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Report Says Young Women Ill-Equipped, Under Prepared For Economy

Young women in Vermont are ill-equipped and not prepared for the challenges of economic independence and adulthood---and that’s what they say about themselves.

A new report released this week by Vermont Works for Women draws on interviews with over 200 women between the ages of 15 and 25. Vermont Works for Women Executive Director Tiffany Bluemle says there are a number of things that these young women, most of limited financial means, pointed to as obstacles to success.

  • They say they’re ill-equipped to manage personal finance.
  • They fear living independently.
  • They’re dealing with relational aggression from peers.
  • They lack allies and a supportive network.
  • They don’t have professional women role models.
  • They have limited expectations for careers.

Bluemle says when it comes to financial illiteracy, girls are not alone.
“Research that’s been done points to the fact that as a nation we’re financially under literate. One of the reasons is financial literacy isn’t required for high school graduation. We’re relying on individuals and their families for these things,” Blumele said. But interviewees said that’s not happening.

“They didn’t know how to fill out a tax form, they didn’t know how to open a bank account, write a check, they didn’t know what careers paid. They didn’t know how much they’d need in order to support themselves when they got out of school.”

Bluemle says it’s particularly important that young women posses this knowledge, because they’re twice as likely to live in poverty as men.

Vermont Works for Women says if Vermont is going to meet its full economic potential, more girls need to be encouraged to study science and math and pursue careers in those fields.

Vermont Works for Women has spent 25 years encouraging women and girls to think more broadly about their lives but they can only affect 20-30 girls at a time in a program, and Bluemle says the more is needed.

“We need collectively to develop a strategy that’s reinforced by business, by public policy, by our schools, that makes those careers more accessible to girls, and when I say more accessible it’s not that the door isn’t open, it’s that unless prompted or specifically encouraged many girls won’t pursue them.”

“We cannot do what we want to do as a state if we don’t fully engage 50 percent of the population. So let’s make the most of the native talent that we have to invest in different kind of things, so of which is college, some of which involves attracting new business to the state, and some of it involves a very concerted effort to nurture the talent right in front of our nose,” Bluemle said.

A new task force has been formed to examine which programs that are already in place are working effectively and to identify areas of need so efforts can be expanded. They hope to release their findings in time for the next legislative session.