In Their Voices

The Economic Well-Being of Black Women

Panel discusses the policies the next administration must adopt to alleviate economic concerns of black women.

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“It’s not that we don’t have strong perspectives, we’re just not heard,” Stephanie Jones, the Executive Director of the Policy Institute at the National Urban League, said at an event about developing a black women’s agenda for the next administration at the Center for American Progress Action Fund on Tuesday afternoon.

Joy Moses, Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, moderated the panel, which included Jocelyn Frye, General Counsel at the National Partnership for Women and Families, and Avis Jones-Deweever, a Program Director at the National Council of Negro Women. The discussion focused on the assessment of black women’s economic well-being described in The State of Black America 2008: In The Black Women’s Voice.

“You don’t often see the problems that we have,” Jones said as she described how influential media outlets, specifically Sunday morning talk shows, help set policy through their discussion of current events and politics. “The politics in the media help to determine for the broader audience what is considered important.” She pointed out a “lack of attention to the issues of concern to our community in media,” both in terms of coverage and who’s reporting.

Jones suggested that “what is happening in this campaign season will determine policies in the next administration,” and emphasized the importance of proactively developing strong policy prescriptions for the administration to implement.

The most important issue for black women, said Jones-Deweever, “will be the key issue in this election, which is the issue of the economy.” The economy was first among many concerns voiced by black women at the first annual National Black Women’s Town Hall Meeting, held by the National Council of Negro Women this past summer. The economy, explained Jones-Deweever, will affect black women’s ability to care for their families and to retire at a reasonable age. What’s more, the nation’s housing crisis and rising food and fuel costs are at the forefront of women’s minds.

Jones-Deweever predicted that the “foreclosure crisis will lead to the biggest loss in black wealth since Reconstruction.” She added that the national focus should be on ensuring that individuals are able to keep their homes rather than “rewarding individuals who have made millions out of the catastrophe they’ve created for us all.” The housing issue will be at the forefront of the black women’s agenda for the next administration.

Workplace issues will also be important for black women in the next administration, said Frye. She countered the notion that “black women have got it made,” as compared to the challenges faced by black men. Drawing on discrimination claim statistics, broken down by race and gender, Frye showed that “although black women are in the workplace more, they’re often facing greater challenges in terms of discrimination issues.”

Frye emphasized the necessity of gathering refined data to support policy solutions and noted that “more often than not, when data is produced it does not highlight the experience of black women.”

Regarding policy suggestions, Frye remarked that fair pay, civil rights, and paid leave should be taken into account for legislation. A race and gender-specific review of discrimination complaints would allow policies to rectify ills in a more direct matter.

Frye acknowledged the privilege of employers to manage employees, adding that “it’s not too much to ask that they do it in a way that’s not discriminatory.” When it comes to collecting data and improving policy, Jones-Deweever indicated that “it really matters who’s in the White House.”

For more on this event, please visit the events page.

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