NASW forum examines women and poverty

May 6, 2013

By Rena Malai, News staff

Gloria Steinem, iconic visionary of the women’s movement, and Tina Tchen, White House chief of staff for the office of the first lady, were among the guest speakers at a recent special NASW presidential forum titled the “Feminization of Poverty Revisited.”

Women’s liberation leader Gloria Steinem speaks during a special NASW presidential forum, the ‘Feminization of Poverty Revisited,’ held March 20 in Washington, D.C.

More than 100 female leaders and advocates — including health care professionals, policy analysts, economists and government officials — gathered in Washington, D.C., on March 20 to re-examine the term “Feminization of Poverty,” which was first coined by social worker Diana Pearce in 1978. Pearce, director of the Center for Women’s Welfare, also spoke at the conference, as did Theresa Kaijage, a global expert on poverty; and Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

The event, organized by NASW President Jeane Anastas, addressed the impact poverty has on women in the U.S. and internationally and promoted the importance of advocacy for gender equality.

“As we all know, disparities in income and wealth continue to increase in the United States and also continue among and within nations around the world,” Anastas said in her opening remarks. “We are here today because we know the topic — the feminization of poverty — remains an important one.”

Women have been disproportionately affected by the economic recession and continue to recover at a slower rate than their male counterparts, Anastas said. In the social work profession, attention to women’s issues has always been a top priority, but social workers must also collaborate with women leaders from other disciplines to change the differential impact that poverty and inequality have on women and girls in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

“One of the issues that piqued my interest is the majority of women in the social work field who don’t make as much as men,” said Adrienne Gavula, relationship manager at NASW’s Ohio Chapter. “I’m here to look for ways to address equal pay and promotion.”

Steinem, who co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus and Ms. Magazine in the early 70s, spoke about spending more than 40 years fighting for equal rights for women.

Steinem said while growing up in Toledo, Ohio, she had an early education in the way adjectives preceded what was meant to seem inferior, such as “women scientists” and “black writer,” as opposed to just scientist or writer. One of the things Steinem talked about in her presentation, called “The Longest Revolution,” was the masculinization of wealth.

“Equal pay for female human beings of all races would bring $2 billion more into the economy,” she said. “These women will not put their money into a Swiss bank account. No, they will spend it and create jobs.”

From the May 2013 NASW News. NASW members click here for the full story.

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