In January 2017, a bill (H. 136) was introduced in the Vermont Legislature that would ensure healthy pregnant workers in Vermont receive reasonable workplace accommodations such as having access to water, access to a stool or a chair, longer or more frequent restroom breaks, or avoiding heavy lifting. The bill was signed into law May 4th!
Read the new law here.
Read VCW's testimony on H.136 here.
Read VCW’s press release, New Protections for Pregnant Workers here.
Read VCW's policy brief for more information about these protections.
Find A Better Balance rundown of state action here.
Find National Women's Law Center’s fact sheet here.
Child marriage occurs when one or both parties are under 18 years old at the time of the marriage, and it happens in the U.S., and it's legal in every state, including Vermont. 57,800 minors aged 15 to 17 were married in the U.S. in 2014. Approximately 90% of the children married in recent years were girls. Read VCW's new policy brief here.
The wage gap tends to grow during the course of a career. Raises, bonuses, and even salaries at new jobs are frequently based on current earnings and salary history; for women and minorities already being paid less, this perpetuates the wage gap. In Vermont, a bill (H.294) was introduced that would prohibit employers from requesting or requiring an applicant’s salary history until after they’ve made an offer for employment, including an initial salary offer. Read VCW's info sheet for more information.
EQUAL PAY DAY 2017
Tuesday, April 4th was Equal Pay Day. Throughout the nation, women’s organizations observe Equal Pay Day each April, symbolizing how far into the new year the average American woman would have to work to earn what the average American man did in the previous year due to the gender wage gap.
Events at the State House included an Equal Pay Day “Women and Leadership” Press Conference at 12:00 in the Cedar Creek Room.
Advocates for equal pay at this press conference addressed the gender wage gap and unveiled Change The Story's new “Vermont Women and Leadership” report. Change The Story is an initiative of the Vermont Commission on Women (VCW), the Vermont Women’s Fund, and Vermont Works for Women designed to fast-track women’s economic status in our state. The report reveals new data about participation of women in various leadership roles in Vermont, including federal, state and municipal government, Abenaki Nations, academia, law enforcement, and the corporate and non-profit sectors. By some measures, Vermont is a national pacesetter in its share of women in key leadership positions. By others, women’s leadership status lags behind other states. Overall, Vermont women have yet to achieve equal representation as leaders in any but a few political, civic or professional realms.
The press conference featured: Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, State Treasurer Beth Pearce, Vermont Tech President Pat Moulton, Melody Brook of the Abenaki Women's Council and VT Commission on Native American Affairs, Joe Fusco of UVM's Grossman School of Business and VP at Casella Waste Systems, Jen Kimmich Co-founder/Owner of The Alchemist, and VCW Executive Director, Cary Brown. Members of Women’s Caucus of the Legislature, the League of Women Voters of VT, VT Federation of Business and Professional Women joined the group of approximately 100 present. Advocates wore the traditional red to symbolize women being “in the red” due to the gender wage gap on this day. Read the report here. Read more about this event in the press release here. Watch a video of the Equal Pay Day Press Conference here.
Additional Equal Pay Day events included:
Equal Pay Day Resolution. Link to: House Concurrent Resolution 97, a resolution recognizing Equal Pay Day
Equal Pay Day Proclamation Signing | 11:30 AM | Governor’s ceremonial office. Read the proclamation here.
Equal Pay Day Facebook Event Page link here.
Sen. Sanders' Equal Pay Day statement, here.
WOMEN AND 1970'S COUNTERCULTURE, 2017 Women's History Month Event
The 1970s saw incredible advancements in public engagement with, and recognition of, women’s rights. This flowering of second-wave feminism had a far-reaching impact on American society. What was it like for women who participated in the counterculture during that time? What challenges did they face, and what opportunities did they find? How was women’s experience in Vermont unique, and what did it share with the rest of the country? How does it relate to the current generation of young women? In our annual partnership with the Vermont Historical Society (VHS) to honor Women's History Month (March), we presented this free evening roundtable discussion, "Women of the Counterculture Movement in 1970s Vermont" at the Vermont History Center in Barre. Rescheduled (due to winter storm) to Wednesday, March 22nd at 6:00. This event was moderated by Amanda Gustin, Vermont Historical Society's Public Program Coordinator, and featured Euan Bear, Bridget Downey-Meyer, Louise Andrews, Melinda Moulton and Verandah Porche, reflecting on what brought them into this movement, what their experience was like, and what lasting impact it’s had on their own lives and on Vermont society. A truly engaging and provocative discussion!
Watch the video of this event, thanks to Central Vermont Community Television.
Read historian Cyndy Bittinger's Women of the Counterculture in 1970s Vermont piece from Vermont Woman's April/May 2017 Issue.
Event Speaker Bios:
Euan Bear - was born in New Hampshire, moved to Vermont in 1977 to work with the lesbian collective Redbird, and has been here ever since. Over the last 40 years, she has been part of the editorial committee of CommonWomon, Vermont’s first women’s newspaper; wrote and edited for the Vermont Vanguard Press, and for Out in the Mountains, Vermont’s lgbt newspaper; and editor and author for the Safer Society Program and Press, among other jobs (factory worker, dishwasher, food service cook, housecleaner…). She has been a stalwart activist for women’s and lesbians’ rights, most recently at the January March and Rally in Montpelier. Listen to Euan's story here, via Digital Vermont, a project of the Vermont Historical Society.
Bridget Downey-Meyer – was a member of the Mount Philo Inn from 1969 to 1973, a collective in Charlotte, VT. Her experience includes working with draft resisters to cross into Canada, the establishment of the People's Free Clinic, and alternative schooling with an emphasis on experiential learning for children. Listen to Bridget's story here, via Digital Vermont, a project of the Vermont Historical Society.
Louise Andrews – was a member of Earthworks, a commune in Franklin, VT and worked on their alternative newspaper. She participated in women’s conferences and consciousness-raising during this time, and grew as a feminist. She learned about working with animals and growing, producing and eating healthy food while at Earthworks, as well as participating in Unity Players, a political street theatre group. Listen to Louise's story here, via Digital Vermont, a project of the Vermont Historical Society.
Melinda Moulton – while working at Harvard with Dr. James Watson, co-discoverer of the DNA helix and father of the Human Genome Project, Melinda joined in the antiwar and civil rights protests of the time. She met her future husband and eventually moved into a tent in Huntington, Vermont in 1972, and lived with her infant and partner with no running water, no phone, no TV until they built their own stone house, inspired by Helen and Scott Nearing. She collected 36 truckloads of stone with a baby on her back. Fast forward to the early 80s: She provided the leadership to produce a 25-year incremental redevelopment project for Burlington’s waterfront and pioneered new concepts in environmental and socially conscious redevelopment. Listen to Melinda's story here on VPR's No Make Up podcast.
Verandah Porche - with a group of friends from Boston in 1968 she founded a commune in Guilford Vermont called Total Loss Farm, a haven for artists and writers, where she still lives. The farm evolved into a nonprofit, the Monteverdi Artists Collaborative, which hosts residencies, readings, exhibition, and seasonal community events. She’s published three books of poetry, The Body's Symmetry, Glancing Off, and Sudden Eden, and works as a poet in residence, performer, and a writing partner. She was among the founders of the Brattleboro Women's Crisis Center and served on the board for 15 years. Listen to Veranda's VPR commentary here, addressing the national social media firestorm resulting ifrom her question to veteran journalist Gay Talese.
Counterculture Women In Vermont: Vermont Public Radio’s Women's History Month 2017 Commentary Series
Along with the Vermont Historical Society, we're also honored to work with Vermont Public Radio offering this annual corresponding-themed commentary series:
*panelists at our event. Special note: Melinda serves as a VCW Commissioner. Read more about past women's history month celebrations and themes here. More 2017 Counterculture event details on our Facebook event page here.
CONFISCATION OF DANGEROUS OR DEADLY WEAPONS BILL
VCW testified on House bill H. 422, a bill proposing to provide removal of deadly weapons from the scene of an incident of domestic violence. Read our testimony here.
PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE INSURANCE BILL
VCW's Cary Brown spoke at the introduction of H.196, bill proposing to create a Family Leave Insurance Program within the Department of Labor that will provide employees with 12 weeks of paid family leave and that will be funded by contributions from employers and employees. Cary's comments included findings from VCW's feasibility study: “Women in Vermont are already lagging behind men in their earnings, part of the reason why this is true is because there’s a disproportionate expectation that women will be the ones who’ll take time off from work, take time out of the workforce in order to care for babies, children, aging parents, other family members. Just in general, women are taking on more of those responsibilities. Paid family and medical leave insurance is one way to help offset that disproportionality. This was why VCW sought and received a grant from US DOL to conduct a feasibility study. We came up with some interesting findings: new moms with access to paid family leave work more hours, and return to work…They are 39 % less likely to rely on public assistance. That would translate to up to $271,000 savings to Vermonters. Additionally, in Vermont we’d see a $277,000 savings in costs due to infants being born healthy…and if we had a program, between 2 and 3.4 million dollars Vermont families would save, due to reduced child care costs. We could see an estimated 1800 Vermonters elevated above the poverty threshold, who would otherwise be below.”
Watch an Orca Media video of the press conference here.
View VCW's feasibility study presentation, submitted to committee considering H.196, the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs, here. Read the full study report, also submitted the Committee, here.
In the U.S., 47 states have a sales tax, and most of those apply the tax to the sale of feminine hygiene products. Some states apply a luxury tax to these products. Taxation of feminine hygiene products has garnered international attention in recent years, and Connecticut, New York, Illinois, and Canada passed legislation to exclude feminine hygiene products from tax in 2016. In 2017, a number of states are considering bills that would do the same. In Vermont, a bill (H.43) has been introduced that would add feminine hygiene products to the list of items excluded from sales tax. Read VCW's fact sheet for more information.
VCW was asked to testify on H.63 and H.93, bills address raising the minimum wage. VCW's Executive Director Cary Brown provided information about how this legislation might impact women. Read her testimony here. A few data highlights from the testimony:
• In Vermont, women working full-time are 1.3 times as likely as men to earn less than $10.10 an hour
• Women in Vermont are over twice as likely as men to work in part-time jobs which are more likely to pay minimum wage.
• A higher minimum wage is linked to smaller pay gaps between men and women.
In our February 8th meeting, VCW voted to become a member of the Vermont Raise the Wage Coalition.
COMMISSION ON WOMEN CELEBRATES 100TH SIGNER TO VERMONT EQUAL PAY COMPACT
The Vermont Commission on Women’s Equal Pay Compact, a voluntary online pledge enabling Vermont-based employers to learn more about and to indicate a commitment to closing the gender wage gap, just celebrated an important milestone: the 100th employer to sign on.
“This project launched on Equal Pay Day 2015 to inform employers about practical steps they can take to eliminate the wage gap in their business and across Vermont.” says Cary Brown, Vermont Commission on Women’s Executive Director. “Legislation alone can’t fix this: employers are the key. We provide consultation and a list of strategies employers can draw on, anything from quick and easy fixes, like enlisting diverse evaluators in the hiring process, to more complex ones, like creating flex time, job sharing, and telecommuting programs. The idea is to inspire positive change in employer practices.”
Seth Leonard, the Mayor of the City of Winooski, explains why they signed on to the Equal Pay Compact. "A commitment to equal pay policies makes us more competitive, allowing us to recruit and retain qualified people to government work. This is a process that requires a long-term commitment to both creating and maintaining a just compensation system. We are pleased to join in the Compact and work toward our goal of recognizing and rewarding all of our employees."
Kelly Walsh, advisor and recruiter to the project, continues. “Vermont is chock full of socially responsible employers working hard to do all the right things for their employees, and this is a great way to spotlight and acknowledge those businesses. For employers who want to attract and retain female employees, being listed on the Vermont Equal Pay Compact’s site is a public expression of support.”
The Equal Pay Compact is one way in which the Vermont Commission on Women works as a partner in Change The Story Vermont, along with Vermont Works for Women and the Vermont Women’s Fund. Change The Story is an initiative to align policy, program, and philanthropy to significantly improve women’s economic status in our state. For more information and to sign up for the Compact, please visit women.vermont.gov.
LEGISLATIVE LUNCH 2017
Our 8th biennial legislative lunch took place at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017. This event is sponsored by donations to the Vermont Commission on Women Education and Research Foundation.
This year’s event featured an address by newly-elected Vermont Governor Phil Scott. Governor Scott thanked VCW, “…for the great work they’re doing to educate us on the status of women in our state and push for changes in how we think and act in our own daily lives.” He spoke about the need to close the gender wage gap, “I’m proud that here in Vermont gender inequality and the wage gap is not as extreme as it is throughout the rest of the country, but inequality, and any gap at all, is unacceptable. This is an issue of fairness that must be addressed by leaders at all levels in business and in government.” Governor Scott went on to focus on supports for our state’s working women, “Supporting women in the workforce is about more than equal pay. Policymakers and businesses in general should also identify other ways to make it easier for women to join the workforce: flexible work schedules, telecommuting, and more accessible affordable quality child care. And I understand this last point (child care) is a major barrier, sometimes affecting decisions about leadership roles and work schedules, while ultimately results in lower pay.”
VCW’s Chair, Marcia Merrill welcomed attendees, introducing the Commission to new policy makers and elected officials, and reminding those who were re-elected of our resources and focus. Marcia stated, “While women’s participation in the economy is strong, there are improvements yet-to-be made and barriers yet-to-be removed to facilitate full and equal access to economic security in our state. We are very much looking forward to collaborating with you in this effort.”
VCW Executive Director Cary Brown highlighted a “sneak preview” of data on Vermont women in leadership from research currently being conducted through Change The Story VT, a multi-year initiative by the Commission, the Vermont Women’s Fund, and Vermont Works for Women. The “sneak preview” heralds Vermont as a national leader in gender parity among state legislatures, with the highest percentage of women legislators, as well as women in many leadership positions. Read the sneak preview here. The document includes the unfortunate fact that just one woman currently holds statewide elective office, and that Vermont is one of only two states that have never sent a woman to serve in the U.S. Congress.
Commissioner and pediatric nurse, Danielle Martel, closed the event by leading an interactive dialog about the women’s issues policymakers hearing about from constituents. The subjects participants brought up included equal pay for comparable work, salary negotiation, cultural repression of girls, women running for boards and commissions, improving revenues in VT by decreasing the wage gap, the need for state agencies and departments to collect gender disaggregated data, adequate and reliable retirement income, aging demographics increasing the numbers of women as unpaid caregivers, and the gender wage gap.
Vermont Commission on Women, the League of Women Voters of Vermont, and Vermont Federation of Business and Professional Women hosted a Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Women's Issues Forum moderated by Anne Galloway of VTDigger.org. Candidates attending were: Bill Lee, Liberty Union Party; Sue Minter, Democratic Party; and Phil Scott, Republican Party. Forum held at the Vermont State House, Montpelier, VT on Thursday, September 22, 2016. Link to forum press coverage here. Watch the full event video above, from Vermont In Person. Link to the Forum's Facebook Event Page for more information. VIew the slideshow we developed for the event with candidate questions here.
LEARN ABOUT CHANGE THE STORY VERMONT - WATCH THIS:
VCW'S CARY BROWN ON COMCAST NEWSMAKERS SHOW
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Easy to use, easy to add events to, and super mobile-friendly, this new calendar feature is an extension of VCW’s efforts to facilitate collaboration between Vermont organizations doing work with women and girls, and to increase public awareness and participation of these activities.