How Women are Shaking Things up in America

Bryan Mutiso is a Summer Intern with the World Affairs Council. He is currently studying Political Science and Sociology at LaRoche College. In his post below, he recaps the Council’s Diversity Through the Eyes of Women series, while sharing information about the successes of women nationally.

Over the years, Pittsburgh has worked to become more culturally diverse and uplift its minority populations. The region is currently considered to be one of the least diverse cities of its size in the country, often missing out on opportunities associated with being a culturally diverse metropolis. Minorities constitute about 35 percent of Pittsburgh’s population, yet they represent only 11 percent of the workforce. Notably, the gains to be made from diversity are immense – Latinos alone command a spending power in excess of $1 trillion in the U.S., and African Americans now claim the fastest growing segment of the women-owned business market in America. Let’s also not forget that diversity, in itself, adds to the vitality of this great country.

AF_ 22Nationally, women constitute half of the U.S. population, so it should only follow that they are a great asset when it comes to expanding the nation’s economy. Women are thought to have finally achieved parity in the labor market. In 2010 women made up “almost half of American workers (49.9%),” according to The Economist, which is strong evidence of the huge strides made since the early days of women’s rights campaigners. Also, it is now well-established that the average female student is graduating at a higher rate nationwide than her male counterpart. Further, African-American women are now credited with being the most educated group in America today, by race or gender. Women are projected to earn more than 60 percent of university degrees in America and Europe in the next few years, a significant increase from past decades. While great strides have been made in Pittsburgh and other cities across the globe, women continue to face challenges regarding their treatment as more inclusive members of society.

To highlight this topic, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh held three panel discussions during May and June as part of its ongoing series, Diversity through the Eyes of Women. Through conversations with local women leaders, much emphasis was placed on Pittsburgh’s many culturally diverse communities, focusing on the issues and opportunities facing women in the region. The Muslim Community Panel on May 4th acknowledged the steps the city has taken to create a more welcoming environment, including civic education efforts, and further explored ways in which Pittsburgh can become an even more inclusive city.

Less than two weeks later, the Latino Community Panel, featuring local business leaders, entrepreneurs, social activists, and a local government official, engaged the audience in discussions of race, gender, immigration, and social mobility. The spring series closed with an African-American Community Panel on June 6th that sought to address some of the reasons why women of color are underrepresented in the region’s growing industries, while overly represented in under-performing sectors. It was noted that the solution does not simply lie in creating a “colorful checklist,” but rather in diligently working toward greater, meaningful diversity.

No doubt, our city has a long way to go before equal opportunities and benefits for women can be enjoyed, but these discussions indicate that we are headed in the right direction. The Diversity through the Eyes of Women series will continue in the fall with panel discussions representing more of Pittsburgh’s communities. Stay tuned to the Council’s web site for more details.