Gains, Gaps & Goals: The Status of Women and Girls in Fairfax County

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Women in Government Center Auditorium


Last month, our Department of Family Services hosted a presentation from the University of Virginia (UVA) on the status of women and girls in Fairfax County. The presentation was followed by a panel discussion and audience question-and-answer session centered around a study recently completed called Gains, Gaps, & Goals: The Status of Women and Girls in Fairfax County.

The study was conducted by UVA along with county stakeholders and examined factors related to economics, health and work-life balance in women and girls. It found that, like national statistics, women and girls in Fairfax County face inequities related to pay, education and well-being indicators. The goal is to use this data to support policy and resource decisions in the future. 

Below are some takeaways from the study and the related discussion.

Related: County Conversation Podcast with Chief Equity Officer Karla Bruce

Economic Indicators

From the Study

  • The wage gap persists despite women’s gains in education.
  • Female heads of households are more likely to be economically vulnerable than their male counterparts.
    • 28% of households are economically vulnerable
    • 44% of these households have children younger than 18.
  • Public school girls of color are more likely than boys and white girls to work three or more hours on an average school day.

Community Conversation Insights

  • It is expensive to live and raise a family, requiring long work hours.
  • Women are community champions who are dedicated to and volunteer in their communities.


Health Indicators

From the Study

  • Economically vulnerable women have higher rates of some chronic health conditions, like poor mental health and arthritis, compared to men and obtaining preventive care is a challenge for many women.
  • Women ages 18 to 64 and foreign-born women are most likely to be uninsured.
  • Women generally have longer life expectancy than men.

Community Conversation Insights

  • Many women expressed mental health concerns like isolation and feelings of depression.
  • Women with families from other countries expressed great concern for their well-being, had less ability to visit relatives, and felt they had less caregiving support.
  • Women noted that not having access to a car made household tasks, including keeping up with medical appointments, much more difficult.


Work-Life Balance Indicators

From the Study

  • Employers (businesses, government, nonprofits) play a key role in supporting women and mothers.
  • Childcare is a large percentage of income for women and families with young children (8% to 14% for infants and toddlers).
  • Asian and Hispanic women are more likely to live in multigenerational households.

Community Conversation Insights

  • Support and resources, like quality childcare and teen activities, can improve work-life balance for women.
  • Working women often expressed that they were working long hours due to the cost of living in Fairfax County. Some women worked multiple jobs to support families.
  • Women stated that caregiving and managing a home are not valued or appreciated in the same way as working for wages.


Policy Recommendations

  • Advocate at state and federal levels, for example, increase child and dependent care credit, pilot a living wage, and implement other policies to benefit women and girls.
  • Expand state- and county-funded care for children and older populations.
  • Enhance outreach and education about benefits and resources available to women and girls in need.
  • Assess the need for more community-based organizations to support women.
  • Evaluate parental and family leave guidelines across sectors.
  • Account for the intersectional nature of gender and racial identity and marginalization through the One Fairfax Equity Policy and Strategic Plan. Establish a gender-specific baseline and integrate strategies in the strategic plan.
  •  Advocate for new data discovery and exploration to understand nuances in work-life balance issues, e.g., measuring multiple job holders.

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