By Fran Pastore
Connecticut, known as the Constitution State, has always led the way in protecting civil liberties and basic human rights. For more than 40 years, the Nutmeg State has been the home to the oldest and most distinguished commission on women, achieving and sustaining many important victories for gender equity and advancement. While Connecticut was the first state in the country to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act (1990) and increase the minimum wage (2014), a recent report from Connecticut’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, “The Status of Women in Connecticut’s Workforce,” illustrates that taking the lead on critical policies which impact more than 51 percent of the entire population doesn’t always mean continuing to lead by example.
The report, released in November, emphasizes what women in Connecticut are well aware of: Pervasive economic inequities for women still remain prevalent. The report reveals that Connecticut is in a position to build upon its reputation as a leader and affect real change for women and their families, positively impacting the economic growth in the state.
This week, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, former New York City MayorMichael Bloomberg, Chelsea Clinton and United Nations Foundation President and CEO Kathy Calvin gathered in a joint venture including the Clinton Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the United Nations Foundation to focus on Data2X. The effort is a collaboration with technical experts, policy and private sector advisers, and national and international partners, which kicked off what is being called the Gender Data Revolution. The purpose is to do exactly what the PCSW report has done.
The critical importance of gathering data and statistics on women and girls is clear: When girls and women prosper, so do families, our local neighborhoods and the global community.
It is more important than ever that we work to ensure the needs and rights of girls and women are addressed. But we cannot do that without the foundation of good data. Again, Connecticut is at the forefront of this effort with the release of this new report.
Over the last two decades participation of women in the labor force has increased, the gender wage gap has narrowed and women are more likely than in the past to work in managerial or professional occupations. However, many women in Connecticut experience a persistent gender wage gap, have limited access to affordable child care, and only attain low levels of education. Women in the state face stark disparities in opportunities and access to resources across racial and ethnic groups and geographic lines. Addressing such challenges and disparities is essential to the continued advancement of women and to the well-being of Connecticut as a whole.
The report provides critical data and analyzes areas of progress for women and girls in Connecticut, as well as places where progress has slowed or stalled.
Recommendations include changes to public policies and program initiatives to provide opportunities to create a better future for women in Connecticut.
Other proposals include encouraging employers to take steps to remedy gender wage inequities, supporting women-owned businesses, increasing opportunities for women and girls to pursue careers in higher-paying fields, offering advice on good practices to employers interested in promoting work-life balance and implementing workplace flexibility practices and facilitating access to further education, especially in urban areas.
The more than 1.8 million women and girls who live in Connecticut are integral to the state’s economic and overall well-being. While women have made substantial progress, they continue to face challenges that point to the need for further changes. As the nation continues to recover from a deep recession in which families suffered substantial losses, it is essential to understand the status of women and implement changes that will enable them — and Connecticut as a whole — to thrive.
The PCSW aims to provide information that will help women advance in their careers, achieve economic security, maintain healthy families and strengthen their communities. In the words of Hillary Clinton, “We need to count women and girls because women and girls count.”
For more information and to view the full report, visit to www.ctpcsw.org.
Fran Pastore is president and CEO of the Women’s Business Development Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women achieve economic equity through entrepreneurial training, financial education and professional development. WBDC provides education, training, resources and connections to women (and men) at training sites throughout Connecticut, offering a continuum of programs and services to clients in need while fostering influential relationships for successful business women at the other end of the spectrum.