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The Journal Gazette

  • FILE: Women in the audience laugh at award-winning television actress and comedienne Vicki Lawrence during the annual "Tapestry: A Day For You" event at the Memorial Coliseum Expo Center.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019 1:00 am

Women's success mission of local study

Examination of key issues first of its kind in 45 years

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A wide-ranging study announced Tuesday will focus on issues facing local women and girls, including employment, education and training.

The study is a partnership between the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne and the Community Research Institute at Purdue University Fort Wayne. Preliminary work to gauge interest among groups, including the YWCA, Healthier Moms and Babies, Turnstone and Youth for Christ began more than a year ago, organizers said.

“We at the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne believe that we need a clear understanding of where Fort Wayne and Allen County are on key issues affecting the women and girls in our community,” Alison Gerardot, vice president for philanthropic services, said in a statement. “With women making up 51% of Indiana's population, we know that women's issues are community issues – that when women succeed, a whole community succeeds.”

Researchers will conduct interviews and analyze existing data on several topics this summer, and a report is expected in early 2020. Phone surveys and focus groups also could be used to gather information.

“There are smart people in our community who can inform the work that we do,” said Rachel Blakeman, director of the Community Research Institute.

She and others who spoke at a Tuesday morning news conference said the study will build on a 1973-74 effort – titled “Fort Wayne Women” – that led to the creation of the Fort Wayne Women's Bureau, which merged last year with the YWCA.

Along with employment, education and training, the study will focus on personal safety, care giving, health care and girls.

Researchers hope to gather data including whether women and girls feel safe in their communities and economic security.

Women in Allen County make about 70 cents for every dollar made by men, Blakeman said.

“This work, using both quantitative and qualitative information, will enable the Community Foundation, local leaders and the public at large to make data-informed decisions for policies and programs that serve Allen County's women and girls,” she said.

“With the last local assessment of women done more than 40 years ago, we are long overdue to conduct this research, which I expect to be both affirming and surprising at the same time.”

Work already has included examining similar efforts in other areas such as Cincinnati, Blakeman and Gerardot said.

A 2017 study by the Women's Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation studied areas such as the wage gap among women and men and opportunity costs for working mothers.

Brad Little, president and CEO of the local foundation, said the study will help provide a road map for improving the area. “We want a thriving, prospering community where we can all succeed,” he said.

Gerardot said a donor, who she did not identify, has paid for most of the study, but she declined to release a dollar figure.

Community Foundation launched a website – cfgfw.org/leadership-initiatives/womenstudy – and includes information about the study.

mleblanc@jg.net