News: Taking Women's Pulse

Researchers study the status of Cincinnati women and girls

Cameron Knight

Women gather at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation to discuss a comprehensive study of the needs and the status of women and girls in the region.

Are the social, educational, health and financial services available to women and men in Greater Cincinnati unevenly distributed?

The Women's Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation is funding a study that will take a close look at the status of women in the area. Participants hope the study will be beneficial to the understanding of issues affecting women and girls.

"We are trying to create a comprehensive portrait of gender status in the area and produce a set of guidelines for the community to move forward," says David Maume, lead researcher for the project. Maume is the director of the Kunz Center for the Study of Work and Family at the University of Cincinnati.

Mapping the unknown
"Pulse: A Study on the Status of Girls and Women" is now in the very beginning stages. Under Maume's direction, a group of researchers from UC, Northern Kentucky University and the Children's Hospital Medical Center will gather statistics relevant to women's issues. Members of a wide range of organizations around Southwestern Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana will form work groups to discuss the findings.

The researcher will take the collected data and separate it into categories of safety, economic security, leadership, education and training, race and ethnicity and girls' issues. A work group for each category will prepare findings for a community forum to be held in the fall.

"Pulse" is seeking an array of girls and women to participate in the forum, in which questions generated by the work groups will be discussed.

"One of the findings that is pervasive is that there really is not enough data on how women and girls are doing — or no one is analyzing what the data means," says Barbara Rinto, director of the UC Women's Center. "Though statistics have been collected in the past, they did not cover a range of different women's issues over a large region. That is why a number of studies have surfaced around the country in recent years. In the Washington area, for example, a study of girls and women is well underway. This study has served as a template for Cincinnati's Pulse."

Last week a meeting was held for the education and training branch of the study. Project director Kathleen DeLaura led the group, whose female members represented various professional fields. They discussed the need for financial planning education and a broader definition for training that included instruction on how to be a better citizen. They were interested in retention rates that show why some women don't stay in college.

Each work group will also look at the role of race and ethnicity in women's experiences.

Of particular importance were single female heads of households and what obstacles they face. The group wanted a representation of various ages, economic levels, ethnicities and sexual orientations. Participants said it's very important not to overlook older women.

DeLaura said a woman recently contacted her, seeking help. She said she hadn't graduated high school and worked full-time as a waitress, but had no health insurance. At age 62, she's not yet eligible for Medicare and didn't know what to do. DeLaura stressed to the work group how important a college education would have been to this woman.

Getting it right
DeLaura and others discussed the need to find work group members from a range of professional fields. GED trainers, the Urban Appalachian League and members of the Urban Learning League of Cincinnati were among those mentioned for the education and training branch. UC plays a key role in the study.

UC President Nancy Zimpher is a co-chair of the steering committee for "Pulse." A number of women's groups and researchers on campus are interested in the study, according to Zimpher. The Women's Initiative for Leadership Development and the UC Women's Studies Program are among the campus resources that focus directly on women.

"Women are critical to the family, workforce and overall quality of life," Zimpher says. "It is important that we get right the condition in which women grow up, get educated and join the workforce."

One focus for the education and training group will be the percentage of women who go to college. At UC, the numbers for 2003-2004 were optimistic. Zimpher says 53 percent of the student body last year were women.

"Pulse" will involve women and girls in eight counties throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

Donna Jones Stanley, president of the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati, is Zimpher's co-chair on the steering committee, which includes 60 women leaders from around the region. Community forums will begin in September and the final report should be available by 2005. The goal is for the report to facilitate regional cooperation and a stronger support for women's programs and services.

"A river divides us but we have a lot of common needs with Northern Kentucky," Rinto says.

"Pulse" organizers hope to point the way for more region-wide collaborative studies and planning, she says.

"A lot of these organizations will get to know one another and come up with new, more powerful ideas that will strengthen all of us," Rinto says. "Creating a more common vision of where we need to go is important."

"Pulse: A Study on the Status of Girls and Women" needs women to volunteer in work groups and community forums. For more information, contact Kathy DeLaura at 513-369-1497 or [email protected].