From The Director

As the University of Michigan looks towards its third century of existence, President Mary Sue Coleman has challenged the University to address big, complex problems. At CEW, we know that such issues cannot be addressed by a single entity or with a single perspective, but only through collaboration. We are therefore developing a large scale collaborative initiative that will consider women’s economic security: the barriers to women’s economic security, the methods of achieving economic security, and particularly the routes out of poverty or near poverty for low-income women.

To this end, I have convened two meetings with faculty members whose research interests include aspects of women’s economic security. Their disciplines range from economics to political science, from education to dance to social work. Some approach this issue from a global perspective, some nationally and some have focused primarily on the state of Michigan.

These meetings have allowed us to begin a conversation about how, from our different disciplines and perspectives, we can collaborate to address the varying needs of women in their respective journeys to economic security. As we begin to clarify the primary facets of this work, we will be inviting partners from the nonprofit and public sectors to join us, as well as partners from other Michigan institutions of higher education. In addition, we will be including advocates, activists, and women striving for economic security for themselves in the ongoing discussions. 

Among the questions: Do we focus on those women at the lowest income levels, who seek survival as opposed to wealth maintenance? Should we prioritize what women here in Michigan experience, or think more globally? Can we identify the primary barriers that negatively affect women’s economic security, and which are the ones we should address first? For which aspects of this work might we seek external funding? How can academics and practitioners assist one another to address these concerns?

This is an exciting beginning to a collaboration that we anticipate growing over the next several years. Because it is indeed collaborative, we can’t yet answer the questions above–all who come to the table will have a voice. We have asked others to join us in considering this challenge and the responses have been swift and positive from researchers, from advocates, and from those working directly with low-income women. We will continue to keep you informed as this initiative grows and “gels” in the next months.

Gloria D. Thomas, Ph.D.
gthomas@umich.edu