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Women were hit hard by the pandemic, and here’s another hidden threat no one is talking about | Opinion

·4 min read

How fast did women-owned businesses receive pandemic-related Paycheck Protection Program loans compared to men-owned businesses in Miami-Dade County?

We don’t know because gender data is unavailable. That’s a problem.

We do know that minority-owned businesses around the country waited longer to receive PPP funds in zip codes where there were smaller proportions of white residents. Criticism grew when this data was released. As a result, the number of providers for loans expanded, and wait times improved. If we didn’t have the data, we would have never known there was an issue. For this reason, we need to urgently address the global lack of data based on gender, and we need to start at home. If we don’t tackle that disparity in Miami-Dade County, then our women and girls and the challenges they face will remain invisible.

The scarcity of gender data is such a dire issue that the United Nations stated that is a threat to gender equality. In Miami-Dade, the gender pay gap between full-time women employees and men decreased and was 13% in 2016. We were making slow progress, but then we went backward, and it jumped to 19% in 2019. Why did that occur? Was there a specific reason for the increase? We can’t answer these questions because we need more numbers.

Despite women’s significant advancements in education and labor force participation, gender disparities across most economic indicators persist. The pandemic magnified issues, including unequal pay, job stability, and the impact of social norms on women’s role in society and family. Women make up less than half the workforce in the U.S. but had a higher percentage of job losses than men in 2020. Additionally, more women than men continue only to work part-time and in lower-paying service jobs.

How do women in Miami fare in comparison to these numbers? Since the pay gap was rising in Miami in 2019, has it kept increasing the past year? If so, by how much? We won’t have Miami’s data until 2022. What about violence against women, their health and well-being, or women in leadership? That information is needed now more than ever as issues confronting women have been inflamed by the pandemic.

Exacerbating the problem is the metrics we do have can be hard to find because they are scattered, not publicly available, or not current. Missing or inaccessible information generates inequality, which impedes our ability to understand challenges and act on solutions. Who would have thought that with all the inequalities women face, they also have to deal with inequality in data?

If we want to resolve the issues holding back women and girls from prospering in Miami, we need to collect current data, make it accessible and monitor it to eliminate inequities. This is precisely why The Women’s Fund Miami-Dade expanded its programs last year to include research.

This week we’re launching the Miami-Dade Gender Equity Dashboard to serve as the place where everyone in our community can access key metrics on women and girls. As we reduce information gaps, the dashboard will grow. Government officials, community leaders, the public and private sectors, philanthropic organizations, nonprofits, and our residents can use this to come together and mobilize to create local solutions to national problems.

Several organizations supporting women and girls will find metrics useful. However, since they’re already working on gender issues, isn’t it necessary to see how they’re doing and if they need help? In our first research study conducted this year, the Landscape of Services research report, we gathered data on these organizations. This has never been done before in Miami, and we found that they’re struggling due to the virtual shift, unstable funding, and mental health challenges that their staff and those they help are facing. Data transparency will help them do their work, but through our continued collaboration, we also hope to show the tremendous impact they have in reducing inequality.

In this age of technology where data is rampant, it’s indefensible that we don’t have the information we need, but Women’s Fund Miami-Dade is taking charge in addressing data inequality and making it accessible, user-friendly and actionable. However, we can’t do it alone. We’re calling on all of you to become our community partners by investing with us to bridge the gaps, support important work under way, and work with us in building a stronger, more resilient, and equitable community in Miami-Dade.

Arathi Ramappa is board vice-chair and Dr. Maria Ilcheva is a board member of the Women’s Fund Miami-Dade.

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