The State of Women in Wisconsin

When our volunteers make home visits, they can’t help but notice trends.  One of these volunteers mentioned the many barricades single mothers face, and recent findings compiled by the Women’s Fund for the Fox Valley Region, the Fond du Lac Area Women’s Fund, the Women’s Fund of Greater Green Bay, and the Women’s Fund of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.

Their report on the Status of Women in Northeast Wisconsin revealed that female-headed households account for roughly one-quarter of all households in the region but more than half (59%) of the households below poverty.  The 2:1 ratio hasn’t changed much since 2009, and it is consistent in our area as well as across the state. 

Imagine any of the following scenarios:

  • A woman who got married before finishing her college degree, stayed at home with her children, and then ended up divorced, jobless, without an education, and with a significant gap in her resume.  
  • A mother who left an abusive partner.
  • A sexual assault victim raising a child or children while struggling with the trauma of the assault. 

Once the single mother is on her own, her struggle doesn’t end. 

Oppression is intersectional, and the barricades single mothers face are deeply entrenched in a culture that is patriarchal at best—and misogynist at worst.  The types of jobs many of these women can find pay wages too low for them to pay for childcare, which means they either miss work or juggle part-time jobs instead—a solution that may help them make it through the day, even if it doesn’t support long-term security.

Fortunately, our community has programs like Harbor House’s JumpStart, which has empowered women to take on untraditional careers in ways that make them financially self-sufficient.   There are innovative, exciting resources like this that agencies across the Valley have come up with to address issues related to access.  We need to keep thinking creatively about how to meet people where they are with the tools they need to slowly build confidence, social cohesion, and resiliency in the face of social and economic obstacles.