Santa Cruz County


Regional Coordinator:
Sheila Delany

Santa Cruz County Commission on Women 1011 Report
This report was created by holding forums in several districts on the issues.
You can read the reports and listen to the Forums. 

For the full report click HERE

Inspired by grass roots efforts for the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)1, the Santa Cruz County Women’s Commission began to document the status of women and girls in our County. This report on the status of women and girls in Santa Cruz County (“SOWAG report”) is the first of its kind. We gathered local statistics collected by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, schools and volunteers in six areas of concern: Health Care, Criminal Justice, Economic Justice, Education, Political Participation, and Violence against Women. This information provides a guide for our policy recommendations to the Board of Supervisors
to improve the status of women and girls.

Since the commencement of the work on this report, California, along with the nation, has experienced unprecedented financial hurdles due to current the economic downturn, which includes massive unemployment, the collapse of the housing market and the widespread failure of financial institutions. Because women and girls, especially poor, non-Caucasian women and girls, are among the most vulnerable in this kind of economic situation, cutbacks in services affect women and girls disproportionately. For example, about 90% of CalWORKS participants are in families with female heads of household.
The recommendations in this report reflect a best practices approach. It is acknowledged that Santa Cruz County will be facing budgetary challenges imposed by cutbacks in State and Federal budgets. The data and recommendations contained in this report can be used to view services with an understanding of the unique needs of women and girls 
and to help prioritize services in Santa Cruz County.

It is important to note that, as many local agencies do not compile statistics by gender, some of this report is based on focus groups and interviews held by the Commission. For this reason, we recommend that County departments and other institutions begin collecting and reporting key data by gender and critical subgroups. This would allow better monitoring on the impact each policy, program, and budgetary decision has on women, as well as on race, ethnicity, 
sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.



Thank you for inviting me to speak at this International Women’s Day Celebration! And thank you for donating part of today’s proceeds to the Santa Cruz County Women’s Commission.

Since 1994, the Commission has used the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – CEDAW – as a basis for much of our work.

We are happy to be associated with the UN, because the United States’ failure to ratify the CEDAW treaty has compromised our credibility as a world leader for human rights, especially for women’s rights, so women instead have looked to the UN for leadership. Particularly after September 11, the US cannot use the need to assure women’s rights as an excuse for our actions in other countries, unless we join 185 other nations as a party to the global treaty.

What is CEDAW?
The international treaty for the rights of women.
What CEDAW does includes:
• Calling for nations to overcome barriers of discrimination in all areas of social, economic and political life.
• Requires ratifying countries to examine and report on the actual conditions of life for women and girls in the first year, and every four years afterwards.
• Established the UN Commission on the Status of Women to review reports, assess implementation, and recommend actions.

What CEDAW does not do:
• make abortions mandatory
• force women to serve in combat
• make Mother’s Day illegal
• impose any laws on governments – so the US is, in fact, already in compliance – no existing laws need change.

In 1995, Commissioners went to Beijing for the UN Conference on Women and came back with the Platform for Action, a blueprint for implementing CEDAW. We also came back hoping our country would at last formally recognize women’s right to equality and ratify CEDAW.


The Senate’s continuing lack of political will and the current Administration’s hostile attitude have led to the local effort to pass a County CEDAW ordinance, and incorporate the Platform for Action into our work.

Sisters, in other words, are doing it for ourselves.

What does local CEDAW implementation mean? :
• No longer assume male is the norm – the assumption that underlies cultural, social, and legal structures, and impacts the treatment of women and girls worldwide.

•Look at results, not just statements of intent – 
“Equal pay for equal work” – but too often women’s work doesn’t pay a livable wage – and women have the added responsibility of children to support.

“Level playing field” – not if every time you set foot on the field you fall in a gopher hole.

“Equal employment” – means little if there’s an invisible glass ceiling you can’t break through – and a sticky floor of inadequate pay, no health care, and unaffordable childcare that keep you from advancing in your job or your career.

CEDAW means:
• You use a gender lens to measure the outcomes and effects of your policies, practices and budgets as they impact women and girls.
Example: If half the people qualified for certain jobs are women, are women holding half the jobs? Earning the same wages? Being promoted at the same rate as men in those jobs?

•You also look proactively at proposed policies, practices and budgets. If you are spending the same amount of money on the same programs for girls and boys in the juvenile justice system, but they are not in trouble for the same reasons, you may be wasting half your money.
• Think about it beforehand – it’s cost-effective!

The Women’s Commission drafted a CEDAW ordinance, and then undertook the project you are supporting – the first-ever Status of Women and Girls – SOWAG – Report in Santa Cruz County.

We realized the need to find out about the lives of girls and women, to see what inequities may exist, what best practices are already in place, what is needed, and what we could recommend for change.

In other words, we are using the CEDAW model and the gender lens to look at our own County.

The Commission chose 6 areas of inquiry:
Economic Justice
Health Care
Criminal Justice
Violence Against Women
Political Participation

We talked with local experts and developed a research proposal with a set of questions in each area.

Most of our numerical data comes from existing sources and published reports, with the invaluable help of a number of wonderful interns from UCSC and Cabrillo, and volunteers from the community. We also did many individual interviews and focus groups, and several surveys.

Keep in mind that this is done with NO FUNDING! To hire a research firm to do this costs more than $20,000. We know – we asked!

We are now compiling the data and seeing what we have answered – and what is missing.

Let me give you some examples of what we have found so far:

Question: What is the self-sufficiency income for a single adult in Santa Cruz County – what is the minimum amount it takes to live here without any public assistance?

Answer: $20,195.

Sounds neutral – but – 
Look at it through the gender lens:
Men’s median income: $30,174.
Women’s median income: $19,018. 
$11,156. less.

Conclusion: Women in Santa Cruz, with or without children, have a much more difficult time than men making ends meet. That’s a VERY sticky floor!

Question: What health coverage do employed women have?

Answer: Full-time employees of large employers enjoy comprehensive health insurance. BUT:
• Most employers hire the majority of their workers for 20 hours or less a week so they don’t have to offer coverage because they cannot afford the insurance costs.
• Over 30% of all employed women in the county are in this category – and about 77% of these women qualify for some kind of state medical assistance.

Conclusion: We need Universal Health Care for people, not for insurance companies – their health is assured!

Question: What is the teen pregnancy picture in Santa Cruz?

Answer: In 2005, there 341 births to teen mothers.
• 29 to Caucasian
• 308 to Hispanic
• 2 to African American
• 2 to Asian American teens
• 51 – 15% were 2nd births; 6 were 3rd; 45 were pre-term.
• Most were MediCal funded.

Conclusion: Teens are having babies they can’t afford, and many of the babies will face health challenges as well as the difficulties of living in poverty.

• Beyond this, what are the implications? 
• That compared to other teens, many Hispanic girls don’t see independent futures for themselves.
• That they aren’t getting culturally appropriate safe-sex and family planning messages.
• That they aren’t receiving educational opportunities that inspire them to make other choices.
• AND that it will even more difficult for them to meet the economic self-sufficiency standard than for other women.

What is the voting picture?
• Santa Cruz County VOTES – high voter registration,
• high turnout, especially the San Lorenzo Valley.
• 52% of registered voters are women.
• Women are more likely to vote than men.

BUT – least likely to vote are those earning under $35,000.
And those earning under $35,000 are mostly women.
And while Latino registration has increased a lot, it needs to be much higher to reflect the county’s demographics.

• The power of the ballot is not being exercised by those who need it most, and whose numbers would most make a difference – the political decisions are being made for them by others with very different incomes and interests.
• More voter education and registration outreach is needed, especially to lower-income women.
• Efforts need to be continued and encouraged in the Latino community.

Finally, the most overarching finding we have made to date: Gender-disaggregated data! 
• It is very hard to find statistical data on women and girls, except in the areas of reproductive health – men just don’t get pregnant, so the numbers have to be there!

Much data is simply not collected by gender.
• Some researchers collect data by gender, but don’t incorporate it into their published reports.
• And if the data is available but not published, it is costly to obtain. Remember that part about no money?
• This places an additional economic burden on women.

This also makes women and girls, de facto, second class:
• If you’re not in the numbers, you are invisible.

• What can you do? Advocate for CEDAW at all levels:
• Keep writing your electeds, and demand national CEDAW ratification.
• Nag the Foreign Relations Committee to move forward.
• Get hold of your State representatives and push for a California CEDAW – and 
• Write the Governor and tell him to support it, not veto like he did last time.
• Contact the Supervisors and tell them to support the SOWAG Report and the Santa Cruz CEDAW ordinance.
• Support your Women’s Commission – if you can help with the SOWAG Report, contact us!

AND always – always


2001 Report by
Sheila DeLany

What has worked best in Santa Cruz County are widely-based coalitions with a narrow focus, and narrow-based groups with a wide focus–and they often work together on issues.

The Reproductive Rights Network was formed by women’s health, welfare and advocacy groups to persuade our local State Senator to stop voting against Medi-Cal funding for abortions for low-income women. The Network now has 45 member groups, and the focus is kept always on women’s health, legislation, and monitoring the implementation of legislation. Activities include the yearly Roe v Wade brunch, an information booth at the County Fair, frequent tabling on current issues, and monthly thank-yous to local abortion providers.

The Valley Women’s Club is a nonprofit with local membership and an agenda that covers a wide range of interests, all informed by a feminist consciousness. They are members of the Reproductive Rights Network, and VWC committees have members from other groups who share the same interests: environment, education, health, legislation, youth, and scholarship. The Club is committed to the Beijing process, and has participated in numerous pre- and post-Beijing conferences and teleconferences and the California Women’s Agenda.

The Santa Cruz County Women’s Commission got a CEDAW resolution passed at the County level in 1995, sent three members to Beijing, and has participated in and sponsored or cosponsored activities, legislation and follow-up, including teleconferences, CAWA, and numerous informational presentations on the Beijing Conference and related activities to community and civic groups and schools at all levels. The Commission’s welfare reform implementation and review subcommittee works with providers and recipients, and acts as facilitator, watchdog and intermediary. This year they developed a confidential evaluation process, a process for program self-certification, and a streamlined flow chart and participant packet to help participants solve problems and negotiate the bureaucracy.

The County Domestic Violence Commission has 26 members: policy makers and individuals including police chiefs, sheriff, judges, providers, Women’s Commission. In the last year they have developed medical, law enforcement and educational protocols and are part of a Statewide effort to develop a uniform method for courts to collect consistent information for restraining orders.

The City’s Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women sponsors many programs, including an annual January speakout, Teen Women’s Day, the Clothesline Project, Hands Are Not For Hitting, and self-defense classes.

Beyond Beijing of Santa Cruz County held countywide meetings on women’s health and developed a position paper on health for the 1996 CAWA Assembly. They have held International Women’s Day Marches, a panel on Micro enterprise for Women, a Forum on Women and Economic Justice, and a Focus on Latin America. This year, in conjunction with the University Women’s Center, they are bringing Women in Black, a multi-media performance group focused on the impacts of war on women’s lives, for two performances.

In addition to these and many other groups, we have women in key positions for policy-making and implementation. We also have a largely pro-woman, pro-choice group of elected officials and their staffs with whom we work closely on major issues. We look forward to sharing and learning strategies for the work ahead!


This County is a work in progress. Stay tuned for actions, events and updates!