“Women Shine in Santa Monica” was the theme of an April 24 presentation by Santa Monica’s Commission on the Status of Women.
The event presented the Commission’s Draft Strategic Plan for 2010-2015. This report updates a 2004 study of the status of women and girls in Santa Monica. The Commission sought, and is seeking, feedback from the community on the issues examined in the report.
Prior to the 2004 study, “no one had made an attempt to analyze what women and girls in Santa Monica were thinking and how they were living,” said Sarah Stegemoeller of the Commission. The 2004 report, she noted, had been based on data from the 2000 census and since this is another census year, data from this year’s census will be added to the current draft plan.
The Plan has six themes: to review and update the 2004 report; to raise awareness of and seek solutions for domestic violence and other safety issues; to identify, publicize, and support mentoring and leadership opportunities that serve young women and girls; to gain understanding about how the lack of affordable housing affects women; to foster care, political, and career advancement opportunities for women; and to identify and publicize resources that support the needs of women and girls.
The Commission’s collected statistics show that there is still a wage gap between the genders– women earn 77 cents to the male dollar. The majority of Santa Monica residents below the poverty line are women.
When Darlene Evans of the Commission went around the room asking women in attendance for their feedback, the issue of housing was mentioned most often. Some women were concerned about the scarcity of affordable apartments with more than one bedroom.
Also cited as issues were safety and bridging cultural gaps. A woman suggested that there should be more communication between people in the zip code area 90404 (the Pico Neighborhood) and those who live in other zip code areas.
Speakers at the meeting brought some hope as they described how they are working to help women.
Julia Miele, executive director of the Santa Monica YWCA, talked about her organization’s programs. The YWCA provides programs to help middle school girls “a really tough time of social, personal, and academic development,” noted Miele; a program for cancer survivors, and a transitional housing program.
Therese Hughes of California Women Lead spoke of her organization’s programs to train women for the political arena. This includes an in-school program for girls. “We can’t start early enough,” said Hughes. “We need to talk to girls in elementary school—and middle school girls who are falling through the cracks. They could be our future leaders.”
Presenter and financial advisor Hollis Harman, deplored the “financial illiteracy” of most of the population (of both genders) and mentioned her ongoing “Economics of Being a Woman” seminars at the YWCA. Ginny Hatfield from the American Association of University Women, described her organization’s work in helping girls and women advance in their education.
The mingled message of hope and the need to do much more work was summed up by Santa Monica Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor, who observed, ”It’s like with [the need for] police—you hope there will never be crime. You hope that we will not need a Commission for the Status of Women. But we still need to be vigilant.”
Mirror Contributing Writerlynne@smmirror.com