Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Fund for Women & Girls Reveals Latest Research to Guide New Community Investments

Sep 23, 2019

(Norwalk, Conn.) Since 1998, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Fund for Women & Girls (FWG) has invested over $6.9 million in sustainable solutions informed by research to support the economic security, safety and health of women and girls throughout the county. The Fund’s research is commissioned to specifically assess progress and inform funding priorities. The research unveiled today during Forward Fairfield County: A Day of Data-Driven Conversation, presented by Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, will guide The Fund’s development of new investment areas, competitive grant making and advocacy efforts for 2020 and beyond. Produced in partnership with DataHaven and Knowledge Designs to Change, FWG’s research collectively represents more than 70 pages of new data.

The afternoon session of Forward Fairfield County, held at The Water’s Edge at Giovanni’s in Darien, Connecticut, featured keynote speaker, Ted Bunch, Chief Development Officer of A CALL TO MEN, who spoke on his internationally recognized work advancing gender equity. Bunch used his inclusive approach to engage attendees on how local organizations are responding to the needs and challenges that Fairfield County women and girls face. Attendees, including leaders of the region’s nonprofit community, numerous elected officials, community leaders, and donors, left with specific strategies and recommended action steps to inform their work and advance all aspects of women’s and girls’ lives. First County Bank proudly sponsored the data-revealing event.

The commissioned research shared today included two bodies of work that assess the opportunities and challenges facing women and girls in Fairfield County as well as the county’s service providers –  Count Her In: A Status Report on Women and Girls in Fairfield County and Count Them In: A Landscape Analysis of Fairfield County Organizations Supporting Women & Girls – along with a companion piece of recommendations for closing the opportunity gap for women and girls.

Together, these two research reports help us better understand the unmet and under-met needs of our increasingly diverse county as it relates to women and girls, as well as barriers to them accessing services. It is critical to have this data to move forward and be able to invest in the most sustainable solutions with the resources we have,” stated Tricia Hyacinth, Senior Director, The Fund for Women & Girls at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.

The status report uses quantitative data from federal and state government sources and qualitative data derived from stakeholders to assess how women and girls in our county are faring. The landscape analysis uses qualitative data derived from providers that offer gender-specific supports for women and girls, and surfaces opportunities to bring providers together as a regional network to enable better outcomes for women and girls.

According to the data, of Fairfield County’s total population of 947,328, just over 51 percent is female, of which 22 percent are girls under age 18. The median age of these 485,948 women and girls is 42 years, about four years higher than that of men in the county. About half the female populations of Danbury, Norwalk, and Stamford are non-white, and about four out of every five women and girls in Bridgeport are women or girls of color.

When considering diversity statewide, the report revealed that in 2017 the female immigrant population was 14 percent. However, that percentage for the same year rose to as high as 35 percent in Stamford and 29 percent in Danbury, with 28 percent and 27 percent in Bridgeport and Norwalk, respectively. According to the report, more than 54,000 women and girls (over the age of four in Fairfield County) spoke English “less than well” or “not at all.”

The research concerning educational attainment indicates that throughout most of Fairfield County, a higher share of women have a master’s or other advanced degree compared to women across the nation. In contrast, about 25 percent of women living in Bridgeport lack a high school diploma, which is twice the national rate of 12 percent. According to the study, 29 percent of Latinas and 14 percent of Black women in the county are lacking a high school diploma versus just 5 percent of white women.

Economically, almost 27,000 girls live in low-income households in Fairfield County. According to the MIT Living Wage calculator, in Connecticut a household of one adult and one child needs an annual income of $59,760 before taxes to afford basic needs such as food, childcare, medical care, housing, and transportation. In Fairfield County, the same household would need an income of $64,295 before taxes to afford their basic needs.

With regard to women and girls’ health and sexuality, landscape analysis participants noted the critical need for reproductive health education and the evolving ways in which today’s young women access reproductive health information. There were concerns expressed about social media replacing safe spaces where girls and young women could socialize and talk about issues related to sexuality and health.

“This research was undertaken to better understand areas of need in the county. By analyzing the data, advocating for the issues affecting our community and sharing the information with friends and colleagues, we can select and commit to following one or more of the recommendations presented. We have started that conversation today,” comments Juanita James, President & CEO, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. “By focusing on the information with our dedicated donors and community partners, together we can achieve sustainable, well-informed solutions so that each and every member of our community has the opportunity to thrive,” she continued.

In fiscal year 2019, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Fund for Women & Girls awarded nearly $560,000 in grants to 30 organizations and positively impacted thousands of women and girls. Support was given to organizations that share a commitment to meeting the unique needs of women and girls and catalyzing solutions through The Fund’s research-driven approach. Established in 1998 by a small group of visionary women, The Fund is now New England’s largest women’s fund.

Key information found in both reports is located at FCCFoundation.org/FWG2019.