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March 27, 2013

Many rights issues facing Hoosier women

TERRE HAUTE — The top issues facing Hoosier women should not come as a surprise.

They relate to health care, the workplace, caregiving, violence against women and leadership.  

Those five priority areas rose to the surface as part of an Indiana Commission for Women initiative called Hoosier Women Speak.

Between February 2011 and June 2012, the commission conducted 17 regional listening sessions around the state and an online survey. About 1,100 women participated.

Now, the commission is looking at ways to help address those concerns, said Kristin Garvey, the commission’s executive director. She spoke during Tuesday’s Human Rights Day program at Indiana State University.  

“I think we [women] have made a lot of progress. I think there’s a lot of work to be done,” she said in an interview after her presentation. “Women are achieving a certain level of success in areas, but we’re not all there.”

Consider the following statistics:

n One out of seven women between ages 18 and 64 had no usual source of health care, which is highly associated with lack of insurance, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) should help address that issue.

n According to the National Women’s Law Center, Indiana received an F in several health-related areas in 2010, including the categories of women without health insurance, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Under work-based issues, while women are now 50 percent of the American workforce, they are highly represented in lower-paying professions.

In terms of pay equity, Hoosier women earned 75 percent of what men earned, placing it 41st among states.

In the category of caregiving, Garvey pointed out that Hoosier households headed by single women rose from 11 percent in 2000 to 18.7 percent in 2011.  One survey respondent wrote, “We have to stop looking at child care as a woman’s issue. It is a family issue. It is an economic issue. It is a community issue.”

When Garvey presented information on violence against women, she included a quote from a Vigo County resident who had responded to the survey.

“I work for a domestic violence program and I have difficulty helping women leave violent relationships because housing and jobs are so limited,” the person wrote.

A key to change is getting more women involved in leadership roles, including elected and other policy-making positions, Garvey said.

One member of the ISU audience, a faculty member, said that young women want change, but they often don’t want the responsibility that comes with leadership roles, especially if they plan to have families.

According to Garvey, research shows that younger people often don’t want the headaches that go along with leadership positions.

Suggestions include developing opportunities for leadership development; highlighting women as role models and providing mentors.

Among those attending Garvey’s talk was Keiera Meeks, an ISU junior and social work major. The statistics related to lack of women in leadership roles concerned her, but she hopes to be part of needed changes. She wants to take on leadership roles, she said.

Garvey said the commission is developing actions for each of the identified five areas.

Many resources do exist to help address some of the problems, but women may not know what is out there or where to go for assistance.

Also, while some areas — such as Indianapolis — may have many resources, other areas do not. One of the challenges to tackle, Garvey said, is: “How do we work with the disparity in resources that may exist?”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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