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THE VERMONT COMMISSION ON WOMEN (VCW)
- engages partnerships and networks diverse groups to consider issues of interest to women and take action
- provides information to the legislature and other policy makers on issues affecting women
- provides the most local and most appropriate information and referrals to individuals on matters related to women and families
conducts research, produces reports and publications, and maintains a comprehensive resource directory
Selected by multiple appointing authorities, Commissioners come from all parts of the state and across the political spectrum. Commissioners bring multiple perspectives to decision-making: as women with family responsibilities, as workers often in the lowest paying jobs, as employers and business owners. The Commission is a deliberative body, and decisions are adopted by majority vote. Learn more about what we do, our work and who we are.
We completed an update of The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont in January 2012. Written in plain language, The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont handbook, although written for women, covers issues affecting all Vermonters, such as marriage and divorce, adoption, wills and probate, women’s health, employment and education, housing and public accommodations, violence, public assistance and government benefits, insurance as well as others. New features include information on human trafficking, health insurance, same sex marriage, and immigration. Since 1977, The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont has been a “go to” source of information for Vermont women, their families, and the professionals that serve them. The new handbook allows users to link to our comprehensive resource directory and to federal and state statute websites. The result is reader-friendly content with easy-access reference links. Listen to the new radio public service announcement, check out the handbook and let us know what you think!
Thanks to students at Vermont Law School, Spanish language editions of many chapters of the newly updated Legal Rights of Women in Vermont handbook are now available!
On Tuesday May 14th Governor Shumlin signed into law a bill strengthening protections for Vermont workers around a number of issues, most notably for equal pay. The bill, introduced in the House as H.99 and Senate as S.57, includes provisions for equal pay; protections for employees who ask coworkers what they are paid; certification of compliance of government contractors with Vermont’s equal pay laws; protections for new mothers who must express breast milk for their babies at work; protections for employees to request flexible working arrangements; and establishment of a study committee looking at the mechanics of a paid family leave law in Vermont.
Lead sponsors of this legislation were Representative Jill Krowinski and Senator Sally Fox. "The Equal Pay Law is a victory for all working Vermonters,” says Rep. Krowinski. “This law will bring consistent protection against retaliation, strengthen our current equal pay provisions, and open the door to flexible work arrangements. With Vermont women making 84 cents to the dollar to Vermont men, this law will help bridge the gap."
Members of a diverse stakeholders group facilitated by the Attorney General’s office have been meeting since August of 2012, following an equal pay conference hosted by the ATG and the EEOC in June. The stakeholders group discussed and debated the issues in this bill. Committee members included representatives from state government, business, law, and labor, economists, legislators and advocacy groups. Attorney General Sorrell’s response to the new law is that "it's good for Vermont to be a leader in efforts to see that women in the workforce are afforded the equal respect and the equal pay they deserve."
Cary Brown, the Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women, and a member of the equal pay committee observed, “This law provides a wealth of tools for addressing inequities in pay and working conditions, and is a huge benefit to working families in Vermont. It strengthens and clarifies existing laws ensuring equal pay for equal work, increases the accountability of state contractors, and creates new protections for workers who discuss wages. This law makes Vermont the first state in the country to guarantee employees’ right to request flexible working arrangements, supporting both men’s and women’s participation in work and family responsibilities.”
Committee member Karen Richards, Executive Director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, spoke about the new law in the context of state government employment. “The new Equal Pay Act language tying the defense of ‘a factor other than sex’ to proof that the factor does not perpetuate a sex-based differential in pay and is job-related will provide Vermont women with stronger tools for enforcing the right to equal pay for equal work. I hope the Administration’s support of this legislation will translate into meaningful action to both review and correct existing pay inequities between men and women in comparable positions in state government.”
UVM Professor of Economics and Women's Studies and committee member, Elaine McCrate, remarked, "With the passage of this bill, Vermont is addressing the 21st century reality that few families have full-time caregivers at home, and that workplaces need to accommodate family needs to some extent. Vermont workers will have the right to request flexible working arrangements, and they will be able to expect their employers to consider them seriously. In addition Vermont will begin to explore the possibility of paid parental leave. This puts Vermont at the forefront of work-family and pay equity initiatives in the US."
State agencies, including the Attorney General’s office, the Human Rights Commission and the Vermont Commission on Women, will be working together on a public information campaign targeted at workers and employers to let them know about the new law’s provisions.
Vermont Commission on Women (VCW), in partnership with the University of Vermont Women's and Gender Studies program, gathered a diverse group of professionals for a panel discussion concerning paid sick days for Vermont workers. The panel discussion was held on Monday morning, April 22nd in the Old Mill building on the University of Vermont’s campus green. A broad conversation took place about Vermont’s current labor practices around paid time off policies, the dynamics of Vermont’s employers and labor force, and the issue of paid sick and safe days from a policy perspective. Kristin Carlson of WCAX TV facilitated the discussion. Welcome was provided by Cary Brown the Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women. An introduction to the topic was provided by UVM’s Dr. Felicia Kornbluh, the Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program and a current VCW Commissioner. Panelists included: Representative Johannah Donovan of Burlington, Chair of the Vermont House Committee on Education; Dr. Elaine McCrate Associate Professor of Economics and Women’s and Gender Studies at UVM, Ellen Bravo Executive Director of the national Family Values at Work Coalition, Dan Barlow of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, Lindsay DesLauriers of the Vermont Paid Sick Days Coalition.
Several themes emerged from the at times highly personal discussion, including implications for public health, the disproportionate impact of a lack of paid sick leave on children and mothers, and the costs and benefits to employers of providing paid time off. Panelists pointed out that when people aren’t able to afford to take time off work to tend to health needs, we see lower rates of preventative care, more widespread infections in outbreaks of disease (such as during the H1N1 pandemic, when an estimated 5 million additional people were infected due to sick people continuing to go to work), and greater use of emergency rooms because they are open during non-business hours. With 70% of children missing school due to illness at some point during the school year, and with mothers more likely to be caregivers for children, lack of paid time off can mean that children go to school when sick, and that women are losing income from lost work time when they stay home with their children. The costs to employers of providing paid time off, both in additional payroll expenses and administrative work, were cited in the conversation, as were benefits to employers who can expect lower rates of turnover and lower rates of employee absenteeism from flu infection. Audience members shared their own stories and asked questions, including making the point that children’s voices often go unheard in these conversations. The Commission is grateful to our host for this event, the UVM Women's and Gender Studies Program. Current VCW Commissioner Dr. Felicia Kornbluh is also both Associate Professor of History and Director of this program.
VCW’s Advisory Council member Vermont Works for Women’s (VWW) "Enough Said” report revealed that many young women across our state consider themselves ill-equipped and under-prepared for the challenges of school, work, career, economic independence, and adulthood - absolutes that await them in the not-to-distant future. "Enough Said - Young Women Talk about School, Work and Becoming Adults: Why We Should Listen and What We Can Do" incorporates national research and references best practices. It is the result of in-depth interviews, surveys, and listening to more than 210 young women and girls, ages 15-25, from 28 communities, Brattleboro to St. Johnsbury, the majority from families of limited financial means. The report provides a qualitative snapshot of the current concerns that young women in Vermont hold, including:
Lack of practical skills related to personal finance;
Fears around how to live independently;
Relational aggression among female peers;
Few personal allies or networks to provide support;
Minimal exposure to a broad range of careers and professional female role models;
Limited expectations for work that taps into talent and passion.
The Vermont Commission on Women is a member of VWW’s Taskforce on Young Women and the Economy and looks forward to making positive change for Vermont’s girls.
On March 19th a hearing took place in US District Court in the first case interpreting the Vermont Equal Pay Act of 2002. The Vermont Commission on Women was joined by numerous national and state organizations and public policy leaders in educating the court on the enduring problem of gender based wage discrimination and urging it to interpret Vermont's law to provide broad remedy to victims of such discrimination. Our Amicus brief explains why Vermont’s Equal Pay Act is important, why and how wage discrimination continues to take place, and how this legal remedy should function for Vermont women. In this precedent-setting case, we hope that the 2nd Circuit's interpretation will place the burden of proof on employers and allow for only job-related factors when there is a wage differential. It is our hope that more women pursue claims, employers stop discriminating and the wage gap closes faster.
Vermont Women in Journalism: A Women’s History Month Event took place Tuesday, March 26th in the Snelling Room at the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier. The Vermont Commission on Women and the Vermont Historical Society teamed up again to present this tribute to Vermont women to mark March as Women’s History Month. A wall-to-wall crowd, including journalism students, enjoyed the lively, humorous and sometimes poignant panel discussion, which included Anne Galloway of Vermont Digger, Nina Keck of Vermont Public Radio, Kristin Carlson of WCAX – Channel 3, and Terri Hallenbeck of the Burlington Free Press, along with dynamic moderator Rickey Gard Diamond of Vermont Woman. Historian Marilyn Blackwell provided context and set the stage with detailed stories of women who blazed this trail. Panelists responded to questions like: What inspired you to go into journalism? Were there any female role models that paved the way? Do you see more women rising to leadership roles than you did when starting out? Have you ever felt the glass ceiling in journalism, and if so, do you think that’s changed during your time in the profession? Special thanks to event sponsors and to all who attended! ORCA Media, Montpelier area’s community access television station filmed the event . Vermont Public Radio runs a commentary series in conjunction with the women's history month theme, spearheaded by historian and writer Cyndy Bittinger.
Last year's Women’s History Month (March) event focused on women in the field of law. The Vermont Commission on Women and the Vermont Women’s History Project put together a panel discussion, Women of Change: Making Strides in Women’s Legal Rights in the 70s and 80s, led by Vermont Law School Professor Cheryl Hanna. The expert panel included Sandy Baird, Esquire; Senator Peg Flory; the Honorable Denise Johnson; and Mary Just Skinner, Esquire. The audience learned about how the battle for women’s names to appear in the phonebook was won; what it was like to be one of the first 100 female lawyers in practice; what influenced decisions to run for public office; and what it’s like to serve and represent women, particularly survivors of domestic violence. This event coincided with the release of the VCW’s 6th edition of The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont, a handbook to help the layperson understand legal rights and responsibilities under state and federal law. VCW would like to thank the Action Circles team for capturing this discussion in a video. Vermont Public Radio presented a week-long commentary series in collaboration with the Commission and the Project – link and listen here.
Equal Pay Day was Tuesday April 9th.. This is the symbolic day when women's earnings catch up to men's from the previous year – it takes an extra three months thanks to the 23-percent wage gap in the U.S.. Vermont does a bit better, but our wage gap is still about 16-percent. Members of the Vermont Commission on Women and Business and Professional Women will be in attendance at 10:45 when Governor Shumlin signs the 2013 Equal Pay Day proclamation. Wearing red is a symbol of women being “in the red” on this day. Legislators will receive Equal Pay Buttons attached to a coupon for 16% off all goods and services for working Vermont women. The other side of the coupon reads: "April 9, 2013 symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. In Vermont, women earn 84 cents for every man’s dollar. Equal pay can make a difference in whether families can afford healthcare, child care, higher education, and a secure retirement."
More on equal pay:
Vermont employees have the right to equal pay for equal work. If you run a business or work in Vermont, this brochure will help you understand Vermont’s Equal Pay Act.
Equal Pay Brochure (PDF file, 65 KB)
Employers and employees: use this tool to protect your workplace against pay equity violations
Link to Business and Professional Women Foundation's Equal Pay Audit
The Central Vermont Job Fair took place Tuesday, April 4th, 10-4 at Montpelier's Elks Club. VCW was one of many organizations coordinating this annual job fair. 785 job seekers attended - 453 in the first 1/5 hour! The event featured 47 vendor booths, most employers with job openings.
Our Women in Public Life Report issued January 11th 2013 features a historical look at women lawmakers in Vermont and also women serving on Vermont Boards and Commissions. Vermont currently ranks second in the nation for the percentage of women serving in the legislature, with a total of 40.6%. Colorado is first at 42%. Serving on a boards or commissions is often a stepping stone to elected office, and where many Vermonters first learn about running and participating in public meetings. Currently, of Vermont’s 227 boards and commissions, 95 (or 42%) are gender balanced. Read Vermont Women in Public Life (PDF file, 317 KB)
We've recently updated Vermont Workplaces Support Nursing Moms, information for women returning to the workforce after having a baby and their employers. In addition, VCW partnered with Vermont's Breastfeeding Network and the Department of Health to offer free help to all Vermont businesses welcoming back their new working moms. Vermont workplaces need lower health care costs, lower turnover rates, lower absenteeism rates, and higher employee productivity and morale. How to get them? Lactation support!
VCW's presented a listening forum took place in Bennington, in partnership with Bennington County Maternal Child Health Coalition, and focused on issues affecting teen girls in Bennington County. Participants included young women, parents, and community members working in the fields of medicine, social services, education, law enforcement, and public policy. VCW uses the information gathered at Listening Forums to inform our work on behalf of women and families in Vermont and to share with policy makers and various state and community organizations to strengthen and inform programming and services. Read notes from the Bennington listening forum. (PDF file, 78 KB)
Learn more, get involved: join our Vermont Information Exchange for Women (VIEW) network, a community calendar for women.
Read the lastest VIEW messages:
May 16 (PDF file, 57 KB)
May 3 (PDF file, 71 KB)
April 24 (PDF file, 25 KB)
April 17 (PDF file, 16 KB)
April 9 (PDF file, 13 KB)
April 4 (PDF file, 67 KB)
April 2 (PDF file, 18 KB)
March 22 (PDF, 57 KB)
March 12 (PDF file, 21 KB)
February 26 (PDF file, 56 KB)
February 15 (PDF file, 17 KB)
February 8 (PDF file, 66 KB)
January 25 (PDF file, 64 KB)
January 17 (PDF file, 62 KB)
January 11, 2013 (PDF file, 58 KB)
Read the white paper, Reclaiming Lost Ground for Vermont's Incarcerated Women. The Vermont Commission on Women took part in this collaborative effort to improve conditions for women inmates at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility.
Make your workplace a safe space. Vermont employers and workers: domestic violence doesn't stay home when victims go to work. It can impact productivity, increase absentee rates, and increase the chance of violence in the workplace. VCW partnered with the Vermont Attorney General's office, the Vermont Council on Domestic Violence and other advocates to address domestic violence as a public health and safety issue in the workplace. Download these materials for your workplace:
Domestic Violence: A Workplace Issue
Full Report of 2011 Study: How Does Domestic Violence Affect the Vermont Workplace? A survey of male offenders enrolled in batterer intervention programs in Vermont
Schmidt, M.C. & Barnett, A. M.C. & Barnett, A. (2011). Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Center for Rural Studies
Executive Summary of Study
Schmidt, M.C. & Barnett, A. M.C. & Barnett, A. (2011). Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Center for Rural Studies
Vermont Girls Collaborative Forums - Held in the spring and moderated by Vermont Public Radio’s Jane Lindholm, these forums presented ideas for how to responsibly address racial equality, socioeconomic differences, gender identity and harassment when working with young Vermonters.
The Vermont Girls’ Collaborative is a network of programs for girls in grades K-12 across the state that works together to: leverage the power of girls’ programs through sharing resources, ideas, and relationships; promote girls’ well-being and social equity; expand the capacity of girls’ programs to meet the needs of Vermont girls. Collaborative members include: Vermont Commission on Women, AAUW-National Girls’ Collaborative Project, American Association of University Women, American Legion Auxiliary (Girls State), Burlington Boys and Girls Club, Center for Technology Essex, DREAM, Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, Girls Move Mountains, Girls on the Run, IBM-Women in Technology, Rosie’s Girls Bennington, Rosie’s Girls Rutland, Tech Savvy Girls, Vermont Equity Training & Consulting, The Vermont Women’s Fund, VINS, Kids-A-Part, Vermont Works for Women, Women Writing for (a) Change and YWCA Vermont.
Got questions about equal pay, legal rights, starting a new business, sexual harassment, planning for maternity leave? Our publications address topics like these and many more!
Read VCW's agency brochure
Who do Vermont girls turn to with problems? What do they feel are the most important qualities in a friend? How do they use social media to communicate? Find out by reading “What Vermont Teen Girls Say” the annual statewide on-line survey of 6th through 12th grade girls. The survey is created by a panel of girls and facilitated by a partnership of the Vermont Commission on Women and the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains. The most recent survey focus was relationships and use of social media. “What Teen Girls Say” survey results from other years captured the attention of Vermont legislators, community officials, schools, and the media. Previous topics included: planning for jobs or college; making, saving, and spending money; bullying and harassment; health and wellness; and growing up in Vermont. Executive summaries of past surveys can be found at: executive summaries from the last 5 surveys.
View our Women in Public Life report
Women's History Month Event to Honor and Acknowledge the Military Service of Vermont Women from World War II to Present - took place March 23rd 2011 in Montpelier - a wonderful day of celebration featuring the stories of Vermont women veterans from WWII to Afghanistan. Stay tuned here for history month 2013 plans!
The Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity produces this helpful guide: "What Should Happen When Your Child Reports Harassment"
Don’t know where to go for help? Try our resource directory, from aging and elder issues to legal support to transportation – over 200 pages of Vermont-based organizations.
Did you know Vermont men with just a high school degree make about the same as Vermont women with a Bachelor’s degree? Learn more facts in our status report (PDF file, 735 KB)
Starting or expanding your Vermont business? Ask us for our business resource listing.
The Vermont Historical Society now provides a permanent home for the Vermont Women's History Project Started by the Vermont Commission on Women (VCW) in 2004, the site is a database of individual women searchable by geographical area, time period, area of significance or influence, etc. In addition, the site features historical background information and links to places in Vermont where users can find additional information about the particular woman or topic.
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