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Foster Takes Notice

February 1, 1999

Mary Ann Travis

Document facts, and people will take notice. After they take notice, perhaps, they will implement change. That's the hope of Beth Willinger, director of the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women. Willinger led a study that documents the dismal economic, political, educational and health standing of Louisiana women [see July 1998 issue of Inside Tulane].

The Status of Women in Louisiana was copublished in October by the Center for Research on Women and the Institute for Women's Policy Research and sent to the state's top political leaders. In the 68-page book, Willinger calls for Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster to establish a women's policy and research commission. And he is responding.

"The governor's staff has asked us to recommend people statewide to sit on such a commission," said Willinger. "This is a direct result of the study."

The Status of Women in Louisiana shows that statistically, almost across the board, using indicators of economic well-being, health-care accessibility and educational achievement, women in Louisiana rank very poorly compared to women in other states. For example, Louisiana ranks second nationally in having the highest proportion of women who live in poverty.

Hand-in-hand with the poverty ranking, Louisiana women have the third-highest rate of unemployment nationally. Louisiana ranks 48th in the percent of non-elderly women without health insurance. And, among the 50 states, Louisiana ranks 42nd in the percent of women who have four or more years of college education.

The only area that Louisiana women fare positively is in voter registration with a rank of 15, yet only 12.5 percent of the Louisiana state legislators are women, compared to the national average of 21.6 percent. By some measures, women have made progress during the last two decades.

However, while 20 years ago women in Louisiana earned 53 cents for every dollar earned by men, in 1995, women in Louisiana had inched up to only 64.4 cents--well below the national average of 72.3 cents. The Status of Women in Louisiana is available for $10 from the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women, Caroline Richardson Hall. Friends of the center receive a 20-percent discount.

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