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Economic Empowerment

Females Below Poverty Level

A woman’s economic independence begins in childhood, influenced by the economic status of her family; is largely determined by her education, and is realized in her earnings and savings.

The Institute of Women’s Policy Research uses four indicators to measure women’s economic status. It ranks Florida as 37th of the 50 states (a D+). The indicators and state level results are these:

  • Median earnings for full-time, year round work: $34,000
  • Gender earnings ratio: 85 percent (women make 85 cents for every $1 their male counterparts earn)
  • Percent of women in the workforce: 54 percent (45th in the U.S.)
  • Women employed in managerial/professional occupations: 37 percent (U.S. is 40 percent)

For the most part, Northeast Florida results mirror those of the state.

Efforts to change this picture for women include increased support for women-owned businesses and education efforts to increase the number of women qualified for high-paying jobs in fields where demand is high, like science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM fields.


These data sets are useful in grasping the financial challenges Northeast Florida women and their families face:

  • Women living at the federal poverty level ($23,050 income for a family of four) range from 11 to 21 percent depending on the county, with Baker and Duval at the high end.
  • The Florida Household Survival Budget, $47,484, is an estimate of the income needed for financial stability for a family of four. Among Jacksonville families, 44 percent are living below that target, including an over-representation of female-headed households.

Voices of Hope, WGA’s recent report, highlights the need for comprehensive approaches to move women out of poverty and provides examples of effective efforts, locally and elsewhere.

The Wage Gap

Nationally, women who work full-time make 79 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make. Florida has closed the gap to 85 cents (fifth in the U.S.). While the better result in Florida is laudable, further analysis indicates:

  • The prevalence of lower-paying service and leisure industry jobs (populated by both men and women) is one reason for greater wage parity in Florida.
  • Racial and ethnic disparities in Florida show Hispanic women at 59.5 cents and African American women at 74.8 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make.
  • Women with a bachelor’s degree make 73.8 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make.

Locally, health technology is the only job category where women’s annual earnings are higher than men’s. The gap is smaller (although men’s earnings are higher) in office administration, food preparation, education/training/library.


Women in Florida:

  • Primarily are employed in the wholesale/retail trade and the health care/education/leisure sectors.
  • Account for 29 percent of all STEM workers, consistent with the national average.

Local data show women are underrepresented in manufacturing, aviation, logistics and information systems sectors, pointing to the need for more targeted career preparation and training. The Educational Attainment segment of this report describes local partnerships between private sector companies, high schools and colleges to better prepare the Northeast Florida workforce to be competitive for the high-demand opportunities.

Business ownership continues to be an attractive direction for a growing number of women. Between 2007 and 2012, Florida experienced 40 percent growth in women-owned businesses and ranks third in the nation. Northeast Florida women-owned firms (particularly in Clay and St. Johns counties) also have increased, but not as fast as the state rate. JAX Bridges, a JAX Chamber initiative to support the growth of small businesses, reports a priority to increase capital resources to support female entrepreneurship.

The Impact of the Silver Tsunami on Earnings and Employment

The number of older adults, defined as those 55 years and older, is increasing in the U.S. and locally. The demographic shift has two important implications for earnings and employment.

  • As a result of the last recession, which negatively affected this group’s employment and financial security, more older adults are working longer or seeking work after losing jobs or retiring. The difficulty of older adults finding new jobs is well documented.
  • The second and third fastest growing job categories in Northeast Florida are to serve the aging population. They are personal and home care aides and home health aides. The demand in each category is expected to increase by 35 percent or more in the near future. Women hold a large majority of those jobs. While the growth in jobs is positive, it has a negative side. Those are low wage jobs – often $10 an hour – that offer few opportunities for training and advancement.

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Here To Help

Nikki Sabol

Nikki Sabol
Woman's Giving Alliance Director
The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida


In Her Own Words

Barbara Finke

“You are probably asked to donate to many worthy causes and you may feel like you're not making a real impact. However, with WGA’s research-based strategic philanthropy model that takes a deep dive into community needs, you can be assured your contribution will bring real impactful change.”

– Barbara Finke, CPA, WGA Finance and Grants Finance Committees


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- Scott McGehee, Past Chair WGA Grants Committee

Sandy Cook

“WGA’s decision to direct our philanthropy to improve the lives of women and girls was due to the very limited philanthropic and programmatic resources available to do so. The combination of WGA’s grants and the research that supports them has been critical to bring the needs of 50+% of our population to light.” 

- Sandy Cook, WGA Past President

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