By JOHN BRANDI
A recent article in The Connecticut Economy, an economicanalysis quarterly, has ranked New York as the second-best state with economic opportunities for women. The index measured the performance of all 50 states.
Dr. Steven Lanza, executive editor of the quarterly, said New York’s ranking is promising and its index score reveals it’s ahead of the curve.
“New York’s score means the state is 3.236 standard deviations above the mean,” Lanza said. “That’s quite a high score, at the 99th percentile in fact. In academic terms, it would be an A plus.”
The article based its model on the world affairs newspaper The Economist’s global women’s economic opportunity, or WEO, index. The index gauges the “differential economic prospects for women,” but was too broad for a state-by-state review.
A condensed model, called U.S. WEO, looked at the segment of U.S. women 25 and over holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. It examined state data that defines participation by women in the workforce, such as pay gaps, women in “traditionally female” occupations, maternity leave and child care costs.
The index also took into consideration education and both sexual assault and adolescent fertility rates, which were all said to be indicators of economic performance.
The ranking was well received by Westchester County officials, but some still believe there is work to be done.
State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a Scarsdale Democrat, said the measurements the index uses are “fantastic,” categories that she has worked on improving, such as access to child care, “combating teen birth” and improving education.
“It’s great that New York is doing better than other states,” she said.
Paulin said she wished the index was more comprehensive and examined how women are faring against men in similar circumstances. She said women are still disproportionately responsible for raising children.
Paulin also focused on the educational opportunities afforded to residents in her district, especially New Rochelle and Eastchester. Paulin said that, despite the low numbers of women who obtain a bachelor’s degree or higher in those areas, she is hopeful the next generation of children will see the importance of educational achievement.
Jim Coleman, executive director of Westchester County’s Industrial Development Agency, which works closely on issues facing women and minorities in business, said County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, makes it a priority to help promote women in the workforce.
Companies looking to expand are given tax incentives, such as exemptions and assistance with construction efforts, to move to Westchester County. They are then charged an undisclosed fee when they relocate and this goes into an industrial development agency account. This “community capital” is then reinvested into business building programs led by women, according to Coleman.
“The biggest area of growth is women-owned businesses,” he said.
According to Britta Vander Linden, communications specialist and media liaison for the county executive’s office, 29.6 percent of the 120,727 firms operated in Westchester County are owned by women; 35,735 firms.
Vander Linden said one of Astorino’s non-profit initiatives, Bridge to Success, started in 2013, is aimed at women and minorities thinking of starting a business. The program held its premiere event at New Rochelle’s Monroe College, where there were about 100 attendees.
Coleman said the attendance for these events is usually 75 percent women looking to “launch a business, grow a business or build a business and take it to the next level.”
In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, “a lot of professional women” gave thought to starting their own business for greater job security, Coleman said.
A second jobs initiative, Hire Westchester, another IDA account-funded program, helps job-seekers hone their skills through job training. The county will pay half the training costs up to $20,000 per business.
“Hire Westchester gives employers an incentive to expand their business and draw from the talented workforce right here in the county,” Astorino said. “The businesses create jobs, we help pay for the training and it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime.”
Vander Linden said 52 percent of residents hired through this program have been women.
However, of the 23,000 residents looking for work in Westchester County, about 47 percent of that number are women, according to Coleman.
“We still have a long way to go,” he said.
Vermont claimed the number one spot on the Connecticut Economy index. States in the Northeast and along the West Coast faired better with their economic prospects. The states that performed poorly were in the south-central region with Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi occupying the 48th through 50th index slots, respectively.