Introduction and Summary of Findings

Introduction

The Status of Women in Montgomery County report describes women’s experiences through quantitative data, both to measure observable progress and trends among women over the past decade and to identify specific obstacles, gaps, and disparities that continue to create challenges for women in the County. This report is compiled every 10 years by the Montgomery County Commission for Women. The intention is to present information that will guide new directions for better policies for women, girls, and families. The report is divided into the following sections:

Summary of Findings

  • The State of Maryland typically ranked as one of the best places for women -- and Montgomery County is a leader in the State. For instance, a prominent 2015 benchmark study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranked Maryland as the 5th best state in the nation for women — in a tie with California, Hawaii, Oregon and Colorado and behind Minnesota (#1), Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont (tied for #2).  Maryland ranks particularly high for Employment & Earnings (#2, after DC), Poverty & Opportunity (#2, again after DC), and Reproductive Rights (#3, after Oregon and Vermont). Within the State of Maryland, Montgomery County performs at or near the top on a number of criteria, from health outcomes to the strength of the female workforce.
  • Women in Montgomery County continue to see progress on a number of fronts.  Women in Montgomery County are among the most educated, skilled, diverse, and well-paid in the nation.  The County's health outcomes are stellar and nationally ranked, particularly for women. Women are increasingly present in STEM fields, both in the workforce and in education. Women representation in the state legislature is the 8th best in the nation and far better than most neighboring jurisdictions -- in part due to the strong female delegation from Montgomery County -- and a record number of women are running for State offices in the 2018 General Election. Women report a high quality of life, high levels of civic engagement, and high levels of satisfaction with most government services. Girls continue to outperform boys on virtually every measure of academic performance in the public school system. Finally, the County's measures of social vulnerability, while on the rise in some instances, continue to be far below State and national averages. 
  • But this progress and the County's relative strengths obscure three main areas of concerns: gender disparities in rising poverty, regression in women representation at the County level, and rising disparities in well-being by race, ethnicity, geography, and age. 
    • (1) Rising poverty among women and girls. Montgomery County is one of the most affluent communities in the nation, with women in particular being among the best paid in the country. But these indicators of affluence are based on averages that disguise tremendous diversity in income. On the bottom end of the income spectrum, the County ... Women and girls today are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty as they did ten years ago when the Commission last conducted a Status of Women Report, with poverty among girls and women both being higher and faster growing than among their male counter parts. These gender disparities are particularly pronounced among women in the 2-29 age cohort as well as after 60
    • (2) Regression in women representation in County elected offices. The State and the County Congressional delegations are entirely male (which is the case for only 10 other States). Women are well-represented in the State legislature, but Maryland no longer leads the nation as it did 10 years ago. At the County level, political observers expect the County's female representation in the County Council to drop to just 1 of 9 members. The sole female candidate in the democratic County Executive primary received 15% of the vote, while women accounted for 36% of the candidates but only 11% of the winners in the democratic primary elections for County Council.
    • (3) Rising and persistent disparities by race and ethnicity, geography, and age. 
      • Disparities in Health. While health outcomes are excellent on average, the data shows sharp disparities by race and ethnicity. Black or African American women, for instance, have the same rate of breast cancer incidents as the County average, but a notably higher breast cancer mortality rate. Hispanic women have nearly double the rate of Cervical Cancer incidents, and are 18 times more likely than White Non-Hispanic residents to give birth in adolescence. Black or African American residents are 65% more likely tan the average to suffer the anguish of infant mortality and are 2.5 times more likely to give birth with late or no prenatal care than White Non-Hispanic expecting mothers. Sexually Transmitted Infections are on the rise -- leading to the declaration of a public health crisis by the Montgomery County Public Health Officer -- with women suffering much higher rates of Chlamydia and HIV (roughly double in both cases) than men. African American women in particular suffer from HIV at a sharply disproportionate rate.: 
      • Disparities in Social Vulnerability. Hispanic and Black or African American women and girls are 3-4 times more likely to live in poverty than their White Non-Hispanic counterparts. Women in the 20-29 age range and after 60 are particularly vulnerable to falling into poverty, in part due to single motherhood and widowhood. [this section will be expanded].  
  • Progress has also stalled in a few other areas. Labor force participation has declined slightly, the pay gap persists, and... [this section will be updated]  

Past Reports

For past versions of the report, please see the following: 2006 Status of Women report | 2007 Single Mothers and Poverty deep-dive