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ROCKVILLE – During the past 10 years, the number of women living in poverty, young girls not involved in school or work and reports of domestic violence and rape cases have increased in Montgomery County.
The statistics are even worse for women of color, according to the two speakers at a Feb. 25 League of Women Voters’ racial disparity discussion at the Rockville Library.
Tiffany Boiman, a commissioner with the Montgomery County Commission for Women, and Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, founder and CEO of Global Policy Solutions, painted a dismal picture of life for some women and minorities here, although they both stressed that the county fares better in these dimensions than most of the country.
There are “troubling trends,” Boiman told the 60 people in attendance, pointing to data recently released in her commission’s study entitled, “A Tale of Two Counties: The Status of Women in Montgomery County.”
Women are making gains here that often are outpacing national averages, Boiman said. Yet, in a county where 51.7 percent of its residents are female, life isn’t financially easy for some. Women make 82 cents for every one dollar a man makes, Boiman said. For African American women, the gap is even larger. They earn 69 cents to their male counterparts’ dollar.
“The number of women living in poverty increased by 66 percent between 2007 and 2017, Boiman noted. That is a numeric increase of 16,500 women, Boiman added, using data from “A Tale of Two Counties” report.
In an effort to ease pay disparity here, Councilman Evan Glass intends to introduce the Montgomery County Pay Equity Act at a press conference March 5 at the council building.
Glass will be unveiling some revealing data,” said Valeria Carranza, Glass’s chief of staff. “He’ll have data that’s shocking and pretty revealing to show why he’s introducing the bill.”
During the League of Women Voters’ meeting, the two women showed that it’s not just pay that favors the male population. Disparities that stem from laws concerning housing, taxes and employment continue to affect women, said Rockeymoore Cummings.
While birth rates for young women decreased by almost half since 2010, the rate of sexually transmitted infections “reached its highest level in a decade,” she said.
Although females in the county earn graduate degrees “at almost triple the national rate,” are 10 percent more likely to take an AP or IB class, and are more likely to vote, they are the ones most likely to be living in poverty, according to the report.
Minimum wage will help, but it’s difficult to build up a cushion for harder times on a low salary, she said.
People should be judged by their wealth, not their income, she said, noting that wealth is what people accumulate through such measures as home ownership, retirement plans and savings.
Wealth gives people that cushion to get by on during times of need or unforeseen expenses, Rockeymoore Cummings said.
Minorities in this country experience a “huge gap” in this area, she said. For every dollar a white family has as a cushion, African American families have seven cents and Latinos have eight cents, she said.
“People of color, most of their wealth is tied up in their homes,” she said.
She did not have specific numbers for Montgomery County, although she said, “There are pockets of exclusion and need in Montgomery County.”
The key to ending disparity is “equity, equity, equity,” Rockeymoore Cummings said, noting that equity will be achieved when everyone has sufficient resources to meet their needs.
The idea is not to merely level the playing field, she stressed.
If minority students are doing poorly, their schools should receive more education dollars than a more-successful school that teaches fewer minority students. Giving both schools the same funding only continues the disparity, she pointed out.
“We are still living in a society where race makes a difference,” Rockeymoore Cummings said, noting that minority students are more likely not to be placed in advanced classes regardless of their abilities, and, in some schools, are discouraged from following their dreams.
Schools are “just leaving talent on the table right and left,” she said.
The two-hour talk was part of the League of Women Voters’ series on disparities. Open primaries are the topic for the March event, and climate change will be covered in April.