Black women in the Golden State trail behind their counterparts from other ethnic groups in median wealth and a lower percentage of them have obtained higher education degrees. Black mothers and their babies have mortality rates that surpass women from other racial and ethnic backgrounds.
California Black Women’s Collective Empowerment Institute (CBWCEI) President and CEO Kellie Todd Griffin said the state of Black women in California is troubling.
“There is so much work to do,” she explained. “There is a gap with Black women. Without immediate interventions from a policy and practice transformation standpoint, we’re not going to be able to change the trajectory.”
Griffin’s remarks came a day after the Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary’s University released its 12th annual “The Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California” on March 22.
The 40-page report, with the tagline “Advancing Equity: Leading With Meaning and Purpose,” is the Los Angeles university’s assessment of the state of women in California based on several social and economic indicators.
It is “what women need in order to attain agency for themselves, add meaning to their lives, and contribute fully to their families, communities, and businesses,” wrote Mount Saint Mary’s University President Ann McElaney-Johnson in the document’s opening pages.
The report highlights issues affecting women and girls in California post-COVID-19 pandemic. The trends documented pertain to women’s education, economic security, health, household labor, and wage and wealth divisions.
The paper’s authors and staff at Mount Saint Mary’s Center for the Advancement of Women are advocates who push for changes in legislation to help women and girls in the state.
Robin L. Owens, Interim Director of, the Center for the Advancement of Women and Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Mount Saint Mary’s University said all of the study’s findings need to be addressed.
“My personal opinion, wealth impacts everything, so that is the one that struck me the most,” she emphasized. “The differences in the wealth gap between men and women, but also between African American women and other races. That was striking.”
The wealth gap among women is vast, according to the study. For every $100 owned by a White woman, Latinas own $10, and Black women own $9. Twenty-four percent of households led by single Black women and 25% of Latina households are more likely to live in poverty than single White (14%) and single Asian (15%) women households.
In corporate leadership, 5% of the women in management positions and CEO chairs are African American. In comparison, 46% of women in management positions are White and 86% of women CEOs are White.
Black women hold 4% of the bachelor’s degrees obtained by California women, while White women have 47%. Among women holding graduate and professional degrees, 52% are White women, whereas African American women make up only 5%.
There is a connection, Griffin stated, between Black women’s trailing in education and wealth figures.
“We’re the smallest population amongst the groups that were assessed, however we shouldn’t be 4% of the bachelor’s degree holders,” she noted. “It’s disheartening. How do you get into corporate leadership if a majority of good paying jobs require a degree? We can’t get in the door to be able to accelerate up.”
Black women are more than four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes then White women, and Black babies are more than twice as likely to die within one year than White babies.
The maternal death rates African American women and their babies have are still comparable to numbers from decades ago despite funds and efforts put into improving that rate for all women, Griffin said.
“That is not an improvement,” she deemed.
CBWCEI is focused on using the numbers from the report and other statistics they have gathered to shine a light on the challenges Black women in the state have and to uplift their voices.
The group advocated for and received state funds to create the California Black Women’s Think Tank at Cal State Dominguez Hills, which focuses solely on Black women and girls through research and leadership development. The nonprofit organization is also conducting other African American women-geared initiatives.
“We are focused on Black women, Black girls, Black joy, Black advancement,” Griffin stated. “We understand if we invest in Black women, then we invest in Black communities. We are investing in Black California.”
Owens hopes readers of the report take actions like the CBWCEI.
“I hope people read the report and really give some thoughtful consideration to how they can add to the advancement of women in general and African American women in particular,” she said. “Even if it is in a small way. Sometimes we tend to think we have to fix the whole problem. If we could just find out in our own corner of the world, how we could make a small increase in helping African American women and women in general that would make a difference.”