Photos by Daniel Rosenbaum

Maryland District 25 Del. Andrea Angel moderated the Women’s Economic Security Agenda’s community forum and panel discussion. (Courtesy Photo)

In Maryland, middle- and working-class families, and women are stuck with stagnant salaries and wages. They  manage a constant balancing act, trying to make scarce dollars stretch to pay for rent, childcare, clothing, food and other items while the prices continue to spiral out of control. They are in crisis, said several speakers at a Jan. 9 Women’s Economic Security Agenda community forum in Greenbelt.

Although working women comprise 50 percent of the state’s workforce, male still average more than $58,000 a year, while women average only make $50,480, said Maryland District 25 Del. Angela M. Angel. “Many families are barely scraping by,” said Angel, who moderated the forum and panel discussion. “Ten percent of women live in poverty, while 14 percent of African-American women are in the same situation and 70 percent of the low-wage workforce is women.”

Angel, who served as an agency attorney for Manhattan Family Court’s legal services in New York in 2007-2009 and as legislative director for the Prince George’s County Delegation, said as a single mother she’s intimately familiar with the many and varied challenges women face. “I’m a single mother in Prince George’s County. It’s not unusual to call social services and they say they have no resources,” she said. “I’m on the ground. I can speak out and I do.”

According to the speakers at the event, White women make 86 cents for every dollar her White male counterpart makes, Black women bring home 69 cents and Latino women are paid 40 cents for every dollar a White man makes.

The Maryland Women’s Forum has been knocking on doors all over the state, trying to educate residents and garner support for three bills that focus on pay equity, fair work scheduling, and paid family leave. (See previous news article on Legislative supporters will be working to pass these bills by the end of the 90-day session which began on Jan. 13.

“If you look at the women’s agenda for women in Annapolis, the agenda has been the same over the past 5-10 years and needs to change. Things need to be done,” said Sen. Joanne Benson (D-Md.). “The Maryland Women’s Forum has knocked on doors, worked hard because the family is in crisis. Salaries and wages are stagnant, and employers demand 24 hour availability … which means that working parents are not able to plan for or manage family responsibilities.

“There’s no planned family leave. More and more women and their families are being encouraged to shoulder greater burden but not share in the bounty,” she continued. “Women are disproportionately impacted by many of the barriers in legislation … we’re here today with no-nonsense and no foolishness this morning. The time for us to sit back, turn our head, and do nothing has passed.”

Keynote Speaker U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) echoed Benson, asserting the need to broaden the space in which women operate. “I understand these issues because I am a woman,” said Edwards, who’s campaigning to fill retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s seat. “When I hear about the numbers, the only thing I can think of it that it’s not a buck. Seventy lousy cents on the dollar and 40 pathetic cents tells me that families and communities aren’t getting what they need to sustain themselves.”