Recent Happenings


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Learn about (and plan) conferences, meetings and workshops for women and girls by using our event calendar tool.
Button for new statewide event calendar
Easy to use, easy to add events to, and super mobile-friendly, this 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.



 Susan Ritz/Vermont Woman
Photo Credit: Susan Ritz

Read Susan Ritz's piece Changing the Economic Story for Vermont Women in the April/May edition of Vermont Woman.




Link here to homeschooled student Kali Adams’ Dorothy Thompson: Finding the Truth.  This website, created by Miss Adams, won the Deborah Pickman Clifford Vermont Women’s History prize at this year’s Vermont History Day.  The prize, awarded through VCW's Education and Research Foundation, goes to the best project related to Vermont women in history at this annual event sponsored by the Vermont Historical Society.  Miss Adam's thesis statement begins:  "Journalist Dorothy Thompson wasn't afraid to write words she believed in. She was called the "First Lady of American Journalism" and the second most influential woman in America..." Dorothy Thompson: Finding the Truth also placed first in the senior individual website category and qualified for the National History Day competition.




Throughout the U.S., 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. Median annual income for women working full-time year-round in Vermont is $37,000.  That's $7,000 less than the median annual salary earned by men. This translates to a 16% wage gap in Vermont.
VCW, BPW, League members observe as House passes Equal Pay Day resolution
VCW, BPW, League members observe as House passes Equal Pay Day resolution

Upon opening of the day’s legislative session, House concurrent resolution 338 designating April 12, 2016 as Equal Pay Day in Vermont was read.   Lead sponsors were Representatives Burke, Gonzalez and Morris, and Senator Bray, and the reading was observed by advocates for equal pay dressed in red, symbolizing women being “in the red” due to the gender wage gap. Read the resolution here.  

(L to R) Cary Brown, Governor Shumlin, Tiffany Bluemle, Desiree Cerretani, Meg Smith
(L to R) Cary Brown, Governor Shumlin, Tiffany Bluemle, Desiree Cerretani, Meg Smith

At 11:00 a.m. Governor Peter Shumlin signed the Equal Pay Day proclamation in his ceremonial office. Read the proclmation here. This event included the presentation of a new report examining occupational segregation, the uneven distribution of labor across and within employment sectors by gender, its impact on women’s wages, and the link to Vermont’s economic vitality.  This new report, “Where Vermont Women Work…and Why It Matters” was developed by Change The Story VT, an initiative of three statewide organizations with longstanding focus on women’s economic well-being: the Vermont Commission on Women, the Vermont Women’s Fund and Vermont Works for Women.  Equal Pay Day speakers at the proclamation event wereTiffany Bluemle of Change The Story VT, Cary Brown of the Vermont Commission on Women, Desiree Cerretani, a young mechanical engineer at UTC Aerospace Systems, and Meg Smith of the Vermont Women’s Fund.  

report from Change The Story on occupational segregation in Vermont

Read Senator Sanders' Equal Pay Day statement here.  Read Senator Leahy's Equal Pay Day Statement here.




Flyer for salary negotiation workshop

In late April, the Vermont Commission on Women in collaboration with Norwich University’s Career and Internship Center presented  American Association of University Women’s Start Smart salary negotiation workshop to students. The Start Smart Facilitator was Lindsey Lathrop-Ryan of Change The Story Vermont. Student participant seating is limited. Learn more about the Start Smart program here.  This program was made possible by a grant from the New England Women's Policy Initiative through the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studeies at University of Massachusetts, Boston.



This day-long conference on Friday, April 15th was hosted by Vermont Law School's Women's Law Group, Law Students for Reproductive Justice and the Vermont Commission on Women.  Sex, Race & Empowerment in the 21st Century offered an opportunity for participants to understand the impact of violence and the importance of providing legal and advocacy services to all survivors; and the importance of ensuring women's access to affordable and safe reproductive healthcare.  Presenters included Cary Brown of the VCW,  students and professors from VLS, staff from the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, The Pride Center of Vermont, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, and many others! 



Another standing room only women’s history month event, this time at the Green Mountain Club!  The pairing of Reidun Nuquist’s archival photos and stories brought to life the lives of women who hiked, built and now maintain the Long Trail.  Very special thanks Vermont Historical Society, our history month event collaborative partner for many years, and to Vermont Public Radio, for offering a corresponding themed commentary series for history month for many years - links to the history month commentaries:

Reidun Nuquist: Women of The Green Mt. Club for Women's History Month

Cara Clifford Nelson: Catherine Robbins Clifford for Women's History Month

Jeanie McIntyre: Sylvia Appleton for Women's History Month

Cyndy Bittinger: Caroline Crane Marsh for Women's History Month

Kathryn Stearns: Mary Lincoln Beckwith for Women's History Month

Photo: From September 1927. Taken by Will D. Chandler of St. Albans. 3 Musketeers Hikers: Catherine Robbins, Hilda M. Kurth, and Kathleen Norris. Courtesy: VHS.

Kathleen Norris, Catherine Robbins and Hilda M. Kurth, also known as “The Three Musketeers” were the first women to hike the Long Trail end-to-end in 1927.  They became a national sensation and the most famous of many who have completed the country’s oldest long-distance footpath.  "Women of the Long Trail" was FREE thanks to co-sponsors Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Denis, Ricker & Brown, and Vermont Mutual Insurance, and made extra special by a donation of ice cream from Ben and Jerry's.  Read more about this event:
…from Vermont Historical Society
…from Green Mountain Club
…from Vermont Commission on Women
…from Seven Days



VCW Commissioners, Advisors and Staff Observe Signing of Paid Sick Days Bill 8/9/16

VCW's Commissioners, Advisors and staff watched from the House galley as Governor Shumlin signs into law Paid Sick Days on Wednesday, March 9th 2016.  VCW  provided testimony (see below) and support as a member of Vermont's Paid Sick Days Coalition.



Since our inception in 1964, the Commission has been called upon to provide information to the legislative and executive branches of state government on issues affecting women.  VCW testified on these bills in the 2016 session: 

S.15/ H.187 - AN ACT RELATING TO ABSENCE FROM WORK FOR HEALTH CARE AND SAFETY (Paid Sick Days).  Link to testimony in Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs here, and 2015 session testimony in the House here and Senate here.

H.808 - AN ACT RELATING TO ACCOMMODATIONS FOR PREGNANT EMPLOYEES.  Link to VCW testimony in House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs here.


H.773 - AN ACT RELATING TO CLASSIFICATION OF EMPLOYEES AND INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS. House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development link to bill here.

FY2017 GOVERNOR'S PROPOSED STATE BUDGET.  Link to VCW testimony in House Appropriations Committee here.



This standing room only event took place Monday, March 7th and featured Dolly Fleming, Executive Director of Mercy Connections, moderating a panel of experts speaking on the unique challenges of homelessness to women in Vermont:

Jan Demers, Executive Director, Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity
Kirby Dunn, Executive Director, HomeShare Vermont
Rita Markley, Executive Director, Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS)
Karen Richards, Executive Director, Vermont Human Rights Commission
Jean Wolfe, Customer Service Associate, Dot's Market

Hosted by: Main Street Landing

Sponsored by: Vermont Commission on Women. In Partnership with: Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, Change The Story VT, Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS), Hunger Free Vermont, Main Street Alliance, Mercy Connections, Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, Vermont Legal Aid, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, the Vermont Women’s Fund, Vermont Works for Women, Vermont Human Rights Commission, and Voices for Vermont’s Children. 

Link here for more info. 




VCW staff enjoyed participating as a resource fair presenter at this exciting second annual event.  The Symposium was presented by the College's Women's Empowerment Initiative, which aims to cultivate confidence and courage by fostering the achievements of women. It strives to empower current and future leaders, and to provide learning, networking, and recognition opportunities for students, staff and faculty. Keynote speaker was Moni Basu, CNN Senior Reporter, preceded by an inspiring panel discussion and breakout sessions with Vermont women leaders, Rachael Arnold, Kate Wiliams, Rep. Diana Gonzalez, Christine Hallquist, and Linda Tarr-Whelan.  Learn more here.



Change the Story Vermont logo

Click here for the podcast of "Open Mike," WDEV AM/FM's public affairs program featuring VCW's Executive Director, Cary Brown and Change The Story VT Director Tiffany Bluemle explaining what this project means for Vermont women and girls!



Click to view Women, Work and Unequal Wages in Vermont with VCW's Cary Brown addressing salary negotiation and Change the Story's Women, Work and Wages report (below) on WCAX/Ch. 3’s The :30. February 9th.



cover of Change the Story Report

Change The Story VT (CTS), a multi-year initiative fueled by the Vermont Women’s Fund, the Vermont Commission on Women, and Vermont Works for Women, released the first of a series of briefs called Women, Work and Wages in Vermont in January.  Much of this data is not regularly collected or published. All of it is specific to Vermont, and all is critical - not just in what it reflects about women, but in its  implications for Vermont’s economic future.

“The objective of Change The Story is to move the needle of women’s economic  security - faster. This initial compilation of information focuses on demographic data and represents months of diving deep into state and national data, reports, and other ancillary resources to create an accurate snapshot of the state of women in Vermont when it comes to work and wages,” shared Tiffany Bluemle, Director of CTS.

Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women and Bluemle presented the brief’s findings to members of the Vermont State Legislature. Among the brief’s highlights:
- Women are significantly more likely than men to live in poverty or economic insecurity – in large part because of the disproportionate rates at which they have primary responsibility for the care of minor children.
- 43% of VT women who work full-time do not make enough to cover basic living expenses as defined by VT’s Joint Fiscal Office.

“This brief and the overall CTS initiative is a prime example of how organizations can come together to leverage their impact in the state, as well as build a data-driven case for this important work,” shared Brown.

Additional findings include:
- The poverty rate for families headed by single women is 37.5% - nine times the poverty rate of married couples.
- Women who work full-time are disproportionately employed in low-wage jobs - across every age group, at every level of education.
- VT women are especially vulnerable in their senior years, when their median annual income from Social Security ($10,000) is half that of men ($20,000).

Read the report at





Hannah Elle Myers


Hannah spent several years as Staff Attorney serving clients in the Northeast Kingdom for Have Justice – Will Travel (HJWT), an amazing Vermont non-profit providing holistic pro-bono representation to low-income victims of domestic and sexual violence.  Hannah provided direct free legal services to hundreds of Vermont women and families for matters such as obtaining Relief from Abuse Orders (RFA’s), divorce, child custody, and child support by providing both full representation as well as legal guidance and direction for pro-se clients, as part of HJWT’s Legal Empowerment Assistance Program.  Prior to her work at HJWT, Hannah performed a broad range of legal activities at the South Royalton Legal Clinic, working with supervising attorneys on divorce, consumer debt, bankruptcy, foreclosure and juvenile cases.  Hannah also worked with wonderful Vermont Law School Constitutional Law Professor Cheryl Hanna and Michelle Olvera of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to research the ability of minors in Vermont to obtain Relief From Abuse Orders when a parent is unable/unwilling to file on their behalf.  The research compared Vermont law with that of other states.  Best practices for responding to minors requesting RFA’s were drafted for judicial community use, as well as model statutory language to provide better access to protective orders for minors.  Hannah holds an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts from Greenfield Community College, a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in Political Science from the University of New Mexico, and a Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Vermont Law School.



Dad with baby picture

(From press release - issued 9/29) The Vermont Commission on Women will receive a $173,794 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau to study the feasibility of developing a statewide paid family and medical leave program. Such a program would ensure all Vermont workers have access to paid time off to care for themselves, a new child, or a seriously ill family member, the Department of Labor announced today.

These funds are to be used for planning purposes, including research and analysis, examining program design and eligibility guidelines. In addition to Vermont, the grants—totaling $1.55 million—were awarded to five other states: California, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Rhode Island and Washington; and to two municipalities: New York City and Montgomery County in Maryland.  Read the US DOL Women’s Bureau press release for more information.

“I congratulate the Vermont Commission on Women on receiving this well-deserved grant,” Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT., remarked.  “As more states move forward on paid family and medical leave, it is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. This grant will help ensure that Vermont, led by the Commission’s efforts, will formulate a strategy that meets the needs of our working families and businesses alike.”

“When you look at what other wealthy countries are doing, what you find is that the United States of America is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers some form of paid family leave, paid sick time or paid vacation time,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders. “This federal grant to the Vermont Commission on Women is a good first step to help develop a statewide, paid family and medical leave policy that would allow working families to have paid time off to care for a newborn child or a sick family member.”

“Most Vermonters agree that if you’re sick you shouldn’t be faced with the decision to either go to work and put others at risk or miss work, sacrifice your paycheck, and potentially lose your job,” Governor Peter Shumlin stated.  “That’s why this study is vital in allowing us to better recognize needs of families, as well as costs and burdens to businesses so that we may move forward in a balanced and thoughtful way to bring this important benefit to working Vermonters. I am so proud of the good work being done by the Vermont Commission on Women and congratulate them on their successful application for a Paid Leave Analysis grant by the Department of Labor.”

Responding to the grant announcement, Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women, said, “This money comes at an opportune time, as public conversation, political will and legislative momentum in support of paid leave have intensified in Vermont. People are recognizing the reality that in 2015, most families have both parents in the workforce, and supporting working families is not only the right thing to do, it supports business and the state economy.  We want to applaud the Department of Labor for prioritizing the needs of all workers, and for investing in Vermont. The Commission has been working for 51 years to expand opportunities for women in the workforce and we look forward to exploring solutions that suit the needs of both employers and workers.” 

"This is an exciting opportunity to explore how we can better support Vermont families.” remarked State Representative Jill Krowinski, Co-Chair of the Women's Caucus,  “I thank the Vermont Commission on Women for their leadership on this grant.  We know that access to paid family and medical leave can improve economic security for women.  On October 8th, the Commission and the Vermont Women's Legislative Caucus will be hosting a Women's Economic Security Summit at the State House and are thrilled to host Latifa Lyles, the Director of the Women’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Labor, as our guest speaker."

The Vermont Commission on Women’s grant work will consist of analysis of potential administrative structures, including both public and private insurance models.  Grant work will also examine costs of a program: both employee-funded and combination employer/employee funded models; implementation costs; usage, cost and coverage for both male and female workers; and a cost-benefit analysis.  The study also will collect and analyze data regarding current practices of employers and employees; public opinion; the practical impact on employers; the need for access by both men and women; and the impact on children and families. 



Button for new statewide event calendar

Learn about conferences, meetings and workshops for women and girls by using this new tool.  Easy to use, easy to add events to and 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.   


Presented by: The Vermont Commission on Women & the Vermont Women’s Legislative Caucus
Thursday October 8, 2015

Economic Summit Word Cloud

Latifa Lyles addresses Summit participants

Latifa Lyles, (pictured above) Director of the Women's Bureau at the U.S. Department of Labor was the keynote speaker for this event.  Ms. Lyles is responsible for shaping the federal agency’s research agenda, and has directed focus on women in high-growth occupations, as older workers, and in non-traditional jobs. She oversaw last year’s White House Summit on Working Families, and prior to current position, serving as Deputy Director, she managed the National Dialogue on Workplace Flexibility, a nationwide event series. She provided insight and data on issues around women and work.

DOL's Latifa Lyles and VCW's Cary Brown

Latifa Lyles,Director of the Women's Bureau at the U.S. Department of Labor and VCW's Executive Director, Cary Brown. (Photo Credit: Susan Ritz)

Morning panel discussions titled “Getting Women to Work” and “Keeping Women at Work” featured Vermont experts and policy leaders. Participants fostered understanding of specific issues and had rich and real conversations in afternoon small group sessions. Offerings include citizen advocacy trainings, as well as issues like women in corrections and women’s health. Review the agenda here. Check out the presenter organizations and breakout session descriptions here.


Getting Women to Work
The Summit's "Getting Women to Work" Panel – (L to R) Tiffany Bluemle - Director of Change the Story, Sue Ryan - Director of Programs at VT Child Care Industry and Careers Council, and Sheila Reed - former Associate Director, Voices for Vermont's Children. (Photo Credit: Susan Ritz)


Keeping Women at work panel

The Summit's "Keeping Women at Work" Panel – (L to R) moderated by Rep. Helen Head, with Sarah Phillips - Chief Administrator of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Beth Sachs - Founder of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, and Ashley Moore - Outreach Coordinator of Main Street Alliance of Vermont (Photo Credit: Susan Ritz)


 Imacts of Incarceration

The Summit's Afternoon Breakout Session, "Impacts of Incarceration" Featuring (L to R) Suzi Wizowaty - Executive Director of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, Jill Evans - Director of the Essex Community Justice Center,  Trine Bech - Executive Director of the Vermont Parent Representation Center, and Traci Sawyers - Early Childhood Health Expert and Grant Manager at Building Bright Futures.  (Photo Credit: Susan Ritz)

Read (and watch) news coverage of the Summit here.



St. A forum Sept 2015

Vermont Commission on Women and Main Street Alliance of Vermont hosted a series of free community forums across the state this fall focusing on long-term paid family and medical leave. These forums examined the possibility of developing and implementing a state-run Temporary Disability and Caregiver Insurance (TDCI) Program in our state as a funding mechanism for leave. Participants explored the need for a TDCI program; how similar programs have been implemented in other states; and what a successful TDCI program could look like for Vermont. The forums consisted of a brief presentation followed by a discussion with business owners and community members. The Vermont Community Foundation provided financial support to facilitate the coordination of these forums around the state. The Vermont Community Foundation’s Innovations and Collaborations grant program supports projects that help nonprofits collaborate across issues and sectors to develop common solutions to community needs. Events  took place in Brattleboro, Manchester, St. Albans, Burlington and Rutland.  In addition to the Vermont Commission on Women and Main Street Alliance Vermont, an Oversight Committee will review findings and provide guidance. Oversight Committee participants represent a variety of constituencies and expertise related to the topic, and include a UVM labor economist and specializing in the political economy of low-wage labor market, as well as representatives from: the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce & Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation; the Vermont Attorney General’s Office; Vermont Department of Health’s Division of Maternal and Child Health, AARP; Governor Shumlin's office; the Vermont Department of Labor; and Change the Story Vermont, a multi-year strategy to align philanthropy, policy, and programs to significantly advance women’s economic security in Vermont. Read the press release.  Find news coverage here.



Historical photo - Vermont Women Fight for Right to Vote

August 26, 2015, marks the 95th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - an important milestone in women's equality. The significance of this victory cannot be understated, as the movement for women's suffrage was a nonviolent and long-lasting civil rights effort. Despite harassment and sometimes violent attacks, the suffragists remained committed to nonviolence and to their right to vote.

Today, women have the right to vote, yet they still face many issues that stand between themselves and their right to good health and to care for their children. Policymakers, business owners and advocates gathered at a press conference in Burlington to mark this anniversary, and celebrate both progress for women in our state and milestones yet to be won. VCW Executive Director, Cary Brown (pictured below) opened the event and served as emcee, explaining the significance of Women’s Equality Day and providing context for how paid sick days plays a role in women’s economic security.
Cary Brown at podium
Link here for press coverage from the event, featuring speakers: Governor Shumlin, House Speaker Smith, Senator Baruth, host of the event, Eric Warnstedt, Chef Owner, Hen of the Wood, and Stephanie Hainley, Chief Operating Officer, White + Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors.



Learn more about the new VT Equal Pay Compact


This Equal Pay Day (April 12th) 2016 marks the first anniversary of the Vermont Equal Pay Compact.  Employers need to attract and retain women workers, but that's not the only reason to sign on!  Why did the City of Winooski sign on to the Vermont Equal Pay Compact?

Mayor Seth Leonard"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." -- City of Winooski Mayor, Seth Leonard




 Equal Pay case
Prof. Cheryl Hanna addresses media outside Burlington's federal building, re: landmark Equal Pay case

We’ve welcomed two Vermont Law School students as interns to assist with updating our handbook, “The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont,” during a summer internship program in the late Professor Cheryl Hanna’s memory.  As part of the internship, VLS students Maeve Callaghan ’16 and Arden Florian ’16 will write, research state and federal statutes, and work with experts in the field to update the handbook with recently passed laws. Hanna, who passed away in July 2014, worked with VLS students to update this publication in 2011. We’ve named the internship after her in tribute.  Read more here.  Take a look at the Legal Rights of Women in Vermont  handbook here.



CTS logo

Working in coalition with powerful partners Vermont Women’s Fund and Vermont Works for Women, we launched Change The Story Vermont, a multi-year strategy to align philanthropy, policy, and program to significantly improve women’s economic status in Vermont.  Check CTS out on the web and Facebook too.


Change the Story's Report: Women Work and Wages in Vermont

cover of Change the Story Report

Change The Story VT (CTS), a multi-year initiative fueled by the Vermont Women’s Fund, the Vermont Commission on Women, and Vermont Works for Women, has released the first of a series of briefs called “Women, Work and Wages in Vermont”. Much of this data is not regularly collected or published. All of it is specific to Vermont, and all is critical - not just in what it reflects about women, but in its implications for Vermont’s economic future.

“The objective of Change The Story is to move the needle of women’s economic security - faster. This initial compilation of information focuses on demographic data and represents months of diving deep into state and national data, reports, and other ancillary resources to create an accurate snapshot of the state of women in Vermont when it comes to work and wages,” shared Tiffany Bluemle, Director of CTS.

Today Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women and Bluemle presented the brief’s findings to members of the Vermont State Legislature. Among the brief’s highlights:
- Women are significantly more likely than men to live in poverty or economic insecurity – in large part because of the disproportionate rates at which they have primary responsibility for the care of minor children.
- 43% of VT women who work full-time do not make enough to cover basic living expenses as defined by VT’s Joint Fiscal Office.

“This brief and the overall CTS initiative is a prime example of how organizations can come together to leverage their impact in the state, as well as build a data-driven case for this important work,” shared Brown.

Additional findings include:
- The poverty rate for families headed by single women is 37.5% - nine times the poverty rate of married couples.
- Women who work full-time are disproportionately employed in low-wage jobs - across every age group, at every level of education.
- VT women are especially vulnerable in their senior years, when their median annual income from Social Security ($10,000) is half that of men ($20,000).

A copy of the report is available at


Watch Comcast Newsmakers Interview with VCW's Cary Brown




Button for new statewide event calendar
Learn about conferences, meetings and workshops for women and girls by using this tool.



Both VCW Executive Director Cary Brown and VCW Commissioner Melinda Moulton serve on the Governor’s Council on Pathways from Poverty. The Council is comprised of citizens who have received state benefits, as well as representatives from organizations who provide direct services or work to prevent and address poverty in Vermont.  Read the Council's report and recommendations to address poverty in Vermont for 2015 here.  Read the Council's 2014 recommendations here. Learn more about the Council and its work here.


PODCAST LINK: Taking the Lead: Women & Families in the Workplace in Vermont 
from WDEV Radio Vermont's The Vermont Conversation with host David Goodman, (10/28/15)

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 70 percent of women with children under age 18 are in the U.S. workforce, and working mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40 percent of households. Is Vermont a leader or laggard when it comes to providing opportunities for women and families in the workplace? We talk with people who have taken the lead in making workplaces women and family friendly. With:
Cary Brown, Executive Director, Vermont Commission on Women
Bram Kleppner, CEO, Danforth Pewter
Russ Elek, Communication and Membership Manager, VBSR
Sarah Lord, Seventh Generation
Sascha Mayer, CEO and Co-founder, Mamava,
Gwen Pokalo, Director of the Women’s Small Business Program at Mercy Connections


EQUAL PAY DAY 2015, Vermont Equal Pay Compact

Button Design
On Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 the Vermont Commission on Women and the Women’s Caucus of the Vermont Legislature hosted Equal Pay Day at the State House.

Food table poster for Equal Pay Day 2015
Our morning started with refreshments in the State House cafeteria sponsored by Vermont Federation of Business and Professional Women with the League of Women Voters of Vermont and contributions from several of our Commissioners.

VCW and members of our Advisory Council Organizations gathered in the card room with their displays, handing out equal pay buttons and informing policy makers of the work they do for Vermont women and girls.

The legislative session began with devotional speaker Linda Tarr-Whelan focusing remarks on women’s economic security and the gender wage gap. Read the devotional here. A resident of Burlington, she is former Distinguished Senior Fellow and Director of the Women’s Leadership Initiative at Demos, a national progressive think tank. She is the author of the prize-winning book Women Lead the Way: Your Guide to Stepping up to Leadership and Changing the World. She served as Ambassador to the UN Commission on the Status of Women in the Clinton Administration and as Deputy Assistant to President Jimmy Carter for Women’s Concerns in the White House.

Representative Mollie S. Burke was lead sponsor of H.C.R.121, the House concurrent resolution designating April 14th, 2015, as Equal Pay Day in Vermont. Representative Alison Clarkson, a fellow member of the Women’s Legislative Caucus recognized advocates present – a veritable sea of red, as wearing red on this day symbolized women being “in the red” due to the gender wage gap.

Senator Sanders sent this letter of support for Equal Pay Day in Vermont.

We then joined Governor Shumlin at a proclamation signing ceremony and press conference in his ceremonial office. Read the Governor’s Equal Pay Day proclamation here.
Link to learn more about the compact
As part of his weekly press conference, the Governor then introduced the Vermont Equal Pay Compact, a new initiative launched by the Vermont Commission on Women. The Compact is a voluntary pledge that Vermont employers will undertake to indicate their commitment to closing the gender wage gap in the workplace. By signing on (using a form on our website) employers agree to take tangible, concrete steps to both Understand The Wage Gap and Employ Successful Strategies To Close The Wage Gap. Read the Governor’s press release here.

Cary with Governor to leftCary Brown, VCW’s Executive Director addressed the media and advocates present, “Today we are launching the Vermont Equal Pay Compact, which gives employers a way to showcase the good work they are doing to advance women in the workplace, and also gives them tools to do even more. Employers who sign the Compact are committing to taking concrete tangible steps to help close the wage gap through measures such as broadening their recruiting practices to make sure they’re getting true talent pool in applicants, examining their promotion practices to make sure they’re giving everyone true opportunities or starting workplace development programs like mentoring or negotiation training. The measures that employers take are up to them, but we have a wealth of resources to help them whether they are looking for small or large steps to take.”

We were proud and excited to announce that the first Compact participant was VCW’s own employer: the State of Vermont’s Department of Human Resources! Employers who spoke passionately about equal pay and initiatives that could help women gain economic security and benefit businesses in Vermont included: Melinda Moulton of Main Street Landing on the Burlington Waterfront; Erika Schramm of Vermont Energy Investment Corporation; Randy George of the Red Hen Baking Company in Middlesex.

Melinda Moulton “Main Street Landing is a woman owned and woman run business. We have always believed and supported the fairness of equal pay for equal work for both women and men. But - we can do more. Using the Vermont Equal Pay compact as a tool, we plan to educate and speak out to other businesses about the importance of employing strategies to reduce the wage gap in their workplace.”
-Melinda Moulton, CEO of Main Street Landing

At the same time events were happening in the State House, VCW’s legislative, UVM students Emmi Hodess and Rebecca White, educated hundreds of students about the wage gap on campus. They distributed buttons, this equal pay handout with information and resources for students entering the workforce to learn more about salary negotiation and the gender wage gap, and engaged in a social media campaign. Using white boards, students filled in the blank about what they would do with the money over a lifetime lost because of the wage gap. They held up the board and posed for a picture. Emmi and Rebecca encouraged them to post to social media and encourage a conversation. They gathered over 50 pictures and gave away 200 buttons. Cheers and applause for these smart and dedicated advocates! Sharing some pictures from the campaign - our interns appear in both rows on the right:

UVM Equal Pay Day social media campaignUVM Equal Pay Day social media campaignUVM Equal Pay Day social media campaignUVM Equal Pay Day social media campaign

UVM Equal Pay Day social media campaignUVM Equal Pay Day social media campaignUVM Equal Pay Day social media campaign



VT Women in Law Enforcement and VT Commission on Women staff pictured
Vermont Women in Law Enforcement's Kaitlyn Armstrong (left) with Vermont Commission on Women's (VCW) Claire Greene

We welcomed new Advisory Council members Vermont Women in Law Enforcement and Evolve Rutland recently. Learn more here.



This document, recently finalized, was a product of last fall’s New England Women's Policy Conference in Boston, spearheaded by the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston. A “Call to Action” provides a unifying framework for policy change across the region in five key areas and catalyzes further action. Proposed by the conveners of the fall 2014 conference, including the Vermont Commission on Women, the Call to Action was revised and strengthened by facilitated feedback sessions with conference attendees. Read this document here. (PDF, 1839 KB)



Mar 11 event pix

Thank you to all who attended March 11th’s Women’s History Month event - a brownbag lunch panel titled: “Do We Still Need Women's History?” The packed crowd followed up the presentations with some great questions and stories. Moderated by Cary Brown, executive director of the Vermont Commission on Women, panelists included Dr. Felicia Kornbluh, Director of Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies at the University of Vermont (and a VCW Commissioner!), Dr. Marilyn Blackwell, independent historian, and Holly Allen, Assistant Professor of American Studies at Middlebury College. As always our thanks to wonderful staff and director of the Vermont Historical Society, our partners for these events every year. We also thank sponsors Clute Wealth Management, Key Bank, Northfield Savings Bank, and co-sponsor from the Cabot Creamery Cooperative.

Vermont Public Radio’s Women's History Month Commentary Series

In recognition of Women's History Month, Vermont Commission on Women is very fortunate to collaborate with Vermont Public Radio and the Vermont Historical Society’s Vermont Women’s History Project to present a week-long commentary series for many years.  This year the theme was the value of women’s history. The line-up of commentators featured many of the panelists (*) from our lunch time discussion on March 11th. Link to listen or read:
Still Teaching Women's History by Cyndy Bittinger

Researching Women's History by Dr. Marilyn Blackwell*

Beyond Women's History Dr. Felicia Kornbluh*

The First Woman by Cary Brown (VCW's executive director)

Women Shaping History by Kathryn Stearns

Paid Sick Leave by Governor Madeleine Kunin

Women's History as Context by Holly Allen* 

Very special thanks to VPR producer Betty Smith-Mastaler and to Cyndy Bittinger for making this series possible. Listen to past commentary series (back to 2007) by linking to VCW’s Leadership and Public Life page here.

2015 History Month Resolution

Read H.C.R.92, the House concurrent resolution designating March as Women’s History Month in Vermont.



Ruth Finn

VCW Commissioner Ruth Finn of Barre again took part judging at Vermont History Day on March 28th at U-32 High School in East Montpelier. Students in grades 5-12 and home study students ages 10-18 are eligible to present at this event. Students conduct primary source research and express what they have learned through creative and original dramatic performances, documentaries, research papers, websites, or three-dimensional exhibits. Students meet with judges and receive feedback about their projects. Ruth awarded the Deborah Pickman Clifford Vermont Women’s History Prize. This prize goes to an outstanding entry focused on a specific Vermont woman who made an important contribution to the state, or on the role women played during a particular time in Vermont’s history.  The Prize is in special recognition of the scholarship, dedication and enthusiasm of the late Deborah Pickman Clifford, prominent Vermont historian and author specializing in women's history.  Congratulations to the recipient of the Deborah Pickman Clifford Award, Lilianna Ziedins of Crossett Brook middle school.  The title of her documentary was  Politics Through the Eyes of a Legendary Woman: Madeleine Kunin.  Teacher Lori Morse worked with Miss. Ziedins.  Read more about Vermont History Day here.



Commissioner Gadsden Sams picture

Applause and cheers to VCW Commissioner Shambulia Gadsden Sams, who the week of March 9th served as a representative from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. at the 59th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. In addition to attending a wealth of different sessions, she assisted with planning the UN session, "Transforming the Girl Child into the Empowered Woman in the Post 2015 Era" focused on the uneven progress of gender equality as we mark the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Bejing. Read the recently-released global review report from Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.



Vermont Commission on Women joined representatives from the Health Department, child care centers, the restaurant industry, trade organizations, elder care and home health organizations, schools, primary care physicians, and the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce in a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) stakeholder group convened by the Department of Health. The stakeholder organizations are from sectors whose employees are currently affected by a lack of paid sick leave; who would be especially impacted by implementing such a policy; or who serve populations that would see special benefits or challenges from paid sick leave. The goal was to assess the possible effect of a statewide paid sick leave policy on the health of Vermonters and to recommend ways to mitigate any adverse health impacts of such legislation. In addition to this overarching goal, the HIA stakeholder group chose to focus on aspects of special interest to Vermonters, namely impact on small business employees and the effect on victims of domestic violence. Key findings of the HIA:
• Paid sick leave legislation in Vermont would significantly increase access to paid sick leave, particularly among low-wage, part-time workers and employees of small businesses.

• There is strong evidence to support that paid sick leave would decrease the spread of infectious disease in Vermont annually. There is some evidence that this effect would be especially visible in child care and food service settings.

• Paid sick leave would likely increase the ability of domestic violence victims to access health and social services and maintain employment.

• There are limited data to definitively link paid sick leave to preventable hospitalizations. However, decreasing preventable hospitalizations by 10% would decrease health expenditures by $6.8 million in Vermont annually.

Read Health Impact Assessment (HIA) Of Paid Sick Leave in Vermont here.



VCW Executive Director Cary Brown took part in a panel discussion titled "Serving Poor Vermonters: Strategies and the Challenges Ahead" for UVM Sociology students Wednesday, February 18th. This panel was designed to help students learn about existing strategies used to assist working and unemployed poor Vermonters.


Greater Burlington Women's Forum Brown Bag Lunch

This program on January 14th presented VCW’s Cary Brown and Mary M. Lee, Associate Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Development at Champlain College addressing obstacles women typically face when negotiating and how to improve negotiation skills. Learn more here.



Cary Brown VCW E.D. addresses lawmakers at 2015's legislative luncheon
VCW's Cary Brown addresses luncheon guests

Our 7th biennial event, sponsored by the commission’s Education and Research Foundation, took place on the 16th of January, welcoming policymakers back and reminding them of the work of the Commission. The group focused on progress that has been made since 1964, the year Governor Philip Hoff established the Commission. A report titled, “Women in Leadership and Public Life 2015” issued at the event featured a historical look at numbers of women lawmakers in Vermont. Read more here.



The Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor recently issued this fact sheet on Pay Secrecy featuring Vermont’s 2005 law, protecting the rights of all Vermont workers to disclose wages.  That law gave all Vermont workers the right to disclose their own wages and protects them from discharge, discipline or discrimination when doing so.  The law enables workers to discover if they are being paid equitably, and is a tool to close the gender wage gap in Vermont.



RHS discussion
VCW Commissioner/high school social studies teacher Jennie Gartner (in red, standing) kicks off discussions with civics students

VCW's November 2014 meeting took place at Rutland high school. Our business meeting was followed by Commissioner-facilitated discussions on youth topics of interest related to our public policy issue areas.  Subjects covered included driving age, voting, readiness for college, opportunities for leadership in school and community, sports, health and relationships.



VCW's Claire Greene moderated the panel discussion, "Is Harm Reduction Relevant to Pregnant Women and Parents in the Child Welfare System?" at the 2014 National Harm Reduction Conference in Baltimore.



unfinished agenda event logo
The recent New England Women’s Policy Conference, held in Boston November 7th was a power-packed day of learning, networking and celebrating state and regional action in four issue areas promoting women’s economic security: wages and income security; health and family leave policies; childcare; and elder care. 
VCW's ED joins other EDs from other states at Boston's Unfinished Agenda conference

VCW's Cary Brown (pictured on stage above) addressed the 400 event participants in two panel discussions: "Innovative Approaches and Best Practices: Learning from the States" and "A Call To Action Round Table."  In addition, Cary moderated the break out session, "New England State Paid Leave Policies: How to Organize Successful Campaigns and Coalitions."   Other featured speakers included the Mayor of Boston, Martin Walsh, economist, author and commentator Julianne Malveaux, and the Director of the Women’s Bureau at the US Department of Labor, Latifa Lyles. Conference co-conveners were women’s organizations in our region: Vermont Commission on Women, Connecticut’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, Maine’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, New Hampshire Women’s Foundation, Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, and hosts were:  John F. Kennedy Library and Museum and University of Massachusetts Boston @ Boston’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.  Honorary Co-Chairs of the conference were: the Honorable Susan Collins (R-Maine) and the Honorable Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut).  Read materials capturing highlights of the day here.


Office of Economic Opportunity's Webinar Series
Women and Poverty in Vermont: Intersections of Inequity and Lessons

This webinar, which took place October 30th 2014, was 10th in a series titled Shining a Light on Poverty.  Description:  In Vermont, as in the rest of the world, women are disproportionately impacted by poverty. They are more likely to live in poverty, more likely to raise children in poverty, and more likely to struggle in poverty in old age. Gender inequity and income disparity intersect along lines that include health, housing, domestic violence, education, and others. Vermont has multiple approaches to empowering women to move out of poverty. In this webinar, we will hear about the layered challenges faced by women in poverty as well as some of the concrete work being done to support them. Guest Speakers: Cary Brown, VCW's Executive Director; Auburn Watersong, Economic Justice Specialist at the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence; Rachel Jolly, Director of Women’s Programs at VT Works for Women; and Pam Greene, the Director of Justice and Mentoring Programs at Mercy Connections. Click here to watch the YouTube video.  Click here to see the presentation.  Click here to view the webinar.



Vermont college and university staff gathered on October 21, 2014 at Vermont Technical College in Randolph for a two-hour focus group addressing how Vermont college campuses can integrate, sustain, and institutionalize domestic and sexual violence prevention.  VCW staff participated in facilitating  some discussion groups.   This work was initiated in response to the recommendation of the Governor's Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force to "strengthen Vermont college campuses’ response to prevention of domestic and sexual violence" (more on the Task Force below). Read the focus group summary here.


EARLY CHILDHOOD AND THE FUTURE OF VERMONT, Washington County Community Conversation

This well attended event took place in the Pavilion Auditorium in Montpelier October 28th 2014 and featured a sneak peek of PBS’s new The Raising of America documentary and a panel discussion moderated by VCW's  Executive Director, Cary Brown. More info here.
Panelists included:
Dr. Beth Ann Maier, MD
Tina Grant, Program Director, The Children's Early Learning Space
Beth Rusnock, President, National Life Group Charitable Foundation
Sarah White, Parent

Multiple discussions just like this around the state were sponsored by Let's Grow Kids and these organizations and government agencies:
Building Bright Futures
Parent Child Center Network
Vermont Early Childhood Alliance
Vermont Children's Trust Foundation
Vermont Birth to Three
Vermont Department of Health
Vermont Department of Health, Maternal & Child Health Division
Vermont Department of Mental Health
Vermont Agency of Education
Vermont Commission on Women
Vermont Community Foundation + Project Success
Head Start Association of Vermont
Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility
American Academy of Pediatrics – VT
Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children
HungerFree VT
Fletcher Allen Health Care



St. Albans Mayor Elizabeth Gamache and panel
Panel moderator/St. Albans mayor Elizabeth Gamache (standing) addresses audience

Commissioner and St. Albans native Danielle Martel put together this community panel titled, “Successful Reentry for Women in Corrections.” This standing room only event took place October 8th 2014 at St. Albans City Hall and was sponsored by VCW in celebration of our 50th anniversary. The panel featured experts working with this population addressing employment, educational opportunities, risk reduction, anti-recidivism programs, and health care.  Participants learned from and shared thoughts with those providing support to local women building better lives and better relationships with family and the community as a whole.
Watch the video here - special thanks to thanks to Northwest Access TV.  Introduction by VCW executive director Cary Brown (video caption is incorrect)

The panel moderator was St. Albans Mayor, Elizabeth Gamache. Panelists included:
Cathy Ainsworth, Vermont Women’s Mentoring Program, Mercy Connections
Scott Bork, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Patient Care Services, Northwestern Medical Center
Tiffany Bluemle, Executive Director, Vermont Works for Women
Sherry Caforia, District Manager, Department of Corrections
Julian Desnoyer, Northwestern Counseling and Support Services
Danielle Lindley, Parent Child Center Program Director, Family Center of Northwestern Vermont
Kris Lukens, Director, Voices Against Violence/Laurie's House
Candace Lewis, Coordinator of Academic Services, Community College of Vermont, St. Albans
Sheila Perrotte, St. Albans Branch Manager, Westaff



Poster to advertise corrections summit

VCW assisted with coordination and co-sponsorship of this event which took place September 30th 2014 at Vermont Law School.  Almost 200 participants discussed the history of incarcerated women in Vermont, the issues still facing women in corrections today, and ideas for next step policy recommendations. 
Panel speaks about women in corrections @ IWI conference
Kim Bushey, VCW's Cary Brown and Julie Brisson speak about Vermont's incarcerated women

Experts in this field in Vermont provided background and context for the discussion, formerly incarcerated women shared their experience, and American University’s Brenda Smith provided national and international perspective and direction on this issue. Event agenda here.



VCW joined with Community College of Vermont in June for a "Taking Your Place at the Table" leadership roundtable discussion about women in higher education.  Taking Your Place is one of our signature events, exploring how and why individual women embraced leadership positions.



On June 23 2014, President Obama convened a  White House Summit on Working Families, focused on strengthening the nation's workplaces to better support working families, to boost businesses' bottom lines, and to ensure our global economic competitiveness in the coming decades.   VCW's Cary Brown was part of the Vermont delegation to that event.

Vermont's lead up event to this Summit was held on Thursday, June 12th at Main Street Landing and featured a keynote address from Governor Madeleine Kunin. Watch the Vermont Summit on Working Families (recorded by Channel 17/Town Meeting TV) or read more about the Vermont Summit on Working Families here.  

Commissioners Felicia Kornbluh (standing in back), Melinda Moulton and Marcia Merrill discuss policies supporting working Vermonters at the Summit
VCW Commissioners Felicia Kornbluh (standing), Melinda Moulton and Marcia Merrill (seated) discuss public policy benefiting working Vermont families at the Vermont Summit

Materials from the Vermont Summit
Materials from the Summit


Hunger, Housing and Financial Security for Women

Women, Poverty and Justice symposium logo

On April 14th VCW joined with other sponsors to present Women, Poverty and Justice, a symposium and panel discussion aimed at legislators, policymakers and advocates to address hunger and housing and to promote financial security for women. More info “Women, Poverty & Justice” an event to focus attention on poverty and its disproportionate impacts on women here and view the Fox 44 news clip here.



VCW's 50th anniversary logo

View our event program thanking those who have worked to improve the lives of Vermont women and girls as part of the Commission

Read House of Representatives resolution H.C.R. 293 commemorating our 50th anniversary

Read our editorial about the wage gap and our work

Listen to Vermont Public Radio commentary

Watch the Video (ORCA Media, 34 minutes) Montpelier’s ORCA Media captured the celebration. Featured speakers: VCW Commissioner Marion Milne, VCW Chair Marcia Merrill, Ally Richards of Governor Shumlin’s Office, Governor Madeline Kunin, Diane Derby of Sen. Leahy’s office, VCW Commissioner and Sen. Sanders’ Office, Tricia Coats for Congressman Welch, and Cary Brown, VCW Executive Director.

View Senator Leahy's Congressional Record statement honoring the work of VCW

Governor Kunin
Governor Kunin, event keynote speaker and former (and original) VCW Commissioner


Diane Derby reads a statement from Sen. Leahy's congressional record.
Diane Derby reads from Sen. Leahy's congressional record statement honoring VCW's anniversary


Commissioners Danielle Martel (holding Sen. Leahy's Congressional Record statement honoring VCW ) and Gretchen Baily
Commissioners Danielle Martel (holding Sen. Leahy's Congressional Record statement) and Gretchen Bailey


Center Sen. Leahy's Congressional Record statement, Right Sen. Sanders' statement, left Congressman Welch's statement
(Center) Senator Leahy's Congressional Record statement, (right) Senator Sanders' statement, (left) Congressman Welch's statement


Patricia Coates from Congressman Welch's office
Patricia Coates reads Congressman Welch's statement of support and celebration
View Congressman Welch's letter


VCW Commissioner Gretchen Bailey
VCW Commissioner Gretchen Bailey reads Senator Sanders' letter celebrating VCW's 50th
View Senator Sanders' letter


 VCW E.D. Cary Brown and Gov. Kunin with anniversary cake
VCW Executive Director Cary Brown and Gov. Kunin with anniversary cake


Commissioner Marion Milne
Commissioner Marion Milne opened the event with a speech addressing her experience

Excerpt from Marion's speech: "...My time on the Commission, through three governors, has been an enriching and enlightening experience. I have felt the strength of sisterhood, and I have discovered over and over that what we dream can come true, as long as we can stay focused. Change is hard. Tradition is often an excuse for not changing. Yet we must be patient and we must be smart. And we will prevail..."


Participants in the event
Event guests with programs


Former Commissioners Allan Mackey served in 1970's and Governor Kunin served in 1960's
Former Commissioners Allan Mackey (served in 1970's) holding his appointment letter, signed by Governor Kunin, who served on the Commission in 1960's


50th anniversary cake
Celebratory cake


Rep. Cole and VCW Chair Marcia Merrill
Rep. Joanna Cole (former Advisor to Commission) with VCW Chair Marcia Merrill, moderator of the event


Young women leaders
VCW staffer Claire Greene (center), Commissioner Ariel Wengroff (right) and friends gather to enjoy the cake


Wendy Morgan and Gretchen Bailey
Former Commissioner Wendy Morgan, Chief of Public Protection at VT Attorney General's office and current Commissioner Gretchen Bailey


Commissioner Frey, former Commissioner Sandy Dooley and Commissioner Marion Milne
Mother-daughter Commissioners Cathy Frey (left) and Marion Milne (right) with former Commissioner Sandy Dooley - the record holder for longest serving Commissioner at 19 years (center)


Event attendees numbered over 320
Event attendees numbered over 320


Judith Laura and Barbara
Former VCW Executive Director Judith Sutphen, Laura Lind-Blum VCW Advisor and Director of the Vermont Women's Business Center and former VCW Commissioner Barbara Morrow, Director of the Community Justice Center in Newport


State House card room display featured a presentation of VCW's history in photos


Rickey Gard Diamond, editor of Vermont Woman newspaper with Commissioner Charlotte Dennett
Rickey Gard Diamond, editor of Vermont Woman newspaper with Commissioner Charlotte Dennett


Barbara Rachelson of Lund and Tiffany Blumle Advisor from Vermont Works for Women
Rep. Barbara Rachelson, Executive Director of Lund and Tiffany Blumele VCW Advisor and Executive Director of Vermont Works for Women


VCW staff and Commissioner Lavarnway
VCW staff with Commissioner Nancy LaVarnway


Aly Richards, Gov. Shumlin's director of special projects and intergovernmental affairs
 Aly Richards, Gov. Shumlin's Director of Special Projects and Intergovernmental Affairs spoke of the Governor's support for the Commission


Cary Brown, VCW's Executive Director and former staffer Susan Sussman
Cary Brown, VCW's Executive Director and former VCW staffer Susan Sussman of Sen. Leahy's office


Secretary of Sate Jim Condos ad Sheila Reed of Voices for Vermont's Children
Secretary of State Jim Condos ad Sheila Reed of Voices for Vermont's Children


Carol and Lyn
Commissioner Carol Buchdahl and author/scholar of women's history Dr. Lyn Blackwell


VLS professor of constitutional law, Cheryl Hanna, daughter Samira Henninge and Dawn Ellis
Vermont Law School professor of constitutional law, Cheryl Hanna, daughter Samira Henninge and Dawn Ellis


Cary Brown addresses the Unfinished Agenda
Cary Brown, VCW's Executive Director presents her address: The Unfinished Agenda



New Law: An Act Relating to Equal Pay

Picture of VCW's Cary Brown, J. Franco, Gov. Shumlin, Gov. Kunin at equal pay signing

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 law 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 work arrangements; and establishment of a study committee looking at the mechanics of a paid family leave law in Vermont. Cary Brown, VCW's Executive Director and member of the diverse coalition of groups that worked together on this legislation 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.” 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. Read VCW's press release (PDF file, 55 KB). Read the fact sheet about Act 31, An Act Relating to Equal Pay (PDF file, 139 KB) Listen to VCW's Executive Director, Cary Brown speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition Act 31 and flexible working arrangements.


Workplace Laws Employees and Employers Need To Know

Important Workplace Laws Vermont Workers Should Know (PDF, 167 KB)

Important Workplace Laws Vermont Employers Should Know (PDF, 196 KB)

These flyers are part of a public information campaign to educate both employers and workers in Vermont about their rights and responsibilities under the equal pay law which came into effect in January 2014. Workers in Vermont now have the right to request flexible working arrangements without fear of retaliation. Those intermediate or long-term changes might include working from home, changes in the number of days or hours worked, changes in work arrival or departure times or job-sharing. Employers must discuss and consider such requests at least twice per calendar year.

The flyers include other employment related information, including current equal pay laws, how to handle suspected pay discrimination, wage disclosure laws, pregnant worker’s rights, lactation accommodations, anti-retaliation protection, and information concerning family and medical leave. Additionally, the flyer targeted to employers features an equal pay audit - a checklist to help employers review fair pay policy and procedures, and also case studies illustrating how Vermont businesses implement flexible working arrangements. The flyer targeted to workers includes a section on what to do if you suspect pay discrimination. Each flyer includes additional resources to learn more or get help.


Greater Burlington Women's Forum Networking Lunch: Flexible Working Arrangements

On January 20th 2014 Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women joined with Cheryl Hanna, Professor of Law at Vermont Law School; and Lindsay Deslauriers, Public Policy Associate at Voices for Vermont's Children for a panel discussion about changes to workplace policy which took effect that same month and what it meant for families and workplace flexibility.


VCW In the News - On Equal Pay
 VCW Executive Director Cary Brown at State House press conference with Governor

In NY Times: The Unspoken Stigma of Workplace Flexibility

On Vermont Public Radio: New Law Addresses Equal Pay For Women

In Times Argus: Vermont takes lead in closing wage gap

On CBS: Cary Brown on WCAX’s The :30

On Senator Bill Dolye's On Vermont Issues via Orca Media

On The Mark Johnson Show

In Vermont Woman

In Vermont Digger

In the Burlington Free Press

In the Rutland Herald


Equal Pay Act Court Case Decision

Cary Brown Addresses Media at Federal building post hearing
VCW's Cary Brown speaks with reporters outside Burlington court house

March 19th 2013 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. Vermont Law School students lead by professor Cheryl Hanna crafted this amicus brief (PDF file, 316 KB) which 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.  Read the press release (PDF file, 32 KB).  Read the Court's Decision (PDF file, 87 KB)


Equal Pay Day 2014

Governor Shumlin signs Equal Pay Day proclamation
Governor Shumin signs proclamation declaring April 8th 2014 as Equal Pay Day

Vermont Business and Professional Women join with the Vermont Commission on Women (pictured with Governor above) to call attention to the wage gap in Vermont every year on Equal Pay Day. We wear red to symbolize women being "in the red" due to the gender wage gap.  Read the Governor’s Equal Pay Day proclamation here.

Cary Brown, VCW Executive Director speaks about the wage gap in Vermont with Governor Shumlin and BPW members
Cary Brown, VCW Executive Director speaks about the wage gap in Vermont with Governor Shumlin and BPW members

Editorial: -15%: Wage Gap in Vermont on Equal Pay Day, 2014
by Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women

The American Association of University Women recently released their 2014 report detailing the wage gap between men and women in the country. The good news is that Vermont’s wage gap is tied for second lowest – Vermont women make 85% of the money that Vermont men make, second only to Washington D.C., where women make 90% of what men make.

The bad news is that the last time this report came out, women in Vermont were making 87% of what men made. The wage gap is growing.

On Tuesday, April 8, 2014, Governor Shumlin will sign a proclamation recognizing Equal Pay Day. This is the symbolic day in 2014 when women’s earnings finally catch up to men’s from 2013. Nationally, women make just 77 cents for every dollar that men make, so we can feel proud that in Vermont we’re doing a bit better than in most of the country.

But why do we still have a wage gap at all? Why does it persist, and even grow, in spite of the fact that we’ve had a federal law on the books outlawing pay discrimination for over fifty years?

Some will still insist that it’s women’s choices that lead to a wage gap. Women choose to go into occupations that pay less (number one job for women in the 1950s? Secretary. Number one job for women in the 2010s? Secretary!). Women also choose to take time off from working in order to tend to family responsibilities, so they get left behind in the hours they work and in the raises and promotions they qualify for.

But why is it that the jobs that are dominated by men pay more than the jobs that are dominated by women? And why is it that women are bearing a greater burden of family responsibility than men are? Even when men do take time away from work to care for their families, they are much less likely to say that it hurt their career than women are.

But consider the fact that a number of studies have found that even when discounting the impact of these choices, there is still a persistent wage gap. Among recent college graduates, in their first jobs, when we adjust for factors such as occupation choice, hours worked, and GPA, women are still earning just 93% of what men do.

Clearly, there is more going on than women’s individual choices.

Last year, in the first case brought to court under Vermont’s equal pay law, a woman sued because she was replaced with a man who was paid much more in his starting pay than she was after many years of experience. Even after accounting for any legitimate disparities, Judge William Sessions rejected the employer’s argument that the higher pay was justified, writing, “Any gap in the pay of men and women, whether forty or ten percent, is an implicit statement to our children that we value the work of our daughters less than that of our sons.”

Fifty years ago, Governor Philip Hoff created the Vermont Commission on Women, in recognition of the need to advance rights and opportunities for women in Vermont. Women earned just 59 cents for a man’s dollar back in 1964, so we know we’re going in the right direction. I look forward to the day – hopefully not in another fifty years – when we’ll celebrate Equal Pay Day on December 31

Equal Pay Day 2013

 16% off everything!
Legislators received Equal Pay Buttons attached to this 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."

VCW and Business and Professional Women joined legislators and a huge group of Girls on the Run girls at the signing of the 2013 Equal Pay Day proclamation. What can you do about the wage gap? Read our 2013 Equal Pay Brochure (PDF file, 65 KB)



The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont

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. This handbook, written in plain language 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 of our latest update (January ‘12) include information on human trafficking, same sex marriage, and immigration, as well as links to our online resource directory and to federal and state statute websites. The result is a reader-friendly document with easy-access reference links. Listen to our 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!


Earned Paid Sick Days

Paid Sick Days panelists

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 at UVM on April 22nd. 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, Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program, Associate Professor of History and also a 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. The Commission is grateful to our host for this event, the UVM Women's and Gender Studies Program. Learn more. (PDF file, 43 KB)



Enough Said

Enough Said logo balloon

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. VCW is a member of VWW’s Taskforce on Young Women and the Economy and looks forward to making positive change for Vermont’s girls.


Cultivating the Next Wave of Vermont Women Leaders

Cary Brown, VCW's executive director addressed Lead In girls and Girls State participants at the State House in 2014.  More here on Lead In event and Girls State here.


Bennington County Listening Forum for Youth

Audience members at Bennington listening forum

VCW presented a listening forum focused on issues affecting teen girls in Bennington County in partnership with Bennington County Maternal Child Health Coalition in late 2012. 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)


Vermont Girls Collaborative Forums

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.

Watch the Video: Retooling Youth Programs for Racial Equity

Watch the Video: Class Shouldn’t Determine a Youth’s Future – Thoughts on Leveling the Playing Field

Watch the Video: Gender Identity, Harassment and Creating Positive Communities for Youth

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.


WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH an annual worldwide celebration highlighting the contributions of women in history and society

Vermont Public Radio Women's History Month Commentary Series

In recognition of Women's History Month, Vermont Commission on Women is very fortunate to collaborate with Vermont Public Radio to present a series of stories about Vermont women.

For 2014, talented commentators spoke about women who achieved significant success in the arts. Very special thanks to Betty Smith-Mastaler and to Cyndy Bittinger for their support and partnership in making this possible.

Listen to the introduction Vermont Women In The Arts by Betty Smith-Mastaler

Listen to Everyday Heroes by commentator Anne Averyt

Listen to Ruth Mould, portrait artist by commentator/VCW Executive Director Cary Brown

Listen to Rachael Robinson Elmer by commentator Jane Williamson

Listen to Sibling Bonds by commentator Jill Mudgett

Listen to Dewees Cochran by commentator By Nancy Osgood

Listen to Counting Bow Ties by Linda Radtke

Listen to Clara Sipprell by Cyndy Bittinger

Listen to Martha And Hilda Belcher by Mickey Myers

VT Women 2013

VT Women 2012

VT Women 2011

VT Women 2010

VT Women 2009

VT Women 2008

VT Women 2007


Arts flyer

2014: THE ARTS
The event’s goal was to share the accomplishments and perspectives of talented and creative women working in Vermont in a variety of visual media, and to reflect on how their experiences have changed as the role of women has changed in the last half century, particularly in Vermont.

Women in the Arts panel
Artists panel: (left to right) Alisa Dworsky, Katharine Montstream, Carol MacDonald; moderator Mara Williams; Amanda Gustin of the Vermont Historical Society at podium

Mickey Myers of the Bryan Memorial Gallery in Jeffersonville provided an introduction
Mara Williams of the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center moderated the panel
Panelists included:
Alisa Dworsky, installation artist
Carol MacDonald, printmaker
Katharine Montstream, painter

Special thanks to Vermont College of Fine Arts and co-sponsor, Clute Wealth Management.


Journalism event card


Vermont Women in Journalism took place March 26th, 2013 at the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier. 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? ORCA Media, Montpelier area’s community access television station filmed the event .


Women Of Change flyer

2012: LAW

2012's event focused on women in the field of law and featured 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.


Women Vets from WWII, Vietnam and Afghanistan spoke about thier experience


2011's event Honored and Acknowledged the Military Service of Vermont Women from World War II to Present and shared the stories of Vermont women veterans from WWII to Afghanistan. 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.


Women in Public Life

We release our Women in Leadership and Public Life report at our biennial legislative luncheon event (sponsored by the commission’s Education and Research Foundation) which took place on January 16, 2015.  The report features a historical look at numbers of women lawmakers in Vermont. Vermont is currently number 2 in the nation for the highest percentage of women serving in both chambers of the legislature. We were very narrowly beaten out again by Colorado, with 42%.  Vermont has 41.1%, 9 Senators and 65 Representatives,” said Cary Brown, the commission’s executive director.  “In the mid-sixties when our commission started, that total number was more like 12%. It matters, because democratically elected legislative bodies should reflect populations they represent.  Additionally, when our girls and women see other women in office, they become more engaged politically.”  The report examines numbers of women in other sectors: business, law, the military, medicine and higher education and looks at the numbers of women serving on Vermont boards or commissions, where many Vermonters first learn about running and participating in public meetings and which is often a stepping stone to elected office.  Currently, 32% of Vermont’s 178 boards are gender balanced.  Male dominated boards are more likely to offer members per diem reimbursements.  Read more here.


Working Moms

We've recently updated Vermont Workplaces Support Nursing Moms (PDF file, 1.17 MB), information for women returning to the workforce after having a baby and for 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!


Incarcerated Women

 Read the white paper, Reclaiming Lost Ground for Vermont's Incarcerated Women. VCW took part in this collaborative effort to improve conditions for women inmates at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility.


Human Trafficking

The Vermont Commission on Women is part of the state's Human Trafficking Taskforce which has worked on several meaningful projects over the last few years, including in 2011, legislation (Title 13, Chapter 60: Human Trafficking), and most recently a Crisis Response Protocol. The document, the Vermont Human Trafficking Crisis Response Protocol, provides instructions and information for anyone in Vermont that may have contact with potential victims of sex or labor trafficking. This would be Vermonters working in law enforcement, medicine, social services, education and clergy, but also neighbors, friends and concerned citizens. Find the Vermont Human Trafficking Crisis Response Protocol here.


Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence

Table of Contents from Violence Prevention Report

The first of its kind in the nation, the Governor's Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force was created in 2011 to evaluate Vermont’s domestic and sexual violence prevention resources and programs, identify gaps in services, identify ways to increase coordination of prevention efforts around the state, and make recommendations to enhance and improve prevention efforts in Vermont.

Task Force membership included appointees from business, law enforcement, corrections, health, the LGBTQ community, Vermont Commission on Women, the disability community, and experts in the field of child abuse and neglect and domestic and sexual violence. The group was chaired by Bethany Pombar, Prevention Specialist at the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, the umbrella organization for Vermont’s domestic violence and rape crisis shelters and centers. The Task Force was diverse in expertise and perspective but all members had in common real world contact with violence survivors and a commitment to exploring what might help reduce violence in Vermont.

Workgroups of the taskforce examined data collection, college campus prevention efforts, workplace approaches, men’s attitudes, military practices, effective social change campaigns and prevention practices currently in place. The report features 7 recommendations:

1. Support the creation and implementation of a comprehensive statewide plan to prevent domestic and sexual violence

2. Support and help develop a statewide, multipronged prevention campaign

3. Build capacity for bystander engagement strategies for all ages

4. Increase the engagement of men in domestic and sexual violence prevention

5. Strengthen Vermont college campuses’ response to prevention of domestic and sexual violence

6. Enhance data collection and accessibility

7. Establish a Violence Prevention Program Coordinator at the State level

View the Governor’s press release about the report.  View the report. (PDF 3.17 MB) Note – the table of contents on page 2 allows viewers to link with a click to specific sections.  Watch news story about the report on ABC 22/FOX 44 News


Domestic Violence as a Public Health and Safety Issue in the Workplace

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 worked 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.

Domestic Violence: A Workplace Issue Brochure, (PDF file, 77 KB)

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
(Study, PDF file, 1.2 MB) Schmidt, M.C. & Barnett, A. M.C. & Barnett, A. (2011). Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Center for Rural Studies

Executive Summary of Study
(PDF file, 58 KB) Schmidt, M.C. & Barnett, A. M.C. & Barnett, A. (2011). Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Center for Rural Studies

Model Workplace Policy (PDF file, 41 KB)


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