02/15/2011 11:21 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Five Things the New Mayor Should Do for Women and Our City

At Chicago Foundation for Women, we invest in women and girls--and so
should the City of Chicago. When women are safe, healthy and
financially secure, they lead strong families and thriving
communities. That's why, as the new mayor sets his or her agenda, the
1.6 million women and girls in Chicago must be a key part of it. We
urge the next mayor to act on these five priorities quickly and

1. Increase job opportunities for women so they work their way out of
this recession and lift up their families and communities. The
problem: Women's unemployment recently hit a 27-year high. In November
it was 8.4 percent -- and a whopping 13.6 percent for single mothers. The
solution: Offer more city contracts to woman-owned businesses and look
for skilled tradeswomen -- not just tradesmen -- to work on stimulus-funded
projects like the "green" retrofitting of buildings.

2. Ensure that more young women graduate from high school by making
school a safe and healthy environment for young women and LGBTQ youth.
The problem: Workers without high school diplomas face lower
employment and lifetime earnings, and the gender gap is wide -- women
earn 60 percent less than their male counterparts. Bullying and dating
violence can cause young women and LGBTQ youth to miss classes, drop
out or -- in the worst cases -- take their own lives. Plus, young mothers
are "pushed out" of school when child care or health issues cause
repeat tardies or absences. The solution: Prioritize input from
parents and students, especially LGBTQ youth and survivors of
violence, about public school policies and programs, from on-site
child care to anti-violence curricula.

3. Improve police response to domestic violence. The problem:
According to the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women's Network, about
70% of domestic-related calls to Chicago police never even result in
police reports -- let alone charges. The solution: The police department
must improve training for officers on how to respond to women's
complaints of violence. The next mayor must also ensure that police
respond efficiently and sensitively to reports of elder abuse,
stalking, and human trafficking.

4. Continue to push innovative responses to the sex trade. The
problem: In the Chicago metropolitan area, between 16,000 and 25,000
women and girls are regularly engaged in the prostitution industry,
and a majority of them started before the age of 18. Women involved in
the sex trade are much more frequently arrested, prosecuted and jailed
than the pimps and johns who control and profit from the sex trade.
The solution: The mayor should build upon Chicago's momentum by
offering alternative sentencing and services for women and girls of
all ages arrested for prostitution-related crimes. This not only
reduces recidivism, but it also allows more resources to be directed
toward pursuing the demand side of the equation: johns, pimps and

5. Transform the city into a model employer for women by creating and
enforcing policies that keep women safe, healthy and productive. The
problem: The city has tens of thousands of employees, including
thousands of teachers, support staff and human service providers who
are mostly women. The solution: Keep women in mind when creating
benefit packages. Provide affordable child care, on-site when
possible; ensure that city health plans cover a full spectrum of
reproductive health, including abortion services; and offer paid sick
leave for all workers, so they don't spread disease and can care for
sick relatives. In addition, proactively investigate allegations of
sexual harassment, unequal pay or workplace discrimination and take
appropriate action.

Chicago Foundation for Women joins with community-based nonprofit
organizations across Chicago in asking for these steps. If the next
mayor throws her or his weight behind the work of neighborhood groups,
policy advocates and human service providers, these common-sense
solutions will keep our communities safe, just and healthy.