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Empowering Women in Philanthropy

Philanthropy Ignores Women's Increasing Impoverishment

Women are not only paid a mere two-thirds of what men are paid, but they have swelled the ranks of the poor. The sex-bias in philanthropy persists despite the fact that women and the children that they solely support now represent more than 75% of those in poverty in the United States. Female-headed households, which are five times more likely to be poor, have more than doubled since 1955.

The most recent Census bureau study reveals that 45% of female heads of households with children are living in poverty. And, of course, the situation is worst for women of color: Fifty-eight percent of Hispanic women who head households and 56.1% of African-American women who head households live in poverty, while the same is true of 37.9% of white women who head households.

Women, especially women of color, have lower median incomes than men. In 1985, according to Women and Foundations/ Corporate Philanthropy, four percent of white men and 23% of minority men had mean salaries below $12,000, compared to 65% of white women, 660/o of Hispanic women, and 84% of African American women.

It is therefore not surprising that women and children are the fastest growing segment of the nation's homeless population. However, it is shocking that while federal funding for low-income housing is decreasing drastically, foundations granted a paltry $1.1 million in 1987 for housing programs targeted to women. The number of women and children seeking the protection of domestic shelters has also increased substantially. More than one half of all American women will be the victims of sexual assault and/or domestic violence in their lifetimes. Yet United Way only allots some $11 million a year nationwide to such shelters - a mere half of one percent of its nationwide budgets. Nationwide, there are four times more shelters for animals than there are for beaten women.

Women face obstacles on other fronts as well. The infusion of women into the workforce has greatly increased the need for child care. The number of women working full-time with children age six or younger nearly tripled between 1960 and 1984.

In addition, more and more women are caring for aging family members. Today, American women spend 17 years of their lives caring for children and 18 years caring for aging and ill relatives. To date, child care and senior programs are woefully inadequate or simply non-existen

(Empowering Women in Philanthropy, The Empowering Women Series, No. 3; A Publication of the Feminist Majority Foundation, 1991.)