Racism and Economic Insecurity

In this time of national crisis, AAUW National has taken a strong stand against systemic racism, and AAUW Florida has followed suit (see below). As AAUW, we call for justice and equity for all. But our primary and special mission is equity for women and girls. Amid the concern for so many Black men unjustly killed, we need to remember that economic security for women of color will benefit everyone in their communities.

We know that economic insecurity leads to poorer health outcomes and consequently a greater susceptibility to diseases, not limited to COVID-19.  Economic insecurity adds significantly to the stress level of Black women, who are already stressed by the social situation and the coronavirus pandemic. It has also been shown that stress itself contributes to poor health outcomes.

Working black women were the topic of Dr. Mary Gatta’s most recent reportWorking Black Women in Florida and Economic Insecurity: A Story of Gender and Racial Inequality. She found that “Black women experience the highest levels of economic insecurity in Florida, relative to other race/sex groups. In the state, 61% of all Black workers are economically insecure. And among Black workers in Florida, 66% of all Black women and half of Black full-time working women do not earn enough to reach economic security for their family type.”

We need to consider how we can most effectively promote the policy recommendations from this report:

  • Address gender and race inequities in the Florida labor market including the gender/race pay gap and occupational segregation. 
  • Invest in leadership programs for girls and women to enter gender and race nontraditional careers. 
  • Increase opportunities for professional development and awareness of gender and race bias in education and careers. 
  • Raise the minimum wage and subminimum tipped wage in Florida. 
  • Address childcare barriers that impact mothers’ labor market participation
  • Provide paid leave and paid sick days to all Florida workers. 
  • Address and remedy sex, gender and race-based harassment in occupations. 
  • Provide financial planning for Florida girls and women. 

AAUW Florida joins the country in mourning the recent losses of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, as well as the many earlier losses that have included Floridians like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis.  These and countless other people of color have been unjustly killed across our nation because of systemic racism and persistent attitudes that Black and Brown communities are less deserving of basic human and civil rights.   

These deaths reflect deeply ingrained, long-standing divisions in our society. And they come at a time when the pandemic has given rise to hate around the world, with rampant acts of violence across the nation, and the spread of misinformation, racial stereotyping and fear. 

As an organization, we feel compelled to condemn injustice and discrimination and to reaffirm our commitment to live by our values and cultivate an organization that makes equality, diversity and openness priorities – an organization that sets an example for the greater community. 

Therefore, we pledge to advocate for racial equality; petition our policy makers to focus on the range of actions needed to respond directly to race and gender biases; and support our National organization’s efforts in advancing policies and systemic changes that address public safety, effective community policing, and racial and economic oppression.   

Signed:Patricia Ross, President, AAUW Florida, Kayester Lee-Smith, Director for Public Policy, Patricia DeWitt, President-Elect

Author: Pat DeWitt

I am a retired institutional researcher, a musician and musicologist, and support AAUW as well as several environmental causes.

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