Responding to a study showing that 53 percent of households headed by women in El Paso were living in poverty, a group of 80 women leaders from organizations throughout the county gathered last fall to discuss what could be done.
The gathering at the El Paso Community Foundation was the first installment of the El Paso Women’s Economic Summit. The goal of the summit was to bring women leaders together to identify local resources available to women to help boost their economic status. An Oct. 16 article in the El Paso Times reported a consensus among the attendees that they should continue to work together to fill in missing gaps.
"A lot of people (in the groups) didn't know what other agencies are doing. We have to get the word out and break down the silos of knowledge and bring other voices to this powerful work," Deborah Zuloaga, CEO of United Way of El Paso County, told the group, according to the Times.
Based on a 2014 report by the Texas Women’s Foundation titled “Economic Issues for Women in Texas” along with another study conducted 10 years ago by the El Paso YWCA and the University of Texas at El Paso, it was determined that little has improved for women economically in this community. “In the El Paso metro area, 32% of households are female-headed yet they represent 53% of households living in poverty,” the 2014 report stated. For a single parent with two children, poverty is defined as living on less than $18,769 in per year
The report also found full-time working women in the El Paso metro area have median earnings of $27,489 a year, one of the lowest earnings among the state’s metro areas and almost $8,000 lower than the state median for women.
The Texas Women’s Foundation identified four building blocks for economic security for women in El Paso:
Azuri Gonzalez, Women’s Fund of El Paso President, states that the next step for the Women’s Economic Summit is to analyze the feedback from the gathering and reconvene in February to form working groups. These groups will work together to develop solutions to some of the challenges presented in order to further identify and provide increased resources to local women.