Engendering The Mayoral Race: Report From The Bar Association's Civil Rights Committee Panel On Women's Issues

So, further fulfilling my mandate as a voice for the supposedly silent girl readers of this website, I went to yesterday's Philadelphia Bar Association's panel: "Advancing Women’s Equality and Empowerment: Women's Policy Issues the Next Mayor Must Champion."

From what I could tell, no one from the campaigns was anywhere around. I'm not sure why, and not sure how to read the statement that specifically gendered issues have been absent from the race so far. What formal communications and connections are there between the candidates camps and the represented organizations? Is there some concerted plan to engender the race that is failing or are these errors of omission from a field of all-male candidates? Some highlights:


The most interesting conversation involved analysis of the gender dimensions of the crime wave. Crime (from violence to prisons to reentry) has gotten tons of attention, but not so much the question of how it affects women and children, possibly because recent studies have allowed us to pinpoint a specific group of people (who are men) who are statistically most likely to be involved in homicides.

Homicide. Cynthia Figueroa, Executive Director of Women Against Abuse, spoke about the huge proportion of homicides that are domestic violence related. She identified the power the new mayor will have through his commissioners to set an agenda across agency divisions. Specifically, they've been able to identify repeat calls to 911 that are coded as domestic violence, creating an opportunity to target resources to those individuals. there needs to be a coordinated response, including within the court system, where rulings in family and dependency court are often in tension.

Domestic violence. Jennifer Dickson Keith presented data from the Philadelphia Women’s Death Review Team Report (a public/private project released last year). The report examines all women's deaths in Philadelphia, focusing on 2002 - 2003 and describing trends between 1997 and 2003. Among other findings, 27% of female homicide victims had known domestic violence histories. 40% of the total deaths were caused directly by "intimate partner violence." This is another facet of the homicide problem that has maybe been marginalized in the current discussion. That data also suggests that at least some of those deaths could be prevented by effective intervention when the domestic violence problem is identified.

Prisons. Ann Schwartzman, Director of Policy of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, described the huge effect the incarceration rate has on women and their families. Since 70% of women in the city system have children and are heads of household, their incarceration effects those children, the neighborhoods, and the social services system. She advocated a wide range of reforms at all levels, from sentencing alternatives for women (including early release, alternative incarceration in the community, drug treatment programs for those only charged with low-level offenses) to reentry programs helping women with employment and--essentially--housing (many of these women find themselves ineligible for public housing).



JoAnn Fischer, Executive Director of the Maternity Care Coalition, was concerned that the new mayor have a regional approach to issues such as maternity and childbirth, since issues regarding access to care and services often cross city/suburban lines. Worryingly, she observed that there is a significant shortage of both hospitals that provide obstetrics (particularly in the Northeast, where several hospitals have closed those departments as less profitable, way over-burdening others) as well as a shortage of OB/GYN and midwifery students that stay in the area after training. She also discussed the need to deal with the problem of ensuring medical care to undocumented city residents, whose families may cross citizenship lines.


Carol Goertzel, President & CEO of Pathways PA, reviewed their recent report, "Investing in Pennsylvania's Families." She outlined a range of workforce program and legislative and tax reforms, many of them on the state level. They are working on a gender breakdown of the rate of working poor families, and a really wonderful and comprehensive review of the issues and proposed reforms is available in the report, linked above. Maybe I can talk about some of the specifics in comments.


Cynthia Figueroa pleading for a fix, saying how her organization's woman clients "could not sustain any aspect of their lives, much less jobs, if SEPTA becomes more expensive." She said that nonprofits already have to subsidize their clients' getting to services.

Thanks for posting this report.

Thanks for posting this report. I had wanted to attend this event, but didn't get it together.

Supporting Michael Nutter for Mayor

I think the women's health

I think the women's health issues raised are particularly important. Given the strength of this city in medicine, from pediatrics, pharmaceuticals, teaching hospitals, neurology and cancer, and wound care, it's astonishing how few ob/gyns are in the medical system, even in the major hospitals in and around Center City. Some women wait months and months for routine appointments.

It would be great for the mayoral candidates to talk about how they'll work with the hospitals and clinics to improve access to and quality of care in the city, especially for women. Eds and meds, I'm telling you, eds and meds.

Supporting Michael Nutter for Mayor.

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