Employment ranked as top barrier for women

Friday, July 22, 2016

Ottumwa examined in ‘She Matters’ report

Courier staff writer

OTTUMWA — Employment, childcare, housing education, transportation and mentoring were the top six barriers identified by the Ottumwa community during the Iowa Women’s Foundation sessions last August.

During the 2015 She Matters Tour, the Iowa Women’s Foundation met with policy makers and community members in different Iowa communities to discuss the barriers to economic self-sufficiency facing women and girls in our state.

Ottumwa was one of eighteen Iowa communities that participated in the sessions. Last year, the session was done in partnership with the United Way of Wapello County where attendees discussed the most! pressing challenges affecting economic self-sufficiency for women and girls.

These sessions were analyzed and the key barriers identified and ranked.

On Thursday afternoon, IWF revisited Ottumwa to share its findings, raise public awareness, promote collaboration and provide resources to address key barriers.

IWF Executive Director Dawn Oliver Wiand led the session.

“We learned that in many of the communities we visited these barriers were pretty much the same,” said Wiand. “We’re here to identify existing initiatives and determine any gaps in services.”

The group identified employment and education as two major barriers in town. For employment, there is a lack of job availability with many jobseekers being either under or overqualified.

“We have a lot of programs at Indian Hills, but I think there is a lack of awareness,” said Darlas ! Shockley, executive dean of Arts & Sciences at IHCC.

Others brought up that many minorities don’t have the same access and services or don’t feel comfortable reaching out to certain offices for help.

More than 70 percent of Iowa’s female-headed households struggle for economic security according to the IWF’s “She Matters” Report.

Forty percent are living in poverty, according to the State Data Center of Iowa and the Office on the Status of Women and 30 percent do not earn enough to support basic living expenses. Many women are “working poor” in Ottumwa and lack education, awareness and guidance in crucial areas. Helping women become aware of systems in place and navigating those systems was seen as important for the 13 women at t! he session.

“M! en mentor each other all of the time like crazy, but we don’t see each other as mentors until we are asked,” said Wiand.

The goal of the “She Matters” tour is to develop ideas to break some of the identified barriers, determine a course of action specific to Ottumwa and to strategize a planned course of action with the support of the IWF.

Megan Berberich can be reached at mberberich@ottumwacourier.com and followed @CourierMegan.

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Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation 217 East Main Street Ottumwa, Iowa  52501
Phone 641-682-3465 Fax 641-682-3466 info@ottumwaiowa.com