Summary of Findings and Recommendations
A Tale of Two Counties: The Status of Women in Montgomery County Report (the “Report”) is a decennial publication of the Montgomery County Commission for Women (the “Commission”), produced in collaboration with CountyStat, the performance management and data analytics team within the Office of the County Executive.
The Commission was established by statute in 1972 and is comprised of 15 members from the community who are appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council. Its mission is to advance women’s equal and full participation in the benefits, responsibilities, and opportunities of society, and to enable women to participate as equals in the community through the acquisition of skills and competencies, information and resources. To achieve its mission, the Commission examines laws, policies and procedures; supports policies and programs that promote the well-being of women; and advises the County Executive, the County Council, the public, and the agencies of the county, state and federal governments on issues affecting women of Montgomery County.
CountyStat, the Commission’s valued partner in producing this Report, is Montgomery County’s office that is responsible for analyzing data to monitor, assess, and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of county programs and services.
One goal in producing this Report was to collect and analyze data about how women are faring in Montgomery County across many measures of well-being. We also seek to educate the public and stakeholders on our findings to help inform appropriate remedies and policies. Last published in 2007, this Report updates many of the same areas of focus as the last report and supplements it with new findings. Specifically, the Report focuses on the following areas:
The sections of the report entitled "Spotlights" include more detailed analysis of county gender trends and dynamics. This includes an overview of the results from the "Quality of Life" survey, a 2017 representative sample survey that surveyed more than 1,000 county residents on various livability indicators.
Women in Montgomery County continue to make material gains in education, employment, earnings, political representation, and other key indicators of well-being, often outpacing national averages.
However, the Commission’s analysis also revealed several developments that cause concern and warrant further attention and study. These include significant increases in the number of women living in poverty; stark racial and ethnic disparities in infant mortality rates and other adverse health outcomes; rising rates of sexually-transmitted infections; more than 4,000 women and girls who qualify as “disconnected youth”; and a doubling of domestic violence reports over a three-year period.
In some instances, the Report’s data trends echo concerns expressed by Montgomery County women during a recent statewide listening tour directed by the Maryland Commission for Women. The listening tour gathered feedback from 1,400 Maryland women. (http://dhr.maryland.gov/maryland-commission-women/programs/voices-maryland-listening-tour/ )
Women make up a little over half, or 51.7 percent, of Montgomery County residents. Since the last report in 2007, the largest increases in the female population are among women between the ages of 60 and 74. Those numbers grew by more than 25,000. Not surprisingly, given that women tend to live longer than men on average, women make up 65 percent of county residents over the age of 84.
Another notable development since the last report is that Montgomery County has become a majority minority county. Fifty-six percent of women identify as an ethnic minority. Hispanic and African-American women are virtually tied as the largest ethnic group, accounting for more than 100,000 women each. The number of women who identify as white, non-Hispanic has dropped by 11 percent, from 55 percent to 44 percent since 2006. Hispanic women grew at the fastest rate, by five percentage points. Montgomery County is home to over a third of the state's Hispanic women and more than four in ten of the state's Asian-American women.
Immigrants account for 33 percent of women and girls in the county, up four percent since 2006. Forty percent of adult women in our county are immigrants. Overall, 38 percent of the state’s immigrant women live in Montgomery County and 37 percent of the states’ immigrants in total.
Women in Montgomery County earn 82 percent of their male counterparts’ wages, which is a few percentage points better than the national average. Significant racial and ethnic disparities widen the pay gap for minority women.
Women account for 44 percent of the full-time civilian workforce living in Montgomery County, marginally lower than the national average of 46.8 percent. Women and men have nearly even labor force participation up to age 25, after which a roughly 12 percentage point gap persists from ages 30 until 60. Note, however, that female labor force participation remains over 80 percent during these years, higher than national averages which cluster closer to 75 percent.
The Montgomery County government (not including Montgomery County Public Schools) employed more than 3,750 women in regular/permanent positions in 2017, accounting for 40.5 percent of all employees.
Women in Montgomery County hold graduate degrees at almost triple the national rate -- and six percentage points higher than the DC metro region average. Earnings for women with a graduate or professional degree in Montgomery County are the fourth highest in the nation, among mid and large-sized counties (i.e. those with at least 150,000 residents).
In terms of dropout rates and disconnection, women are 40 percent less likely to drop out of high school than boys. The dropout rate was 4.5 percent for females versus 7.7 percent for males among the class of 2017. Women and girls account for half of all disconnected youth (defined as residents between the ages of 16-24 who are neither enrolled in school nor employed -- i.e. unemployed or not looking for a job), with an estimated 4,800 women and girls not active in school or work. This number drops to 4,200 when excluding the 15 percent of women and girls who live with their own child and who may be stay-at-home mothers.
For school-age girls, information from the Montgomery County Public Schools Data Dashboards (2017) also shows that girls outperform boys in both literacy and math, across grades and time (with the one exception of second grade math). Further, girls are 10 percent more likely than boys to be enrolled in at least one AP or IB course.
Rising poverty rates among women in Montgomery County are one of the Report’s most significant and troubling trends over the last decade.
The number of women living in poverty increased by 66 percent between 2007 and 2017 – with more than 16,500 women joining the ranks of those living below the poverty level. In almost every age category (except for children under eighteen), women comprised a significant majority of the residents living in poverty. Poverty rates rose in almost every other age category.
Moreover, median incomes were lowest among single-parent households headed by a woman. This demographic also had the highest concentration of families living below the self-sufficiency standard.
Women of color experience higher rates of poverty than their white counterparts. African American and Hispanic women represent almost 60 percent of the women living in poverty in the county.
The report revealed marked positive and negative shifts in several key public health indicators.
Birth rates in the county declined overall, and encouragingly, the birth rate among adolescents fell almost by half since 2010. All mothers in Montgomery County delayed having their first child longer than the national average, regardless of their marital status and educational attainment.
Infant mortality in the county declined between 2008 and 2014 but increased in the last two years of available data (2015 and 2016), driven in part by rising mortality rates among African American infants. African American mothers are 65 percent more likely than other women to suffer the loss of an infant.
While the age-adjusted mortality rates for female breast cancer in our county are about 20 percent below the national rate, African American women experience notably higher breast cancer deaths (22.1 vs. 17.7 per 100,000). Similarly, while cervical cancer rates declined among county women since the last Report, African American and Hispanic women are nearly twice as likely as white and Asian women to be diagnosed with cervical cancer.
The county rate of sexually transmitted infections has risen dramatically, reaching its highest level in a decade. The increases in Montgomery County occurred at roughly twice the rate of the state increase in 2017. Women experienced much higher rates of chlamydia than men and higher rates of HIV infection.
Women are somewhat more likely than men to have health insurance, with women making up 45 percent of the uninsured. Overall, the rate of the uninsured has dropped by nearly half, from 11.5 percent in 2009 to 6.5 percent in 2016, a trend observed in roughly equal measure between women and men. Almost 15 percent of women receive Medicaid, roughly on par with 13.6 percent of men.
Women and Politics
In 2006, Maryland was first in the nation in terms of the number of women in the state legislature, dropping to eighth in the intervening years. Following the 2018 general election, 71 of the 188 state legislators will be women, 21 of whom were elected for the first time. However, none of the county’s congressional delegation are women and, as of the 2018 election, only one of the nine County Council members are women. Moreover, Maryland remains among the 20 states that have yet to elect a female governor.
Women hold all eight Board of Education seats, including the recently elected Student Member. Women also hold a majority (four of seven) of the elected Circuit Court judgeships and the Clerk of Circuit Court office.
Montgomery County women vote more than men and more often than women nationally. Sixty-eight percent of female citizens and 64 percent of male citizens voted (61 percent of all women and 57 percent of all men when including non-citizens).
Crime and Safety
Crime in Montgomery County has fallen dramatically over the past two decades on a per capita basis -- by a third between 1996 - 2006 and by over 40 percent in the last decade.
Even so, between 2014 and 2016, total reports of domestic violence increased by 38 percent, from 2,203 to 3,040. MCPD statistics also show a 28 percent increase in rape cases between 2016 and 2017, from 309 to 397, continuing an upward trend. MCPD attributes this increase in part to media coverage of high profile incidents, which has encouraged more victims to come forward and report.
Twenty-nine percent of Montgomery County law enforcement employees are women. Within Montgomery County, the Montgomery County Police Department leads the way with a 31 percent share.
The Commission recommends that the County Executive, the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with other chambers, WorkSource Montgomery, and other groups collaborate to develop incentives to encourage employers in Montgomery County to adopt more family- friendly labor practices, including flexible schedules, telecommuting options, paid sick leave, paid sick leave for dependent care, and retirement plans.
The Commission recommends that the Maryland General Assembly pass legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour statewide for most workers by 2023. However, before passing any new laws, the legislature should take into consideration any economic impact on employers that a new minimum wage might have and consult with the business community. The Commission believes that Maryland can achieve the goal of helping low-wage workers achieve economic stability while balancing the needs of the business community.
- The cost of living in Maryland is so high that minimum wage workers cannot afford necessities like rent, child care, food, water, gas, electricity and transportation without working multiple jobs. Even then, they just scrape by. Women comprise 55 percent of the minimum wage workers, and most are women of color.
- Many minimum wage workers are the main source of income for their families and 14 percent of minimum wage workers are single mothers. In addition to pay discrimination, many working mothers, especially single working mothers, are left to bear the burden of early child care and education costs. State and county legislators must see child care as a community problem, not just the problem of the low -income working mother. The view that child care is a problem for women only, and especially low-income women, restricts the resources made available for quality child care and limits work and other opportunities for low-income working mothers and their children.
The Commission recommends that the Maryland General Assembly pass legislation similar to last session’s H.B. 512, the Labor and Employment – Pay Scales and History bill to prevent employers from asking job candidates for their current salary or salary history and requiring employers to publish salary ranges for jobs.
- Women in Montgomery County overall still earn only 82 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, while African American women earn 69 cents and Latinas earn 47 cents. Asking job applicants for their current salary or salary history perpetuates gender disparities in pay as employers’ use of this information in the hiring process forces women, especially women of color, to carry lower earnings and pay discrimination with them from job to job throughout their careers.
The Commission recommends that the Maryland General Assembly pass legislation to establish a private sector family and medical leave insurance fund (similar to unemployment insurance) to provide partial wage replacement for employees who take unpaid leave to care for a new child, a family member with a serious health condition, their own serious medical condition, or a family member’s military deployment.
- While current law protects the jobs of employees who take up to 12 weeks of leave for their own illness, to care for a family member or for the birth or adoption of a child, this leave is unpaid. This creates extreme stress and financial insecurity for families already experiencing illness or family transitions. Only 13 percent of the workforce has access to paid maternity leave and an even smaller percentage can access paid caregiving leave. The lack of a paid family and medical leave system leads to economic instability for women. It’s also a major contributor to the wage gap between women and men and to women’s financial vulnerability as they age.
The Commission recommends the reintroduction and passage of the Maryland REDEEM (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act of 2019) to comprehensively streamline existing expungement and shielding laws. The REDEEM Act will 1) Repeal the unit rule; 2) Automatically expunge non-convictions; 3) Allow nonviolent misdemeanor and felony convictions to be eligible for expungement at five and seven years, respectively, after the completion of the individual’s sentence and any mandatory supervision; and 4) Provide clarification on the expungement eligibility of arrest warrants/invalidated warrants.
- A criminal record can serve as the cause and consequence of poverty, limiting access to economic mobility and stability by making it harder for those with such records to secure jobs and housing.
- Under current Maryland law, criminal records with charges that did not result in a conviction are eligible for expungement. However, Maryland’s unit rule permanently prohibits expungement of eligible charges if all charges within a unit are not eligible for expungement. This means that acquittals and other favorable dispositions become ineligible for expungement if a conviction is also contained within a unit.
The Commission recommends the introduction and passage of legislation to 1) prohibit the suspension of a driver’s license due to unpaid fees and allow for the statewide use of community-based alternative payment methods, such as job skills training or adult education; 2) require the state or local jurisdictions to cover the costs of GPS monitoring for indigent defendants being held in pretrial detention; 3) require the state to establish a process to ensure that pretrial defendants are not denied access to voting.
- When individuals are arrested, charged and/or imprisoned because they lack the financial means to satisfy the demands of the law, that is defined as the criminalization of poverty. This criminalization includes the “cash bail” system, where low-income defendants are often held in jail due to their inability to pay bail, not because they are an actual threat to the community. While in jail, they also lack access to critical services and resources.
The Commission supports the aim of the County’s Equity Policy Framework (https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/COUNCIL/Resources/Files/res/2018/20180424_18-1095.pdf) to advance the equal and full participation of women in the benefits, responsibilities and opportunities of society, and to enable women to participate as full equals in the community through the acquisition of skills and competencies, information and resources. The Framework also calls for work to improve equity and reduce discrimination. As women of color are disproportionately impacted by poverty, the Commission supports the recommendations of the September 2018 Office of Legislative Oversight Report, “Racial Equity in Government Decision-Making: Lessons from the Field” and feels strongly that to make progress in reducing poverty among women, efforts must include data tracking by gender.
The Commission recommends that Montgomery County increase efforts to educate women about their increased risk for, and unique warning signs of, heart disease.
The Commission recommends that Montgomery County increase efforts to educate the public on the risks of cervical and breast cancer, and especially for women over 50, the importance of a mammogram. For breast cancer, the focus for African-American women must be both access to screening and to health care post-diagnosis. With cervical cancer education, there should be a special focus on African-American and Hispanic populations.
The Commission recognizes Montgomery County’s efforts to provide education and resources to prevent unintended pregnancies and decrease the rates of sexually transmitted infections. The Commission recommends that Montgomery County strengthen public education programs on the dangers of unprotected sex, especially by targeting teens and women ages 15-34.
The Commission recommends that Montgomery County dedicate and/or increase funds to community organizations to ensure adequate resources are available to provide high quality and accessible programs for prenatal, maternity, and post-natal care to decrease the rates of African American infant mortality.
The Commission recognizes Montgomery County’s efforts to raise awareness around mental health and substance abuse as well as provide resources support prevention efforts. The Commission recommends greater outreach programs for suicide assessment and prevention for women and girls.
Maryland has no women in its federal congressional delegation. Additionally, since 2007, Maryland dropped from first to eighth place in national rankings for the number of elected women in the state legislature. At the local level, Montgomery County is represented by only one female council member out of nine elected to the current County Council. The recommendations below are aimed at remedying Maryland’s current lack of gender parity among elected officials.
The Commission recommends that local political parties and political action committees work with organizations and institutions that promote the leadership of women and girls to:
- Identify barriers preventing women from running for office so that those obstacles can be effectively addressed; and
- Establish targets for female candidate recruitment to run for office at the local, state, and federal levels (including judiciary seats).
The Commission urges civic engagement groups, community organizations, and government agencies (including the Montgomery County Council, Board of Elections, and County Executive) to:
- Educate the public about the voting and election process;
- Inform residents of upcoming open federal, state, and local public office positions well in advance of the primary and general election; and;
- Study the benefits of ranked-choice voting systems to increase women and girls’ participation in politics.
Advancing women’s leadership potential in their careers and in the community can assist in building a pipeline of women candidates. The Commission advises state and local government offices, political parties, political action committees, non-profit organizations, as well as private businesses and corporations, to share, exchange, and disseminate best practices, information, tools, resources, and programs focused on advancing women’s leadership. This includes a commitment by the County Executive and Governor of Maryland to make administrative appointments that reflect the diverse population, including women residents, of Montgomery County.
Since most female victims of sex offenses, human trafficking, domestic violence as well as women involved in the criminal justice system are survivors of some form of trauma, the Commission recommends that we provide comprehensive services for them that take this trauma into account. We must also develop strategies for integrating services at both the clinical/individual and service system levels.
The Commission recommends that domestic violence and sexual assault prevention efforts begin early. It is important to use the public-school system to educate girls and boys with age-appropriate messages about the harmful effects of domestic violence and the signs that such violence is occurring.
While Montgomery County Department of Corrections does an excellent job addressing substance abuse, cognitive behavior skills, job readiness skills, and other issues facing of justice-involved women, the Commission recommends that, upon release, justice-involved women receive trauma-specific services, adequate substance abuse services and effective resource coordination so they can continue working on reentry into the community.
The Commission recommends continued promotion of county programs and services to raise awareness of their offerings. Promotion may be done through brochures, pocket cards, or county-wide public outreach campaigns. Outreach efforts should also be made to justice-involved women in coordination with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Collaboration with the Commission, the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, and the County’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations should continue in earnest. County organizations, in consultation with other domestic violence prevention entities, should monitor and promote legislation that supports reducing and preventing domestic violence.
The Commission recommends that regular data gathering to monitor domestic violence incidents should continue. In addition, yearly statistical “mappings” should take place so that prevention and response organizations can track trends in domestic violence incidents and use the data to steer targeting, outreach and education.
The Commission recommends we make it a priority to ensure safe, transitional housing for domestic violence victims so they can become self-sufficient survivors
The Commission recommends that support for the Montgomery County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) be bolstered so that its members can continue educating the community about sexual assault. This support should include:
- Dedicated, part-time staff;
- Funding for a community awareness campaign;
- Ensuring rape kits are tested in a timely manner and in accordance with best practices.
The Commission recommends that the SART continue working with advocacy organizations to monitor, promote, and support legislation that reduces and prevents sexual assault.
The Commission recommends that the Montgomery County Human Trafficking Prevention Committee(MCHTPC) collect statistics on the incidence of human trafficking annually from all its members.
The Commission recommends that the MCHTOC continue its collaboration with the Maryland Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force to monitor, support and promote legislation related to human trafficking prevention.
The Commission recommends that the county work with other counties and the state to find safe and affordable transitional housing for trafficking victims.
The Commission works closely with and supports the recommendations of the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, the Victim Assistance Advisory Board, and the Montgomery County Prevention Committee. Recommendations from these entities can be found on their websites.
The Commission recommends that the County Executive create a task force (consisting of appropriate county agencies and community organizations) charged with:
- Understanding why 4,800 girls and young women in Montgomery County are disconnected from education or the workforce; and
- Identifying and implementing successful programs to reengage this population.