Women’s Foundation looks to better the lives of Eagle County girls | VailDaily.com

Women’s Foundation looks to better the lives of Eagle County girls

Connie Steiert

Lest you think the gender gap in the workforce is just an antiquated myth, take a look at some of these eye-opening new statistics from the Women’s Foundation of Colorado:Although women today have gained ground over their mothers and grandmothers of 40 years ago, women in Colorado still only earn 75 cents on the dollar when compared to men. One in three single mothers lives below the poverty level in Colorado, and boys in Colorado are still six times as likely to choose the engineering field as a career than girls.These and other sometimes encouraging, sometimes alarming statistics were the centerpiece of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado’s Status Project: Women & Girls in Colorado presentation in Eagle County on Oct. 15 at Manor Vail.The Women’s Foundation, founded in 1985 on the belief that women’s success is essential to the success of the entire community, was created in response to a disturbing study which showed that less than 4 percent of available funding was going toward projectstargeting women. Fifteen years later, the Foundation has a $15 million endowment to enhance the lives of women in Colorado, and has helped 170 organizations and 70 communities around the state address women’s issues in proactive ways.Now, the Women’s Foundation is challenging communities throughout Colorado to step up to the plate and do more than commiserate with women; the Foundation is offering seed grants to help launch innovative new programs to address the still numerous inequities in the lives of Colorado women.&quotThere are still very real challenges to girls in Colorado,&quot says Marla Williams, president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.The grants are part of the Women’s Foundation’s Status Project, its latest effort to promote awareness of these inequities and to search for solutions. Oct. 15, Women’s Foundation representatives were on hand to kick off the Status Project in Eagle County, and to learn what women’s issues are specific to the area.They will return in November to find out what solutions the community proposes.&quotOne of our most exciting initiatives is the Status Project,&quot says Elaine Gampel, board chair of the Women’s Foundation.The Status Project consists of a three-prong approach: the first involves reporting the findings of an in-depth study commissioned by the Women’s Foundation in partnership with the Institute of Women’s Policy Research during 2000-01. The survey was conducted to find out how women in Colorado really are faring today in various aspects of their lives.The good news is that in many ways the women of Colorado fare better in the workforce than their nationwide counterparts. Some 80 percent of women between the ages of 35 and 54 are now in Colorado’s workforce, 70 percent of whom have children under theage of 6 (that number jumps to 78 percent in Eagle County). Women in Colorado are paid more on the average as well: whereas the national median pay for women annually is $25,300, in Colorado women average $26,000 annually.However, this is only 75.4 percent of the median wage for Colorado men. The salary gap widens with both less education and with age. Women must have at least four years of college to realize any improvement over the wage disparity in the last 20 years; women without a high school diploma have actually lost ground, earning9 percent less. And, although women in hot technological fields start out on par with their male co-workers right out of college, by the age of 50, they earn only 70 percent of their male counterparts.Despite proof from SAT, ACT and CSAP scores that high school girls are just as capable at math, science and technology as males, fewer rather than more girls are choosing scientific or technological careers.The second phase of the status project will create symposiums or focus groups in various communities around the state to discuss these issues and issues specifically facing girls in individual communities.The third phase will identify and implement projects, funded in part through seed grants (a minimum of $5,000), in these communities to make systematic changes for women.The Women’s Foundation will hold a symposium in Vail on Nov. 4 (details to be announced) and is inviting anyone in the community with ideas or just an interest in the subject to attend. The hope is that a couple of solid proposals to address women’s issues in EagleCounty will come out of the symposium that the Women’sFoundation of Colorado can grant seed money toward.&quotWe did this study not so it would lie on a shelf, gathering dust,&quot says Williams, but to generate real solutions for real problems. &quotWe’re inviting people who care about these issues to come back.&quotFor more information, call the Women’s Foundation of Colorado at (303) 832-8800, or visit the website at http://www.wfco.org.

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