Western New York's economy has recently been in the spot light. The State of New York has made a huge financial commitment to assist in the revitalization of Buffalo and the surrounding area. While the YWCAs across the State of New York welcome the increased investment, we want to make sure the 50 percent of Western New Yorkers do not go unnoticed.
If we take a closer look at the economic status of women in Chautauqua County alone, we can see a very disturbing picture of the daily struggles faced by local women. The poorest of the Chautauqua County's poor are single mothers. 2010 census data show that women make 74 cents to every male dollar. The gender wage gap in all of New York is 83 cents. Chautauqua's women are failing short of the state and national gender wage gap.
Even more troubling is the rate of poverty in Chautauqua County. 12.3 percent of all families live in poverty. That statistic becomes staggering for single mothers with a child under the age of 5 - 67.3 percent are living in poverty.
At the YWCAs of Westfield and Jamestown, we are dedicated to the mission of making the lives of women better. We do that one woman at a time. But we don't think that is enough or that we can do it alone. The YWCA knows that we need our community to understand the larger impact of the gender wage gap and on-going poverty. As a community we must collectively work to improve the economic situation for women.
This is the YWCA's focus of 2012 and beyond. The 23 YWCAs across the State of New York have joined together to identify social and economic justice issues and we are bring those issue to thought leaders in every one of our communities.
We are bringing forward issues around workforce development, pay equity, racial disparities and women's health. All of which are clearly important right here in Chautauqua County. The widening wage gap and the number of women living in poverty are growing in our own community. YWCAs are working hard, despite funding cuts, to empower women economically and to find a way to the right set of job skills for the new economy.
Therefore, we are asking local leaders, including those in business, to dive deep into the true economic indicators and work with us to find new and creative way to help 51 percent of our workforce. Simply put, improving women's income improves our local economy.
For more than a century, the YWCA has spoken out and taken action on behalf of women and girls around the country and the world. More than 2 million people participate each year in YWCA programs at more than 1,300 locations in the United States. To learn more about the YWCA in your community, contact the Jamestown branch at 488-2237 or the Westfield YWCA at 326-2011.
Beth Oakes is executive director of the YWCA Jamestown. Katie Smith is executive director of the YWCA of Westfield.