'Girls to Women' boosts self-esteem

For the third year running, the Women's Foundation of Colorado has underwritten a "Girls to Women" conference that allows eighth-grade girls in Moffat County to see the vast career possibilities before them.

This year, the foundation allowed organizers to plan and execute the event. More than 40 working women -- from doctors to hairstylists -- volunteered their time Friday to make the event at the Holiday Inn a success. By interacting with women who already have established themselves as professionals and entrepreneurs, the girls can find out what it takes to fulfill their career aspirations.

Last year, the Craig Daily Press and the Steamboat Pilot and Today explored some of the issues facing girls and women in Northwest Colorado.

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 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 percent 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.

In light of these facts, the Girls to Women conference takes on an important role as a proactive forum to teach girls how their educational choices in high school and college largely will determine their future.

The girls also learn valuable life skills and gain appreciation for the financial aspects of life after they leave home.

"I sense that the girls will remember that the women in this community stepped forward to help and encourage them" said Mary Morris-Shearer, a member of the steering committee that organized the event. "I don't think we'll have a fuller understanding of the impact of the conference for years," Morris-Shearer said.

Still, it's heartening to know that Moffat County girls are being given an opportunity that their mothers, aunts and grandmothers never had. We applaud the women who played a role in the conference and hope it will continue to open the minds of young women for years to come.

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