New York Shows Women of Color Some Love

Photo by David Shankbone, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On Thursday, New York City had a quiet, but notable first. New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced the Young Women’s Initiative, supposedly the first city initiative in the nation designed specifically for young women of color.

“For too long, young women in New York City have experienced systemic disparity in all areas of life, whether its healthcare, education, or equal pay for equal work,” said Mark-Viverito in a statement. “These injustices are especially pervasive for young women of color, who have been denied opportunity for advancement and success time and time again throughout history. We are here today to say ‘no more.’ It’s time we stand up with women everywhere tackle this inequality head on — and this first-of-its-kind initiative will do just that.”

Of course, young women of color in New York aren’t the only ones who’ve suffered from systemic bias and discrimination, but that such a large metropolitan area is taking a step like this is encouraging — particularly because there was no predicating incident of note that would have made such a step necessary for PR purposes.

Viverito said the initiative’s goal is to fight the chronic inequality young women — including LGBT women — in New York face. The multiyear project will include policy experts, women’s advocates and a committee of community organizations to research the issues this cohort deal with and then present recommendations on appropriate actions to take.

Mark-Viverito told MSNBC many programs of this ilk in New York exist or once existed, but they were often geared toward young men of color. But when the topic is eradicating inequality, gender is significant factor. “When we look at the issue of inequality, it’s really magnified when we start breaking it down when it comes to race and gender,” she said.

I’m often skeptical of special programs geared toward one particular cohort. Singling a group out can create its own pitfalls. But this initiative will focus on foundational issues that — if it’s successful — will help to close some of the more pronounced gaps associated with work and life for female minorities and enable them to advance on a more level playing field. That would include things like economic mobility, access to education, wages, job creation, reproductive access and preventive health care. 

This is just an announcement. The initiative is still in the early stages, but here’s hoping after a year or two it has some hard metrics to show that participants are better off than they were before they got involved, and that similar programs might produce positive results. That would certainly add some weight to Mark-Viverito’s hope “that it serves as motivation for other cities to look at doing something similar.”