‘Report on the Status of Women and Girls’ finds California females face ‘gender gaps’ in pay, leadership.While California women have made great strides in education and career fields, their presence in key government positions, corporate boardrooms and scientific occupations lags far behind men to the detriment of the state’s economy and future, according to a recently-released report by Mount St. Mary’s College.

Top women leaders in entertainment, business and public policy addressed a diverse gathering of 800 guests on MSMC’s Doheny campus for the March 29 release of the “Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California.” 

 “This report, the first of its kind in our state, provides a snapshot of the opportunity and the challenges facing women and girls today,” said Mount president Ann McElaney-Johnson in her welcoming remarks. “We hope that this report will create awareness, spark dialogue and inspire action on behalf of the 18.7 million girls and women in the state of California.” 

MSMC faculty spent several months culling and analyzing data from federal, state and local sources to compile the report. Although it documents the progress California females have made --- in education where they now graduate from college at higher rates than men and in business where over half of California’s small businesses are owned or jointly owned by women --- the report confirmed that disparities continue to exist for females, who are vastly underrepresented in advanced science classes, elective office, and for-profit businesses. 

Data in the report shows that:

While the number of females comprise just over half of California’s residents, women constitute just 16 percent of engineers and architects and only 24 percent of mathematical or computer occupations.

Women make only 84 cents for every dollar earned by men; African-Americans earn only 68 cents and Latinas only 59 cents.

Poverty rates for female-headed households are alarmingly high, with 17 percent of all California females living in poverty.

Only 3 percent of CEOs are women in California’s Fortune 400 companies; more men than women hold higher level jobs such as business executives, medical doctors and lawyers.

California women rate their self-confidence and emotional health lower than men.

40 percent of women experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime; higher than the 33 percent national average.

Just 28 percent of state legislators and 9 percent of California city mayors are women.

“This report allows us the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the significant gender gaps that still exist in our society,” said Geena Davis, Academy Award-winning actress and newly-elected chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women, which partnered with MSMC in putting on the March 29 event.  

“It’s not just an issue of gender equality; it’s also an economic issue. Addressing these inequalities is good, not only for women, but for the state of California as a whole,” said Davis, founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

In a nod to the report’s analysis of women’s gender gaps in media and technology --- among key areas of focus that included demographic trends, education, employment and earnings, poverty, leadership, physical and mental health, violence and incarceration --- Davis noted the results of research that her Institute has done on gender prevalence in family entertainment spanning more than 20 years.

“From 2006-2009, only 20 percent of the characters who held jobs [in G-rated family films] were women, none of whom were depicted in leadership roles as medical professionals, or as leaders in business, law or politics,” said Davis, who wondered aloud what kind of a message this sends to young girl viewers about their future opportunities.

“In studies at the Institute, we have found that, for every one female character, there are three male characters, a ratio that has not changed since 1946 and in crowd scenes, only 17 percent of the characters are female. My guess is, people assume that women don’t gather,” said Davis, eliciting laughter.

“Part of the problem with the media representations of women can be attributed to the lack of representation of women behind the scenes in the entertainment industry,” said Davis, adding that there are five men for every one woman holding a key production role such as director, writer or producer.

“We cannot wait to see if real gender equality happens in the natural course of time when all evidence tells us that it won’t,” said Davis, who noted that if women were added to Congress at the rate they have been, females will receive parity in 500 years.

“We must embrace what Dr. Martin Luther King called ‘the fierce urgency of now,’” said Davis. “There are powerful agents of change in this room today and all of us will see to it that the job gets done for the women and girls of California.”

For more information on this report, call (213) 477-2766 or visit http://statusofwomen.la.edu.

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