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January 2009 RNR

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Below is the newest installation of Research News Reporter (RNR) Online. Previous editions can be viewed in the Archives.

January 2009

IWPR’s Research News Reporter is distributed to highlight informative, innovative, and sometimes controversial research related to women and their families.

Research Making News
1. “In N.H., More Women Inmates”
2. “Women in Worse Financial Condition”
3. “HIV Infects Women Through Healthy Tissue”

Research Reports
1. Pedagogical Methods for Improving Women’s Participation and Success in Engineering Education
2. The Effect of Childhood Sexual Victimization on Women’s Income
3. Unions and Upward Mobility for Women Workers
4. Making the Most of Medicaid: Promoting the Health of Women and Infants With Preconception Care
5. 2008 Catalyst Census of Women Board Directors of the Fortune 500

Research Making News

Each selection includes a short excerpt, link to the news article, and link to the research cited:

1. “In N.H., More Women Inmates: Study Cites Lack of Alternatives”

The Boston Globe
Associated Press
December 15, 2008

Citing: Study of Women in New Hampshire’s Justice System, a project of the New Hampshire Women’s Policy Institute.

“Women are being incarcerated in New Hampshire at a faster pace than men due largely to crimes involving drugs and alcohol and because of a lack of rehabilitative and treatment options, according to a study by The New Hampshire Women's Policy Institute.

[…] ‘Women's role as primary caregivers for children complicates both their incarceration as well as their path to rehabilitation,’ the study's authors wrote.

[…] Female admissions to county jails increased by 24 percent between 2003 and 2007 compared with a 14 percent increase during the period for men, the study said. Female admissions to state prison increased 64 percent during the period.

Additionally, in six of New Hampshire's largest communities, arrests of women increased 25 percent between 2002 and 2006 compared with 9 percent for men. Alcohol offenses among young women were one of the fastest-growing categories. The communities studied are Concord, Manchester, Keene, Laconia, Plymouth, and Portsmouth.

The study estimates that two-thirds of the female inmates have children and nearly half are single mothers who must turn to relatives or the state foster care system to care for their children during their incarceration. The authors estimated that 1,300 children are affected annually.

Corrections officials told the institute the growing number of pregnant inmates is straining the system. One jail superintendent said he contacted the state to arrange care for an unborn child but was told the state could not intervene because the child was not yet abandoned or neglected. Estimated costs of a pregnant inmate are $20,000 for medical care and transportation.

To view the full article, visit The Boston Globe online.

To read more about the study, read this description provided by the New Hampshire Women’s Policy Institute.

2. “Women in Worse Financial Condition”

The News-Messenger
By Martha Filipic
December 18, 2008

Citing: “The Financial Condition of Women on Their Own” by Catherine Montalto (Ohio State University) in partnership with the Consumer Federation of America.

“Single women --- whether they never married, are divorced or separated or are widowed -- are in much worse financial condition than other Americans, according to an analysis of the Federal Reserve Board's most recent Survey of Consumer Finances.

[…] The analysis looked specifically at women who head households themselves and do not have a spouse or partner. These households number 31 million nationally, about one-quarter of all U.S. households. Among the findings:

  • The median income of the women was $22,592 -- just 52 percent of the median income of all U.S. households, which was $43,130.
  • The median net worth of the women was $32,850 -- just 35 percent of the median net worth of $93,001 for all households.
  • Widowed heads of households, who tended to be older (median age 72), have a lower household income than other women (median of $19,511), but a much higher net worth than other women (median of $100,800).
  • The never-married group was the worst off financially, with a median income of $23,619 and a median net worth of just $6,210.

Among the biggest revelations for Montalto was the low savings rate among these women, termed "women on their own" by the researchers.

[…] Montalto believes these women, like most people, underestimate the amount they should have on hand for emergencies.”

To view the full article, visit The News-Messenger online.

To read more about the study, click here to view a PDF from the Consumer Federation of America’s website.

3. “HIV Infects Women Through Healthy Tissue”

By Julie Steenhuysen
December 16, 2008

“Instead of infiltrating breaks in the skin, HIV appears to attack normal, healthy genital tissue in women, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday in a study that offers new insight into how the AIDS virus spreads.

[…] "Normal skin is vulnerable," Thomas Hope of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine said in a telephone interview.

[…] Until now, scientists had little understanding of the details of how HIV is transmitted sexually in women.

Hope and colleagues at Northwestern in Chicago and Tulane University in New Orleans developed a new method for seeing the virus at work. They studied newly removed vaginal tissue taken from hysterectomy surgeries, and introduced the virus which carried fluorescent, light-activated tracers.

[…The] study suggests the virus takes aim at places in the skin that had recently shed skin cells, in much the same way that skin on the body flakes off.

The finding casts doubt on the prior theory of the virus requiring a break in the skin or gaining access through a single layer of skin cells that line the cervical canal.

In the United States, HIV is mostly passed among men who have sex with men. Females account for 26 percent of all new HIV cases in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Globally, HIV is more commonly spread by heterosexual sex. The virus has infected 33 million people globally and has killed 25 million.”

To view the full article, click here.

Research Reports

Each selection includes a short excerpt from the research and a link to the report:

1. Pedagogical Methods for Improving Women’s Participation and Success in Engineering Education—A Review of Recent Literature

By Lynette Osborne, Kevin Miller, and Robin Farabee-Siers
Institute for Women’s Policy Research
November 2008

“The field of engineering has been slow to open to women. While women received 55 percent of social science Bachelor’s degrees and 62 percent of biological science Bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2003, only 20 percent of engineering Bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women. The same year, women made up 43 percent of the workforce among social scientists and 43 percent among biological scientists but made up only 11 percent of the engineering workforce (National Science Foundation, 2007).

[…] Understanding how and under what circumstances women flourish in engineering education is of critical importance to developing and implementing programs that draw women into engineering education and eventually into the engineering workforce. Research presented in this Review shows the promise of carefully designed programs to promote women in engineering education as well as the difficulty of accurately targeting the right combination of supports. Overall, research indicates that many factors and types of programs can help to improve the position of women in engineering. For instance, in-class pedagogical innovations where instructors use student-centered teaching/learning approaches tend to be associated with a better learning experience for students, especially women students […]. Faculty attitudes toward students, including their perceived distance from students, are also related to women’s satisfaction and performance.

In addition to in-class teaching innovations and faculty attitudes, women students’ success is also affected by the support they receive from broader programs and professional organizations. Longitudinal studies show that some programs and innovations designed to support and nurture women in engineering can be successful over time in providing many women with sufficient support and skills to remain in a STEM field of study.

[…] Further research is needed to identify the specific elements of engineering education that can create barriers to women’s success. While this study reports on a number of evaluations, the small number of articles published over the three-year review period that focus on women-centric engineering pedagogies indicates that insufficient resources and attention are being devoted to these promising approaches. We need more information about the ways that teaching methods, faculty/student relationships, curricula, textbooks, other course materials, and the overall academic environment differentially affect women.”

To view the full report, visit the Institute for Women’s Policy Research website, or click here.

2. The Effect of Childhood Sexual Victimization on Women’s Income

By John Robst and Stacy Smith
December 2008

Abstract: “Numerous studies show that survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) suffer as adults from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol and drug abuse, and other mental illnesses. As such, the effect of experiencing traumatic events during childhood including sexual abuse can be long lasting. The lasting effects of CSA may also have economic implications. The purpose of this paper is to examine whether a history of CSA affects women's wages and to examine whether such effects are a function of the severity of abuse.”

To download a PDF of the full report, visit the Eastern Economic Journal online.

3. Unions and Upward Mobility for Women Workers

John Schmitt
Center for Economic and Policy Research
December 2008

Abstract:  “This report uses national data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) to show that unionization raises the wages of the typical woman worker by 11.2 percent compared to their non-union peers. The study goes on to show that unionization also increases the likelihood that a woman worker will have health insurance and a pension. The report also notes that union membership results in health care and pension gains on par with the gains of a college education.”

To download a PDF of the full report, click here.

4. Making the Most of Medicaid: Promoting the Health of Women and Infants With Preconception Care

By Alina Salganicoff and Jane An
Kaiser Family Foundation
December 2008

Abstract: “This article examines the evolution and current role of Medicaid in improving access to preconception care for low-income women.  It reviews Medicaid’s eligibility policy and benefits of relevance to women of reproductive age, and discusses challenges facing the program.  Authors Alina Salganicoff, vice president and director of women’s health policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Jane An, a research assistant at the Foundation, also examine potential opportunities to use the Medicaid program to promote preconception care to low-income women.  The article was published in the journal Women’s Health Issues as part of a special supplement examining preconception health and health care.”

To download a PDF of the full article, visit the Kaiser Family Foundation website.

5. 2008 Catalyst Census of Women Board Directors of the Fortune 500

December 2008

“The 2008 Catalyst Census of Women Board Directors of the Fortune 500 details the percentage of all directorships held by women; the number of companies with zero, one, two, and three or more women directors; the percentage of committee chair positions held by women; the percentage of all directorships held by women of color and white women; the percentage of women of color directors by race/ethnicity; and the number of companies with zero, one, and two women of color directors. The appendices list companies with 25 percent or more women board directors; companies with no women board directors; and the average number and percentage of women directors by industry, geographic region, and Fortune 500 rank.

[…] Findings: In 2008, women held 15.1 percent of directorships at Fortune 500 companies; this number was 14.8 percent in 2007. The number of companies with no women board directors increased from 59 in 2007 to 67 in 2008. The number of companies with three or more women board directors increased from 83 in 2007 to 92 in 2008. Women of color held just 3.2 percent of all Fortune 500 directorships while making up slightly more than one-fifth of women directors.” 

To read the report or download a PDF, click here.

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