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Women’s Leadership Conference opens ears

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gretchen7.jpgOn Friday, CSU-Pueblo hosted the first Women’s Leadership Conference that featured several speakers with informational topics concerning women today.  The conference was held in the Hearthwell Lounge in the OUC from 9 to 4:30 p.m.

According to mass communications professor Trish Orman, the conference will become and annual event at CSU-Pueblo.

The event’s keynote speaker was Gretchen Gagel-McComb who is the president and chief executive officer of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado since 2005. 

Gagel-McComb received her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Southern Methodist University and has a master of business administration from University of Denver, and a master’s degree in non-profit from Regis University.

The mission of the WFCO is to build resources and lead change for women in each community in Colorado.  Gagel-McComb said she encourages women to find ways to get involved and make a difference, no matter what it is.

“Women will make the word a better place,” Gagel-McComb said.  “We just need to join up and become more powerful.”

In addition, she said she stresses the importance for women to become economically self-sufficient.  The price of child care in Pueblo County has raised tremendously each year, Gagel-McComb said.

The current average for caring for a child in a single mother household is $17,344 per year, and the cost almost doubles when increasing to a child and one infant at $32,403 per year.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 33.8 percent of single women with children in the United Sates are living in poverty.

Gagel McComb said there are five main strategies that the WFCO incorporate into their mission in order to improve the lifestyle that single women with children have.

The strategies are research, education, public policy reform, grant-making, and raising money.  Gagel-McComb said that with each stride to improve women’s rights to a better life for them and their children, their goals will be reached.

In particular, she said the WFCO had a recent study done on the “Cliff Effect,” which is the term used to describe the way women fall under the line of breaking even with every increase in their personal income.  The study was done at Columbia University

Gagel-McComb said the term was derived from the reality that women literally end up falling off a cliff when their income increases and they lose the means to care for their children.

“Women have been turning down raises because they know they will lose benefits for their children,” Gagel-McComb said.  “In the end, the raise won’t match the amount needed to pay for child care or health care.”

Utilizing the media to place a spotlight on the issue is one of the goals of the WFCO, according to Gagel-McComb.

“We interviewed 69 real women about the real problems they face every day,” Gagel-McComb said.

Overall, she said her personal goal for the for fighting these women’s issues is to generate a broad awareness on the issues at hand and galvanize men and women to take a stand.

“I want to arm people with with information so that they are given a voice and feel powerful in what they’re trying to achieve,” Gagel McComb said.

She will speak five more times in the Pueblo area within the next two months covering the issues the WFCO is trying to address.  Her next speaking appearance will be on May 19 at noon at the La renaissance Restaurant located at 217 E. Routt Ave.