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Glass half full or half empty?

New report benchmarks the status of women and girls in Minnesota

Despite decades of progress, there still is great disparity between Minnesota men and women, and boys and girls, according to new research by the Institute's Center on Women and Public Policy and the Women's Foundation of Minnesota.

The study brought together more than 100 experts from the academic, government, nonprofit, and private sectors to define the status of the state's women and girls in four key areas: economics, safety and security, health and reproductive rights, and power and leadership.

"Since gaining the right to vote in 1920, women have made great strides toward equality. We've changed laws, practices, and attitudes to promote fairness and opportunity," says Lee Roper-Batker, president and CEO of the Women's Foundation of Minnesota. "But today, our research shows that women in Minnesota continue to be shortchanged in wages, safety, health, and leadership. By shortchanging women, we're hurting families, communities, and the entire state."

Economics

On average, a woman in Minnesota earns $1 million less over a lifetime when compared with a man. According to Deb Fitzpatrick, director of the Center on Women and Public Policy, "The wage gap shortchanges Minnesota women and their families an average of $11,000 each year. Imagine what $11,000 more a year could buy--down payments for homes, better neighborhoods and health care, higher quality childcare, or even a family vacation."

And despite women in Minnesota earning the majority of post-secondary degrees, this often increases the wage gap, which can result in a loss of $2 million dollars in wages over a lifetime.

Safety and Security

"Minnesotans have settled for a 'D' in safety, with one in three of our daughters, mothers, and sisters surviving sexual or physical violence by mid-life," says Roper-Batker. From "hostile hallways" in schools to intimate partner violence in the home, women are at risk. "Ensuring only 67% of Minnesota's women and girls' safety is a failing grade," she says.

Health and Reproductive Rights

The study also outlines a "wellness gap" between men and women, with almost twice as many girls as boys in Minnesota reporting suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts. Some girls of color--and Native American girls in particular--are at the highest risk.

And, while data shows that fewer 9th graders are having sex, the number of sexually active girls and boys not using birth control is on the rise.

Power and Leadership

At 34 percent, Minnesota is a national leader in the proportion of women serving in the state legislature. Still, "women remain underrepresented in the Minnesota state house, courthouse, and boardroom," says Roper-Batker. "Progress has flat-lined. Our economy and policies are compromised when we continue to leave half the state's talent on the sidelines." Although women win electoral races at equal rates as men, fewer women are running for elected office, and there is a dearth of female leadership in the top positions of Minnesota's Fortune 400 companies.

While much of the data is alarming, Fitzpatrick remains upbeat. "We will use this report as a much-needed jolt to jumpstart social change and inspire more of our citizens, philanthropists, teachers, and leaders--women and men alike--to create fairness, safety, wellness, and equality for all of Minnesota's women and girls," she says. "Action overcomes despair."

For more information or to read the full report, please visit www.hhh.umn.edu.

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