Earlier this week, United Way of Greater Los Angeles hosted its inaugural Women’s Summit, which aims to emphasize the power of women as change-makers, creating a community where women, families and communities thrive.

The Summit plays a key role in continuing United Way’s work in breaking the cycle of poverty for female students, families, women and veterans struggling with homelessness and unemployment in Los Angeles. Findings from an exclusive report “The State of Women in Los Angeles County 2016,” examining the latest data and trends on women in the region, were also released at the Summit.

“We are fortunate to convene this extraordinary group of women to learn from one another and further the change necessary to tackle the challenges that many women and their families face in Los Angeles County,” said Elise Buik, President and CEO, United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “There is strength in numbers, and United Way looks forward to continuing to work with these female leaders to combat the perpetual state of poverty by addressing the factors that impact it most – housing, education, and jobs.”

Led by United Way of Greater Los Angeles President and CEO, Elise Buik, the Summit featured inspiring speeches and panels from top female leaders across sectors throughout the county, addressing the unique personal, professional, and political issues that women face today. Among the distinguished guest speakers were keynote guest and actress Kerry Washington; First Lady of Los Angeles Amy Elaine Wakeland; actress and Foodstirs Co-Founder Sarah Michelle Gellar; Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Monica Garcia; and Congresswoman Judy Chu. Top sponsors of the summit included AECOM, Neutrogena, and Target.

United Way of Greater Los Angeles also launched a new report at the Summit, taking a look at the trends in education, economics, health and housing among the five million female residents in Los Angeles County’s 88 cities and a dozens of unincorporated areas. “The State of Women in Los Angeles County 2016” report presents key data on trends for women, together with case stories that illustrate how real women cope, struggle and succeed. The study indicates that the majority of Los Angeles County women are single, but less than half have full-time jobs. Findings also showed that education plays a critical role in preventing poverty, but unsurprisingly, women earn less than men with a larger gap at each level of education.

Key findings indicating primary challenges faced by women:
• Today 60% of Los Angeles County women are single (divorced, separated, widowed, or never married) and 40% are married – down from 60% in 1960. Single women are at risk for lower household incomes.
• Education makes a major difference in poverty: female heads of families with less than a high school education have a poverty rate of 46%, compared to just 10% for college graduates.
◦ Women earn less than men with a larger gap at each level of education. The gap between male and female incomes is $6,000 for those with less than a high school education, but rises to $21,000 for those with a postgraduate degree.
◦ College preparedness is a key issue for access to higher education. More girls in all ethnic groups completed A-G courses from 2004 to 2014, led by increases for Asian and Latinos.
• 2.3 million women are in the County’s labor force. 439,513 are women-owned businesses, with total receipts of $64,824 billion.
• Only 41% of women had full-time jobs compared to 58% of men.
• More than 13,000 women were counted in the 2015 Los Angeles County homeless survey, sharply up from 9,348 in 2013. A preliminary study for 2016 indicated that the number of female veterans had remained nearly the same. The homeless survey also counted 3,925 children in families.
• No more than 30% of income should be paid for housing according to federal standards, yet 59% of renters and 45% of homeowners in the county pay more than 30% of their income for housing.

With over 44,000 men, women, and children suffering from homelessness in Los Angeles County, of which over 4,000 are veterans, United Way and its partners are working to drive community and government awareness and action as part of the organization’s ongoing campaign to eradicate homelessness.

The event commenced in the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel with elected officials, business leaders, celebrities, enterpreneurs and over one thousand female participants. The Women Leader’s Summit is one part of United Way’s work to raise the public awareness and create solutions to end homelessness. For more information, click here.

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