Louisiana women face grim statistics

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October 15, 2013
Actions speak loudest
October 15, 2013
Visiting volunteers buoy VOW
October 15, 2013
Actions speak loudest
October 15, 2013

Louisiana’s women received a string of bad news recently about their status compared to their counterparts in other states and compared to the men at home.

A raft of recent reports and census data showed Louisiana fared poorly in pay equity, economic security, safety, representation in government and health outcomes.

The data suggested the state has the second-largest pay gap between women and men in the nation, ranks ninth in the rate of women murdered by men and offers women worse access to health care and economic opportunities than most other states across the country.

The news for females was grim, but not surprising. The trends have been consistent for years.

“Sadly I must admit that I was not surprised by the findings of disparities, substantial inequalities and lack of adequate progress for Louisiana women,” Rep. Karen St. Germain, leader of the Louisiana Legislative Women’s Caucus, said in a statement about one report, by the Center for American Progress.

That report used three dozen indicators to determine how women were faring in different states, reviewing poverty data, wage gaps, available health services, early childhood education and women’s leadership in public office and in the workplace.

By those measures, Louisiana ranked as the worst state in the opportunities provided to women, according to the report.

St. Germain said that for the approximately 2.3 million women in Louisiana, “the report is an overwhelmingly disheartening reminder of the challenging work and uphill battle, which must be fought and achieved for women in our great state in this day and age.”

More than 22 percent of Louisiana women live in poverty, the state has one of the 10 worst maternal mortality rates and it has only one obstetrician/gynecologist for every 13,136 women, according to the report.

In public office, Louisiana has one female member of Congress. None of Louisiana’s seven statewide elected officials is a woman.

Only 17 women are state lawmakers, out of 144 members of the House and Senate, and female clout in the Legislature diminished this term, after three decades of steady gains. The decline in female lawmakers falls across all categories: Democrats and Republicans, black and white, Senate and House.

Five percent of Louisiana’s top elected jobs _ congressional seats, statewide elected offices and legislative positions – are held by women, according to the Center for American Progress.

An, unrelated survey analyzing recent homicide data determined that Louisiana ranked ninth in the nation for the rate of women murdered by men, with 1.67 women killed for every 100,000 people.

The information, based on the most recent available FBI data from 2011, was compiled by the Violence Policy Center, a gun control group based in Washington, D.C., in advance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.

Meanwhile, an updated release of U.S. Census data highlighted a striking wage disparity between women and men in the state. Louisiana ranked in the top 10 states with the widest gaps in pay for men and women.

Nationwide, women working full-time receive about 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. In Louisiana, it’s 67 cents.

According to the latest census estimate, released in mid-September, median earnings for men working full-time in Louisiana were $47,249, compared to $31,586 for women working full-time. And while the median income for men had grown over the prior year, it had instead fallen for women.

Attempts in recent years to prohibit businesses from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job have failed to gain legislative passage. This year, lawmakers agreed to an equal pay bill, but only after it was stripped of any application to private companies and limited to state agencies, greatly reducing its impact.

Across three different reports, with varying sets of data points and statistics, Louisiana’s women face troubling disparities.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Melinda Deslatte covers Louisiana politics for The Associated Press.