Anna Valencia doesn’t like the term “think tank.”
“It’s a ‘do tank,’” she said.
Valencia, Chicago’s city clerk, is spearheading a new Status of Women and Girls in Chicago working group — a do tank, if you will — and the launch will be announced Monday afternoon.
The plan is to convene 120 women from a variety of industries and backgrounds — politics, education, nonprofit, corporate, service industry — and ask them to recommend citywide policies and initiatives that will make Chicago a safer, more equitable place for girls and women.
“Different ages, different demographics, different respective experiences,” Valencia said. “All deciding what needs to be done to allow women and girls in Chicago to thrive.”
The working group is divided into six areas of focus: economic security, education, health care, housing, public safety and young people. By March (Women’s History Month), Valencia said, the group will release a report with its findings and recommendations.
Among the group’s co-chairs, steering committee and honorary members are: U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, YWCA CEO Dorri McWhorter, Illinois Council on Women and Girls Chairwoman Kina Collins, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Chicago Foundation for Women CEO K. Sujata, La Casa Norte Executive Director Sol Flores, Chicago Police Department Bureau of Organizational Development Chief Barbara West, Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer and Mikva Challenge CEO Michelle Morales.
The steering committee convened in September, pre-launch, to talk about what the working group should look like and tackle. Valencia left there jazzed.
“One thing we talked about is that our bus drivers who are women don’t have enough (breast milk) pump stations or time to pump along their routes,” she said. “We talked about making sure young women in Chicago see role models who look like they do. I talk to young women all the time who say, ‘Can you bring me some mentors that look like me?’ Those are just some of the conversations we’re having.”
The Chicago Foundation for Women released a report on the status of Chicago’s women and girls earlier this month, drawing on data collected in 2016.
Where can Chicago improve?
Women held 32.8 percent of state legislative seats in 2016, the report found. There were 1,673 reported incidents of domestic violence and 15.4 incidents of rape per 100,000 women that year.
Segregation, hiring bias and a lack of affordable child care still act as barriers to women’s full participation in the labor force, the report found.
“Further breaking down women’s workforce participation by race and industry shows us that women continue to be underrepresented in certain fields and over-represented in others,” the report states. “Across race, education, health care and sales continue to be feminized work. In health care, women of color, specifically black and Asian women, drastically outnumber men.”
Women are underrepresented in higher-earning fields like construction, natural resource extraction and maintenance, the report found, which has long-term economic consequences for women’s earnings. Construction and extraction occupations pay a median salary of $78,000, according to the report, while home health aides and nursing assistants — jobs where women of color make up the majority of workers — are paid a median salary of $28,000 or below.
“There’s a lot to dig into,” Valencia said. “But if not now, when?”
Join the Heidi Stevens’ Balancing Act Facebook group, where she hosts live chats every Wednesday at noon. On Wednesday, she’ll be joined by clinical psychologist John Duffy to talk about how much is too much when it comes to digitally monitoring your kids.
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October 22, 2018 at 11:57AM