Honor to­day’s women with com­mon-sense poli­cies

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS - Deviney is the as­so­ciate direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Public Pol­icy Pri­or­i­ties in Austin.

My mother was smart, com­pas­sion­ate and un­fail­ingly giv­ing. Though I don’t be­lieve I will ever be able to equal her in spirit, I am for­ever grate­ful for the lessons she gave me and my sis­ters, which I am now pass­ing on to my daugh­ter. She taught us the vi­tal role we all play in im­prov­ing the lives of the peo­ple we love and the com­mu­ni­ties we live in. It is my mem­ory of her that makes the 30th an­niver­sary of Na­tional Women’s His­tory Month so in­spir­ing for me.

But hon­or­ing women shouldn’t just be about the past — and cer­tainly not for one month only. Truly hon­or­ing women means re­spect­ing and lift­ing up the women of to­day — those who carry on the teach­ings of our moth­ers, grand­moth­ers and other hero­ines — in both our rhetoric and our public poli­cies.

For real change, we must un­der­stand the cur­rent con­di­tions of eco­nomic se­cu­rity for women. The Dal­las Women’s Foun­da­tion re­cently pub­lished a series of re­ports on Eco­nomic Se­cu­rity for Women in Texas, which out­line four build­ing blocks that are es­sen­tial for achiev­ing eco­nomic se­cu­rity: ed­u­ca­tion as a path­way to eco­nomic se­cu­rity; child care as a crit­i­cal work sup­port for fam­i­lies; health in­sur­ance as a fi­nan­cial shield against the un­ex­pected; and hous­ing as the an­chor of eco­nomic se­cu­rity.

All four el­e­ments work to­gether to sup­port fi­nan­cially strong women, girls and fam­i­lies.

To­day, over 60 per­cent of Texas fam­i­lies rely ei­ther wholly or sub­stan­tially on women’s income. This shouldn’t be sur­pris­ing; it’s been in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for fam­i­lies to make ends meet in Texas with­out a two-income house­hold.

Un­for­tu­nately, even though women are in­te­gral to fam­ily eco­nomic se­cu­rity, they are also more likely to live in poverty than men, which weak­ens their fam­ily’s fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity in the short and long term.

There are many bar­ri­ers to women achiev­ing eco­nomic sta­bil­ity with th­ese build­ing blocks. Even with the same level of ed­u­ca­tion and years of ex­pe­ri­ence, women earn less money than men for the same job. This sad fact is true across a wide range of in­dus­tries — even fe­male-dom­i­nated ones like nurs­ing.

Al­though younger women are more likely to se­cure a higher-ed­u­ca­tion de­gree or train­ing cre­den­tial than young men, they get out of col­lege with the same amount of debt as men. But women usu­ally earn lower wages than men, which can limit or post­pone their abil­ity to save, buy a home or in­vest.

Women are also more likely to work in low-wage in­dus­tries that do not of­fer ben­e­fits like health in­sur­ance. In Texas, 2.2 mil­lion women and girls are ef­fec­tively left out of the health care sys­tem be­cause they do not have health in­sur­ance, mostly due to high costs. And with av­er­age child care costs ri­val­ing a year of col­lege tu­ition, qual­ity child care is fi­nan­cially out of reach for many women, lead­ing to em­ploy­ment gaps.

We can im­prove eco­nomic se­cu­rity for women through good public pol­icy. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment can pro­tect Med­i­caid fund­ing to en­sure that the 50 per­cent of births that are cov­ered by Med­i­caid in Texas re­main pro­tected — and that chil­dren are re­ceiv­ing the care they need. State lead­ers can stop their at­tacks on women’s ac­cess to health care and al­low grand­par­ents — usu­ally grand­moth­ers — to re­ceive sup­port when they take in their grand­chil­dren to avoid putting them in the foster care sys­tem.

I look for­ward to cel­e­brat­ing the so­cial, eco­nomic, cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal changes that my daugh­ter’s gen­er­a­tion of strong women will make in the world. But with­out mak­ing changes for women to­day, the bar­ri­ers will only be­come more en­trenched.

Let’s cel­e­brate this Women’s His­tory Month with both op­ti­mism and ac­tion by ask­ing our public of­fi­cials to make com­mon-sense choices for Texas women.


Women gather on the south steps of the Texas Capi­tol dur­ing the Women’s March on Austin on Jan. 21. Of­fi­cials es­ti­mated the crowd to be as large as 50,000 peo­ple. Sim­i­lar gath­er­ings were held around the coun­try.

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