7 percent of women own businesses. In all gender-ethnicity comparisons except those with foreign-born Hispanics, women own fewer businesses than men, according to the American Community Survey 2006-2011.

•  Domestic Violence and the Workplace: “Fifty-seven percent of domestic-violence survivors disclosed their situation to someone at work, but 77 percent did not tell their supervisors.” This information was calculated from a Web-based survey with 535 respondents.

•  Homelessness and Rapid Re-Housing: The community is doing better at bringing homeless women with children into shelters. According to a report from the N.C. Coalition to End Homelessness, of 667 homeless women in the county in 2013, 360 mothers with children were sheltered. That number has more than doubled since 2009, when 177 women with children were homeless (of 628 total homeless women).

•  The “New” Poverty: In Mecklenburg County, 25.5 percent of households have an annual household income between $20,000 and $44,999, according to the North Carolina Justice Center. These households are identified as the new poverty, because they make too much to qualify for government benefits but less than $45,062, which is the living income standard determined by the nonprofit advocacy group North Carolina Justice Center.

•  Women, Work and Wages Revisited: If Mecklenburg women had the same median earnings as men, their total aggregate earnings would be $1.9 billion higher. The median wage difference for 2011 was determined by the U.S. Census Bureau, men earning $51,068 and women earning $38,823.

To view the full reports from this year’s summit, visit http://bit.ly/1hSuTM1.

For more information about the Women + Girls Research Alliance, visit http://womengirlsalliance.uncc.edu.

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