Women’s Group Digs Into Data To Advocate For Pay And Child Care

By Diane Stafford The Kansas City Star.

Jacqueline Schumacher calls it "data with a soul."

The public affairs policy analyst at the University of Missouri said an ambitious new collection of statistics about the status of women in Missouri is, at first glance, just numbers. But behind those numbers are women trying to make better lives for their families.

Schumacher joined Wendy Doyle, president of the Women's Foundation of Greater Kansas City, and other participants Wednesday to introduce an expansive and interactive database at communitycommons.org.

The site now offers a section tied to the Women's Foundation that captures available statistics about employment, income, education, child care, health, poverty and public service of women in the state.

The Women's Foundation and MU's Institute of Public Policy intend to use the information to educate state legislators and county and municipal leaders about the shortfalls and needs of women.

For example, data indicate that women who work full time in the state, overall, make 29 percent less than men. The median annual income for women workers is $23,260 in the state, compared with $32,824 for men.

The income shortfall is a particular problem for single mothers, especially those who can't afford or find good child care, the organizers said.

"The issues aren't new," Doyle said. "Our next role is to develop a policy agenda to tackle these issues," starting with the 2015 legislative session in Jefferson City.

The website also allows individual counties to zero in on their own data to get the best available statistics about the status of women in their communities.

The website is part of the foundation's shift in strategy -- to research, invest in and develop a public policy agenda intended to raise the socioeconomic status of women.

To buttress data available from federal sources, the foundation sponsored focus groups in Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield to hear from women and men across the income, racial and age spectrums about their situations, needs and goals.

"This is grounded not just with what we think should be done, but what women in Missouri have told us would mean success in their lives," said Cynthia Atwood-Steinberg, president of Sounding House, which conducted eight focus groups.

The sponsors intend to continue updating the site as new statistics becomes available. They also intend to take geographically specific information out into the state to help community leaders understand their populations.

"Our goal is to improve the lives of women and their families," Doyle said.

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