Even though we are living in the second decade of the 21st century, there are still historical legacies that cause some groups to have substantial social and economic disadvantages. In Human Services we often see that a disproportionate amount of need comes from women and children. This is often due to men who have abandoned their families and mothers who must figure out how to juggle child rearing and a career as a single-parent. In many cases, these single-mother families simply cannot make ends meet without assistance in one form or another. This is precisely why we have social safety nets in the first place, to assure that those members of our society who are vulnerable and in need will have access to government services that mitigate the effects of poverty.
Another contributing factor is that women are usually paid only a percentage of what men make for the same job. This wage imbalance also has a negative impact on women’s earning power and their consequent need for assistance. Another troubling factor is the impact of Domestic Violence (DV) in the lives of women, which obviously has a tremendously negative mental health impact and is damaging to income. This economic impact is of course overshadowed by the tremendous emotional damage that is wrought by DV. For all these reasons and more, women and their dependents are often more in need of assistance programs than their male counterparts. While this is a troubling fact, the good news is that the Human Services field offers myriad different ways in which one can help women who are in need.
It is also true that women make up the majority of professionals in many human services organizations. This happens for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, a desire to see social justice, equality and progress. Women often wish to see suffering in society to be reduced as much as possible regardless of whether those impacted are men, women or children. Many women also enter the Human Services profession keenly aware of societal imbalances that negatively impact women and are hoping to help effect positive change for their fellow women. This noble impulse is one that can be very effectively channeled in a variety of Human Services contexts. From mental health counselors who specialize in helping Domestic Violence survivors to find strength based approaches to healing, to front line eligibility workers assisting women in need to receive their maximum entitled benefits. Women who have a desire to help bring compassion and positive tangible benefits to the lives of disadvantaged women will find a wide variety of venues in the Human services field to act on that impulse.
While many conditions have improved in our society for women with the various achievements of the Women’s Rights Movement, there is still a long way to go before we achieve true equality. As our society continues to change we can all hope that these conditions will change and that everyone will have access to equal rights and equal pay. In the meantime, we must keep in mind how we can sensitively and respectfully deal with the unique needs of our Human Services clients.