As a woman, an out lesbian, and a twenty year West Hollywood resident, I was very eager to read the report that West Hollywood just released on the status of women in our City. The study found that the state of affairs here parallels the experiences of women all over the country. That it showed that women make far less money than men and that we are underrepresented at all levels of government is dismaying and unacceptable, but this news is not really surprising. What is shocking about this report is that these troubling trends are playing out right here in West Hollywood.
West Hollywood is known as the “Creative City,” and promotes itself as a progressive place that thinks outside of the box. While that may be true of many of the groundbreaking policies the City has enacted over the years, the facts show WeHo is downright ordinary when it comes to women. Although we tout ourselves as a city like no other, in many respects women in WeHo are simply no better off here than if they lived practically anywhere else in the country. In fact, the study showed that the women of WeHo actually fare worse economically than women in Los Angeles County overall.
While a city is not responsible for the earning power of its citizens – particularly if they don’t work for, or in, the city itself – there are many things that West Hollywood can do to change and improve the lives of its female residents, a demographic that represents close to half of our population. First, City Hall can allocate more dollars for mental health and human services that impact women. Further, we can funnel more funds for outreach programs, as it is a fact that women tend to pursue services less than men do, even when programs for them do exist. Second, we as a city can continue to encourage rent control and affordable housing. The study reports that nearly half of all the women who live in WeHo have lived in their current houses or apartments for ten years or more. We can provide incentives to landlords to repair and refurbish existing stock so that these long-term, loyal residents can stay in the only dwellings they know as home. Additionally, affordable housing encourages new women to consider this eclectic urban village as an attractive city to move to and age in place.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we can insure that women have a greater role in leadership at all levels of our local government. For a city that encourages diversity and visionary values, it is disappointing that the study found that twice as many men serve on city boards and commissions than do women. These appointments are completely within the purview of the City Council members, who can certainly make changes to equalize that arena.
Further, there is the makeup of City Council itself. We residents have only elected one woman to City Council in the last 20 plus years. This exclusion comes at a price. A new study shows that it is women’s inherently feminine approach to problem solving, one grounded in values of care, compassion, conversation, collaboration, and consensus, that best benefits both women and men alike. It is a fact that when women lead, everyone does better. We simply cannot gauge how much more WeHo would gain with the perspective of additional experienced, qualified, and committed women on council.
One thing is clear from the study: Although we are an extremely unique and forward-thinking city, we still have a long way to go towards achieving gender equality here. If West Hollywood truly wants to wear the “Creative City” mantle, it must do so not just in theory but in practice. It is the responsibility of both City Hall and WeHo residents to keep making our city a more equitable place for all, no matter one’s sexual orientation, race, religion, and yes, gender.
Heidi Shink is a community leader and political advocate with more than who has worked for more than 25 years to advance the causes of women’s, LGBT, environmental and union rights. Currently a Planning Commissioner for the City of West Hollywood, Shink also has served on the city’s Human Services Commission, as vice president of communications for the Stonewall Democratic Club, as an advocacy board member for the National Council of Jewish Women, as secretary for the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic Club and on the California Democratic Party’s State Central Committee, among other positions. She also is a writer.
Heidi, Heidi, Heidi…..The City always needs bright, articulate, dedicated people to serve on boards & commissions…and I say “people” because we don’t need more men, women, transgender, black, hispanic, straight or gay, we just need good people. I always hope that City appointments will be based on the applicants qualifications and not because they fit some demographic. As for City Council, again, we need good people & the next election premises to be interesting…but out of the residents who have announced their candidacy, there isn’t a single one yet that I’d support. Time will tell……
Funny that Heidi’s last editorial (on another blog) was titled: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It! for her endorsement of the two male incumbent councilmen.
If Heidi really wants a women on city council I hope this election she endorses Lauren Meister. From where I sit, she’s already made some really fantastic contributions without being on council and can imagine once she’s a councilmember everyone will benefit.
the inclusive leftists love counting faces and color and gender, with a slight pander to ability and actual desire to participate. the numbers as they are, ms. shink already is playing the “us v. them” card, as though women are stupid, and will vote for her based on gender and not ability, character, integrity, experience, etc. how pathetic. …content of character Heidi, not race, gender. unless you wish to go separate but equal, without regard to ability and other important factors important in actually performing the job? I think the current leadership does a magnificent job of seeing all the… Read more »
As a career market researcher, I read reports like the community survey on a regular basis, and know that the real story lies in the details. Perhaps what’s mentioned in the op-ed was only highlighted to support a positioning and instead, there is a bigger picture when you delve into the results. While males might outnumber females in West Hollywood overall (56% to 44%), there is actually a larger proportion of female seniors 65+ — according to the 2010 Census, 8.6% of Weho population are females 65+ vs. 6.3% for males 65+. If there are more females among our senior… Read more »
– While the female population is four percentage points lower than the male population, twice as many men (40) as women (21) serve on city commissions. The city’s advisory boards, have a reverse male-female gap, with a total of 40 women serving and 22 men.
(as stated in WeHoVille article-2/28/14 WeHo’s Women, While well educated make less than men and are more likely to live alone or be disabled)
Maybe Ms. Shink didn’t finish reading the staff report or WeHoVille article which points out all these stats…one would hope she reads the planning reports more thoroughly.
Ms. Shink said that women are less than half of the number of men on WEHO boards and commissions. Mr. Black says there are 62 women and 61 men on these boards. Who’s right on this issue? If the latter, then Ms. Shink really has no argument. Most of her other points are not really within the City’s purview. The City Council can only be changed by the voters. If some of those strong woman who are leading the community action efforts mentioned above were to mount effective campaigns, then that could achieve what Ms. Shink envisions. Presumably she herself… Read more »
If you are a woman who wants more women in city leadership, you need to work toward being a city leader. That means putting in a lot of time and good work for the city. A commission assignment or a city council seat is a reward for doing good things for the city over several years. You have to attend meetings, volunteer for things, be involved, and show good intentions and good results to other leaders and involved people. It doesn’t just fall onto any woman who walks into a city council meeting and asks for an appointment. But, seriously,… Read more »
I like your comments John, but of course here comes a disagreement with one point: No public office is a reward. It is not a prize to be coveted, but a chance to serve…or at least that’s the way it should be in an ideal democracy.
Steve, why do you validate Heidi Shink’s incorrect assertion that women only make up half of the city’s boards and commissions? Neither you nor Heidi have done your research. Larry Block is correct: there are actually more women than men on West Hollywood’s appointed panels. Heidi is not only wrong in her original premise, but she is wrong in her analysis of her wrong premise. One could not be more wrong than Heidi Shink in this article.
I guess Hedi Shink has not been following our local issues because if she did she would be very aware that women are very involved in leadership roles in our community despite the fact that our City Council seems to devalue women and avoids empowering women who might question the status quo. While Shink makes an excellent point that women are not fairly represented on our Board and Commissions, but women seem to play key leadership roles in virtually every controversy that we read about in Wehoville. Maybe the fact that nearly every viable neighborhood organization in West Hollywood is… Read more »
This notion that women make less than men IN THE SAME JOB is simply not borne out by facts or reason. If it was true, businesses would only hire women, not men. Then this notion that we should give preferential treatment to a group (women) when it comes to handing out mental health care funding is simply discriminatory in that by giving to one group (women), you’ve not giving to the other groups (men). Wasn’t separate but equal ruled unconstitutional? In a recent council meeting Abbe Land made it a point to promote women’s heart health awareness. Why shouldn’t men… Read more »
Who is Heidi Shink? I had to do some research to find out. Turns out she’s a wannabe candidate for city council, and a civic “activist”, meaning she’s never really produced anything, ever. What I find interesting about her op-ed is that for a 20 year resident of West Hollywood, Heidi Shink clearly doesn’t know or understand the demographic of which she is clearly a part. She claims that women make up only half of the city’s boards and commissions, yet in reality women outnumber men on city appointed panels. One only has to take a look around at any… Read more »
Factoid: On the West Hollywood boards and commissions there are 62 women and 61 men. The city is 44% female. With this in mind it’s hard to understand the title of this article. The stats on income are skewed because of the many women living alone that are elderly or on fixed incomes.
With the future in mind it’s best to keep pushing for more equality every day. If you attend the board and commission meetings you will see and be proud of the many fantastic women in our city including Heidi Shink.