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 brought up by participants 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.