WINNER Exceptional Merit in Media Awards 2010


Exceptional Internet Story The Memo: Special Report: Status of U.S. Women by Rita Henley Jensen, Jennifer Waldref, Sharon Johnson, Allison Stevens, Cynthia L. Cooper, Marie Tessier, Lorraine Orlandi, Women’s eNews




NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–Tonight, Women’s eNews honors 21 incredible activists for change, real change that will benefit women. The leaders this year are outstanding–building nations, building alternative sources of energy, building communities, building new leadership–and improving women’s lives across the globe.

Their examples so demand honor and imitation that it raises the question in my mind why the nation’s political leadership seems to be unaware of the issues they address, the initiatives they have undertaken, the solutions they devised.

"Did they get the memo about women?"

I know I am not the only one who asks herself that after listening to political candidates’ pleas for our support, which so rarely seem to reflect our lives, balancing job demands, money worries, safety concerns and the needs of our families.

After during some preliminary research to enhance our election coverage this year, I came to realize why the answer was probably no.

No. 1: They could not possibly have gotten a memo about Women’s Issues because the information is simply not part of routine news coverage or progressive advocacy, and No. 2: Women’s eNews is the organization that should write The Memo.

Our prize-winning reporters routinely cover a broad-spectrum of issues of particular concern to women and search out the most articulate and the most reliable data.

Right now, women are poised to command both parties’ attention.

Encouraged by the organized push of women’s groups, female voters have turned out in record numbers this primary season and are expected to determine the outcome of the fall elections. Moreover, female donors have given and raised significant amounts of campaign funds, $50 million during March alone.

Women of the United States deserve representatives who are well informed about the issues they face and are ready to act on them.

Here’s the Plan for The Memo

Women’s eNews will deliver The Memo–a series of six key stories–to our readers via our Web site and e-mail subscriptions. It will offer a status report on U.S. women: our health, wealth, safety and autonomy.

And then we will take it to the next level.

Women’s eNews staff and board will hand deliver The Memo to participants at the national Democratic and Republican conventions–we have asked to put it in the delegates’ welcome packets–and our reporters will ask follow-up questions at the numerous public forums they attend and cover. We won’t be shy.

We also will sponsor a public forum on the issues raised by The Memo and ensure Women’s eNews’ bloggers have a space in the official blogging tent in Denver during the Democratic convention in late August and tap similar options in Minneapolis during the Republican convention in early September.

Our staff, board members and volunteers will be wearing "Get the Women’s eNews Memo" T-shirts with the link to The Memo’s Web page. And we will continue to explore ways to get everyone on the same page as The Memo.

THE MEMO: A Status Report on U.S. Women

The Memo’s six parts will cover:

  • Wages: The gender gap in wages has been frozen since 2002 at the level of women earning 77 cents for every dollar men earn. Some women’s groups estimate that official gap is actually much wider. Sexual harassment, meanwhile, is unchecked and the cracks in the corporate glass ceiling have been caulked.
  • Employment Barriers: The United States is one of two countries where women’s labor force participation is actually dropping. Many pregnant women report being fired. Parents of only 1 in 7 eligible children receive child-care assistance. Women are overrepresented in the ranks of those leaving paid employment to care for others.
  • Poverty: The percentage of single mothers neither working nor drawing cash assistance surged to more than 30 percent in 2005 from under 20 percent before the welfare overhaul in 1996.
  • Reproductive Health: Birth control costs skyrocket, abstinence-only education projects continue to fail, sexually transmitted diseases soar and abortions become more difficult to obtain for many. Meanwhile, the United States is ranked 41st among 171 countries in maternal death rates.
  • Violence: Homicide is a leading cause of traumatic death among new and expectant mothers. One federal study estimated 20 percent of female college students are sexually assaulted during their undergraduate years.
  • Homophobia: Lesbians continue to live without the legal protections that full civil rights could provide, such as access to the benefits of marriage.

We will need your support to get The Memo reported, written and delivered. Airfare, journalism space at the conventions, booth rentals, printing and materials all add up. Please support this effort and donate now.

Rita Henley Jensen is founder and editor in chief of Women’s eNews.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at [email protected].