May 9, 2012


We are receiving quite a bit of tremendous feedback on SHE MATTERS: 2012 Status of Women and Girls in Iowa, the report we released last week at the Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference.  As we continue to publicize the information, I will be submitting an op-ed piece to the Des Moines Register and the Business Record which will include some of the highlights.  Here is the copy for the op-ed:

OP-ED submission
SHE MATTERS: 2012 Status of Women and Girls in Iowa
May 2012

The World Bank calls investing in women “smart economics” because research shows economic growth for women has a critical multiplier effect.  Women are more likely to share their personal economic gains with their families and communities; in fact, women reinvest 90% of their income in food, healthcare, home improvement, and schooling for themselves and their children.  In short, “women’s progress” is “society progress.”

In Iowa, there are changes in the lives of girls and women that we see every day:
×          we’ve embraced more women in our military
×          more women are attending and graduating from college
×          more women are in our labor force
×          girls are reaching greater proficiency in academics, including science and mathematics
×          women’s life expectancy has increased

Although these are reasons to celebrate, research presented in a new report from the Iowa Women’s Leadership Project, SHE MATTERS: 2012 Status of Women and Girls in Iowa, tells us that for many Iowa females, the vision of self-sufficiency, independence, and opportunity isn’t within reach.

This report provides a measure of the demographics of our state, the health and well-being of our girls and women, the achievement and autonomy we’ve attained, and the employment and income levels we’ve reached.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, women and girls comprise just over half (50.5%) of our state population.  Since the 1070, Iowa women’s participation in the workforce has more than doubled – today over 80% of Iowa women ages 16 to 64 are working.

With this enormous increase in the female workforce, Iowa women – like women throughout the country – still earn only 79% of what men earn when all other factors are equal.  This may seem insignificant, but consider that collectively, Iowa women are paid over $4.1 trillion less annually due to this wage gap.  Per woman, this could mean 82 weeks of groceries, 8 months of mortgage payments, 29 months of family health insurance, or over 2,000 gallons of gas.

And there are other glaring disparities:
×          21.3% of Iowa’s legislators are female
×          women hold only 11% of executive positions in Iowa’s insurance businesses
×          only 16% of corporate board positions are held by women
×          the number of women-owned businesses has dropped over the last decade
×          13% of Iowa women have no health insurance, 14% live in poverty, and over 80% of homeless families are females with children
×          Nearly ¾ Iowa’s nursing home population and 2/3 of home health care patients are female

When we see these indicators, we realize that not only have women not progressed – in many cases, we’ve lost ground.  The facts underscore the reality that the value of Iowa’s (and our country’s) women and girls must be demonstrated.  By adequate earnings.  By career and promotion opportunities.  By assuring safety.  And by having an equal voice for all decisions affecting Iowans.  When these are realities, women and girls can participate fully in the life of Iowa communities.

We can do better, and we will do better.  The Iowa Women’s Leadership Project has engaged women and organizations throughout the state to provide input and energy toward changing the trend lines.  Our intent is that our daughters, nieces, and granddaughters will have role models will have role models that reflect Iowa’s population – half of our leaders, at a minimum, will be women.

SHE MATTERS: 2012 Status of Women and Girls in Iowa has been created by a public/private partnership of Iowa organizations forming the Iowa Women’s Leadership Project.  The report was released at the 2012 Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference in April, and will serve as a guide for the partnership’s shared work to improve the quality of life for Iowa’s women and girls.