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Santa Clara County Releases Report On The State Of Women And Girls

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12-year-old girls use a computer. (Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images)

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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — A cross-section of Santa Clara County’s political and community leaders gathered in San Jose Friday to review the findings of an unprecedented report on the state of female residents countywide.

About 200 people heard how women and girls across the county are faring in education, the economy, violence and crime and health, according to the “State of Women and Girls in Santa Clara County” report, compiled by the county’s Office of Women’s Policy.

“Women and girls are half of the population of Santa Clara County and ignoring their most pressing needs to thrive is a mistake we cannot afford to make,” county Board of Supervisors President George Shirakawa said in a statement Friday. “This report is a guideline for policy makers, community leaders and everyone who is ready to transform these challenges into opportunities for the benefit of our entire community.”

Most speakers at Friday’s presentation contended that while women and girls across the county and nation have made important strides, they still face considerable gender gaps, especially in the workplace.

The report shows that men continue to out earn women doing the
same job in all fields countywide except for office and administrative support.

That gap grows even wider for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or “STEM,” jobs across Silicon Valley.

And the number of women holding those types of jobs is just as dismal, said Ruth Shikada, from the Office of the County Executive.

“Across the labor force, men are twice as likely as women to be employed in STEM occupations,” she told attendees this morning as charts mapping the gender balance in these fields filled projector screens.

In addition, the county’s single mothers and other non-married women are more likely than their male counterparts to live below federal poverty standards, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the report shows that achievement gaps between boys and girls in elementary and high school have closed and that in some cases, girls are exceeding boys’ achievement rates.

But while women countywide are earning more bachelor degrees than men, they are less likely to pursue studies in STEM fields, the report finds.

County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who addressed the effects of violence and crime females during today’s presentation, said “women are much less likely to be the perpetrators of violence” but are more likely to be victims.

Disparities among racial groups in this area prevail, with Latina women and girls in the county faring far worse than their counterparts in other racial and ethnic groups, he said.

Hispanic girls, for example, made up 64 percent of the county’s
child abuse cases in 2010, according to the report.

Latinas are also over-represented in the county’s juvenile justice and adult correctional systems.

Women appear to be improving in the area of health.

The county’s female residents are more likely than men to have
health insurance, and the overall county birthrate has dropped while the number of women getting preventative health screenings rose, said Aimee Reedy, division director of the county’s public health department.

U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat who represents Santa Clara County, spoke about the so-called “war on women” being waged in the GOP presidential race and what she called an out-of-date focus on women’s reproductive choices.

“Here we are, it’s 2012, and we’re having a discussion about birth control,” she told the crowd. “Although the “war on women” has caused a great deal of distress for many of us, I think it’s a war we will win,” she said, eliciting a round of applause.

Like Lofgren, the women who made up a special panel during today’s presentation – four former county supervisors and current Supervisor Liz Kniss – stressed the need for women’s involvement in politics – from school boards to the White House — to improve conditions for women and girls.

“I’m of the generation where women frequently stayed home and raised the kids,” said Kniss, who said she expects to be replaced by a male supervisor when she steps down from the Board of Supervisors at the end of the year. “I don’t know what’s happened since then, but one of the things we need to look at is, why are women running less?”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed)

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