We have come a long way in the past half century in terms of issues involving women and girls. But despite the progress, much still needs to be done.
Over the past two months, the Steamboat Pilot & Today and Craig Daily Press have presented a series of articles highlighting topics affecting women and girls.
"Women and Girls -- Issues in Northwest Colorado" was not driven by any political agenda. Rather, the series was prompted by a Women's Foundation of Colorado grant designed to raise awareness of women's issues that was awarded to a group of Northwest Colorado agencies.
Certainly you do not have to be a feminist to be unnerved by some of the data the series highlighted. Consider:
n Women continue to earn 70 percent of what men earn despite the same qualifications and education.
n Girls, who routinely score as well as or higher than boys in math and science throughout elementary school, see those scores slide in middle school. Girls also are less likely to pursue higher level math, science and technology courses that can lead to higher paying careers.
n One in four area high school girls says she has been sexually assaulted.
n More than 50 percent of the girls at Steamboat Springs High School think they are overweight, even though fewer than 10 percent are.
n More than 860 women sought help for domestic abuse in Moffat and Routt counties last year.
n Typically, a woman's financial status drops between 30 percent and 45 percent in the first year after a divorce, while a man's financial status rises 10 to 15 percent.
n In the Yampa Valley, single mothers are more likely to be living in poverty than any other segment of the community.
n Women tend to outlive men, yet women's retirement savings often are significantly smaller because women spend about 15 percent of their careers outside of the work force so they can care for children or parents.
n Only two women have been elected county commissioners in Routt County. Only one has been elected in Moffat County. Though women make up more than 50 percent of the U.S. population, they comprise just 14 percent of Congress.
As noted above, conditions for women have improved greatly in American society. Women can vote. Women can be doctors, lawyers, truck drivers and mechanics. Women can get elected mayor and run school districts. Laws protect women from sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
But the fact remains women are likely to be paid less for the same work. They are more likely to fall into poverty. They are more likely to struggle with self-esteem and contemplate suicide. The chances they will be elected to public office remain too low. The chances that they will be victims of sexual assault and domestic violence remain way too high.
These issues are generations in the making, and so are the solutions. But that does not excuse us as a community from being aware of the inequities, biases and double standards that face women and girls and taking steps to correct them.
We can do this through mentoring programs in the schools, such as the girls to women series hosted by the Women's Foundation each year.
We can do this by better enforcing child support. We can do this by tougher prosecution of violence against women.
We can do this by taking women's issues seriously in our homes, our businesses and our government.
We owe our daughters at least that much.