Washington, DC—A new report produced by the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, in conjunction with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) and the Urban Institute, found a persistent gender wage gap and increasing poverty levels among women and girls. A fact sheet update to the report, reflecting new poverty data, shows levels of poverty increased in the region to 177,964 poor women and girls in 2009, from 160,000 the previous year.

Barbara Gault, Executive Director and Vice President of IWPR, will present findings from “2010 Portrait of Women & Girls in the Washington Metropolitan Area,” with the Urban Institute at The Foundation’s Community Briefing on Thursday, October 14.

“The report shows both the tremendous resources of women in the region, with great diversity, and relatively high earnings and education levels among so many -but also pinpoints areas where women, and especially women of color -are lagging behind men,” said Gault. “Women still earn less and have higher poverty rates than men, and single mothers especially struggle to meet high housing and child care costs.”

The Washington region lags behind the nation in terms of closing the gender wage gap. From 2000 to 2008, the wage gap in the area has decreased by 2.7 percent, but the national wage gap decreased even further by 4.5 percent. In the Washington region, women earn 20 percent, or $12,400 less than comparable men per year. Perhaps most striking is the difference of 45 percent between what African American women and white men make working full-time in the region-much larger than the national gap of 38 percent between black women and white men.

According to recent US Census Bureau data, the poverty rate for women and girls was 9.3 percent in the Washington region in 2009-a 15.9 percent increase from the previous year and higher than the rate of 7.7 percent for men and boys. Montgomery and Fairfax counties had the largest increases of poor women and girls in the region at 22.9 percent and 25.1 percent, respectively.

Poverty rates are exceptionally high among female-headed households with children in DC (37 percent). The social service needs of many women in the region-particularly immigrant populations-are not currently being met according to the report.

“These data show that the national recession has not spared the Washington region and that our most vulnerable populations are feeling the brunt of its impact,” said Peter A. Tatian, Senior Research Associate with the Urban Institute.

“Low-income, female-headed families in this region are not only facing a rising poverty rate, they’re facing increasing obstacles to economic security,” said Nicola Goren, president of The Foundation. “The release of Portrait Project 2010 is just the beginning of a community-wide dialogue about the most effective ways to improve the lives of women and girls and, as a result, make our region even stronger.”

The report also shows some leadership gains among women in the region. Women in the District of Columbia are highly politically engaged at the local, state, and national level, and have had exceptional increases in voter registration and voting turnout.

In addition to information on economics, poverty and leadership, the report covers information on housing, health and well-being, and violence and safety.

The Community Briefing will take place from 9:30-11:00 A.M. at the Grand Hyatt Washington, 1000 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001. Speakers will discuss the findings and how they can be used to address gaps in social services for women in the capital region. A leadership luncheon will follow from 12:00-2:00 P.M. The press and the public are invited to attend. Pre-registration is required and seating is limited.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women, promote public dialogue, and strengthen families, communities, and societies. IWPR’s work is supported by foundation grants, government grants and contracts, donations from individuals, and contributions from organizations and corporations. IWPR is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization that also works in affiliation with the women’s studies and public policy programs at The George Washington University.