ATLANTIC CITY - The status of women in Atlantic County was explored Friday during a women’s symposium that was hosted by Stockton University and the Atlantic County Advisory Commission on Women at Stockton’s Carnegie Center.
Stockton University staff and students prepared a 90-plus page report that was commissioned by the ACACW to look at the status of women in the county. Data was placed in local, state and national context and compared by gender and ethnicity.
The presenters focused on key aspects from the six benchmarks that were covered in the report including basic demographics, political participation, employment and earnings, social and economic autonomy, reproductive health and rights, and health and well-being.
“It is the goal of the commission and the researchers who contributed to this report to provide accurate information on the living conditions, available resources, strengths and challenges facing women and girls in order to inform public policy making efforts in Atlantic County and in the region,” said Kristin Jacobson, associate professor at Stockton University and member of the Atlantic County Advisory Commission on Women.
She spoke about basic demographics and political participation. Women and girls make up more than half of the population in Atlantic County. In all but three of the counties in New Jersey, there was a larger percentage of disabled women than men.
Of the 23 municipalities in Atlantic County, six had no women in political office at the time of the report. Of the municipalities that had women in office, the women were outnumbered by men, continued Jacobson.
Ellen Mutari of Stockton University presented data on employment and social and economic autonomy. In Atlantic County, women earn 76 cents for every $1 earned by a man.
“When we talk about the different economic situation for men and women a lot of that does rely on the fact that men and women still largely work for different employers in different occupations in different kinds of jobs,” said Mutari. The report breaks down the percentages of genders in different lines of work.
Betsy Erbaugh of Stockton University talked about reproductive health and rights. “[The data] gives us a lot of important information about the relationship between the economic situation and the well-being of women, girls and children in the county,” she said.
The county infant mortality rate exceeds that of New Jersey and the United States. Low birth weight was comparable to the state and the country. Also, the rate of prenatal care was comparable to the rate of the country but it was lower than the state rate. Access to reproductive care is also low in Atlantic County.
“We are under serving our population in terms of sliding scale reproductive care,” said Erbaugh.
Jess Brown, a graduate of Stockton University, presented data on health and well-being. “The main trend is that Atlantic County has much higher rates of mortality related to heart disease and diabetes,” said Brown.
“We have a much higher rate of obesity, excessive drinking and smoking compared to the state of New Jersey and the country as a whole. So, you can see how the social factors play a role in the higher instances of these different diseases,” said Brown.
After hearing the data, those in attendance began discussing actions to take to improve the life of women in the county. A list of focus areas was composed at the close of the symposium to help steer future actions. Attendees agreed that attention should be placed on housing, education, economics and political participation.
Jacobson said it’s important to think of ways to create an action plan or create stronger partnerships amongst programs that already exist so that resources can be pooled together to address some of the issues presented in the report.
“It’s important that the conversation continues,” said Erbaugh.