June 1, 2021

This commentary is by Wendy Knight, a member of the Vermont Commission on Women, a board member of the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance, deputy  commissioner of Liquor and Lottery, and former commissioner of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. 

In November 2020, I was appointed by Gov. Scott to serve a four-year term on the Vermont Commission on Women, an independent, nonpartisan state commission focused on the advancement of Vermont women and girls. 

It was during the second wave of the global pandemic, and I was keenly aware of my privilege: a white woman working remotely from a rural home with immediate access to outdoor recreation.

I was also fortunate in being employed full-time, a necessity the pandemic eliminated for many Vermont women, seemingly overnight. During the third quarter of 2020, 57% of the 37,000+ job losses in Vermont were held by women. Industries like accommodation and food services — where jobs are largely held by women — was among the hardest hit.

As a former tourism and marketing commissioner for Vermont, I understood the crippling effect of the pandemic on the sector. I saw it close up as a consultant with On the Fly, a women-led collective providing marketing and business support to Vermont’s hospitality and food services businesses negatively impacted by Covid-19.

My first client was a single mom juggling to keep her restaurant afloat while navigating the care and remote education of two small children. An independent business owner, she was initially reticent to receive our free assistance. Yet, when we virtually unveiled a new streamlined website and takeout strategy, her eyes welled with tears of gratitude. Our business support facilitated what she wanted most: the ability to earn an income to support her family.

What threatens the economic security for too many women isn’t a once-in-a-century pandemic but the persistent gender wage gap. According to the National Women’s Law Center, women working full-time, year-round are paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to men under the same work structure. For women who are also Black or disabled, the wage disparity is even wider. Though the discrepancy between women’s and men’s median earnings in Vermont is slightly less than national (16% vs. 18%), the gender gap exists across the state in all education levels and ages.

Fortunately, Vermont businesses have a new resource to help them close the wage gap within their workforce. Change the Story VT — the partnership initiative of the Vermont Commission on Women, the Vermont Women’s Fund, and Vermont Works for Women — partnered with Sadowski Consulting Services and Vermont employers to develop a road map for small to medium-sized employers to address gender and racial pay equity reviews.

The Leaders for Equity and Equal Pay toolkit will be unveiled at a  lunch hour event on Tuesday, June 8. Event participants will learn from state and nationally renowned experts and from Vermont employers, including Chroma Technology and SunCommon, that have worked through this process.

The pandemic exposed fissures and persistent challenges within our society: institutional racism, lack of child care, occupational segregation, and a troubling mindset of “otherness” that presented Vermont as less than a welcoming place to relocate. We saw that women and BIPOC individuals were disproportionally impacted.

However, the pandemic illuminated some bright spots: efficiencies and productivity of remote work, a better work-life balance for families, more people relocating to Vermont, the country’s best public health leadership, and the willingness of Vermonters to do the right thing.

While we emerge from the pandemic as the country’s best example of Covid leadership and management, we also have the opportunity to lead by example in gender parity and pay equity. Now is the moment to reimagine how we want to live and work and to be intentional about inclusivity and equity as we rebuild our economy.
Find more information and register for this free event June 8 at

May 13, 2021

Join Change The Story VT, our partnership initiative with Vermont Works for Women, and the Vermont Women's Fund for the launch of the innovative new Leaders for Equity and Equal Pay (LEEP) Toolkit Tuesday, June 8th, noon to 1:00 PM.

The LEEP Toolkit is an easy-to-use, free-to-you resource crafted by experts in the field, to ensure gender and racial pay equity at your organization.

Over the past year, the Change The Story VT initiative partnered with Sadowski Consulting Services and seven Vermont employers to develop the LEEP Toolkit. The LEEP Toolkit includes:

  • The Equity Management Tool (EMT), an Excel-based resource for small and mid-size employers (< 400 employees) to run their own in-house, ongoing gender and racial equal pay reviews.

  • A companion 60-page resource written by compensation expert Frank Sadowski. “The Pay Equity Playbook: Tools for Small and Mid-Size Organizations” highlights context and issues behind pay inequity, shares case studies, guides readers through the use of the EMT, and offers how-tos for change.

Once launched, the LEEP Toolkit will be housed on all Change The Story partner websites and will be free of charge to encourage Vermont employers to conduct their own gender and racial pay equity audits and lead the way to #EqualPay.

Register for this event today!


More about this event:

At our lunch hour launch event, you’ll be introduced to the innovative new Equity Management Tool and companion Playbook, learn from state and national pay equity experts, and be inspired by Vermont employers who have implemented workplace pay equity practices.

You'll hear from Vermont employers, compensation experts and LEEP Toolkit developers in a roundtable discussion featuring:

  • Mara Neufeld Rivera,Society for Human Resource Management - Senior Certified Professional, Vice President/Head of People & Culture at Chroma Technology Corporation
  • Lisa Yaeger, Chief Equity, People & Culture Officer at Vermont Foodbank
  • Duane Peterson, Co-President and Founder of SunCommon
  • Krysta Sadowski, Equity & Talent Strategy Consultant
  • Frank Sadowski, Sadowski Consulting Services

The discussion is moderated by Kerin Durfee, Commissioner with Vermont Commission on Women and the new Director of Burlington’s Human Resources Department.

You'll take away a deeper knowledge of gender and racial pay equity from special guest Evelyn Murphy, Ph.D. economist, founder and president of the nationwide, grassroots activist organization The WAGE Project, Inc., and author of Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men and What To Do About It. Dr. Murphy was the first woman to hold constitutional office in Massachusetts when she was elected Lt. Governor in the mid-80s, having served previously as the state’s Secretary of Environmental Affairs, and as Secretary of Economic Affairs. She currently serves as co-chair of the Boston Women’s Workforce Council, a public-private partnership dedicated to eliminating the gender/racial wage gap in the greater Boston area.

Event registration page

Facebook event page

Logo for the LEEP Launch event

March 24, 2021

Based on median earnings for full-time, year-round workers, women are paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to men.  Vermont Commission on Women (VCW) presented the second in a series of Equal Pay Day video podcast conversations on March 24th, the day into the year women need to work before their earnings catch up to those of men in 2020 due to the wage gap.

This podcast conversation centers on the ways COVID-19 impacts decisions that women and their families are making.  It touches on career choice and advancement, including occupational segregation.  It explores the critical role of women as essential workers and as early care and education providers in keeping women in the workforce, while calling attention to how their worth is not reflected in earnings or status. Guests recount personal stories reflecting on the challenges and gifts of this time as women working in Vermont.  The podcast concludes with a hope-filled discussion about this unique opportunity to reconstruct and rebuild systems back to be more equitable.

Our guests include educator Lara Scott, the director of Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts (MOVE) at Saint Michael’s College, and Sarah MacDonald, assistant director and classroom educator at the Early Learning Center in Colchester.  The conversation is introduced by VCW's executive director Cary Brown and moderated by VCW Commissioner Kellie Campbell, Chief Technology Officer at Vermont Tech and Chair of VCW’s Education and Human Development committee. 

This podcast addresses equal pay day and the wage gap for all women in the U.S. VCW’s first podcast launched March 9th, Asian American and Pacific Islander women’s equal pay day, and featured a conversation with Bor Yang, director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, Senator Kesha Ram, and VCW Chair Lisa Senecal. You can view it below.  As the year progresses VCW will produce episodes marking equal pay days for mothers on June 4, for women living with disabilities who work full-time on June 13, for Black women on August 3, for Native American women on September 8, and for Latinas on October 21. They plan to launch a podcast focused on the LGBTQIA+ community during national Pride month, on June 28.

With these video podcast conversations, VCW hopes to raise awareness about pay equity, and the ways racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism intersect, creating much larger wage gaps for women of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and women living with disabilities. Another goal of the project is to listen to women about their experiences with pay inequity, how it impacts them, and what they think could help.

Watch the podcast on YouTube, or listen to it through SoundCloud or iTunes.

March 9, 2021

The Vermont Commission on Women (VCW) joins organizations nationwide in drawing attention to Equal Pay Day each year.  Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into this year women must work to catch up to what the average white non-Hispanic man earned in the previous year.

The Commission is premiering a new video podcast series, the first of which launches today, March 9th, Equal Pay Day for Asian American and Pacific Islander women.  Guests on this first podcast include Bor Yang, director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission and Senator Kesha Ram. The conversation is introduced by the VCW's executive director Cary Brown and moderated by the Commission's chair Lisa Senecal.

Based on median earnings for full-time, year-round workers, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women are paid 85 cents for every dollar paid to white non-Hispanic men. While AAPI Equal Pay Day is earlier in the year than other Equal Pay Days, the average AAPI woman would still need to work until March 9th, more than 2 months extra, to earn what the average white, non-Hispanic man made in the previous year.  While that’s true, it’s also true that the AAPI population is far from monolithic, and for many of its diverse communities, the wage gap is much, much larger. (Un)Equal Pay Days would fall toward the end of the year for Vietnamese women (at $0.67 to the dollar), for Hmong women (at $0.61 to the dollar) and for Nepalese women (at $0.54 to the dollar).

With these video podcast conversations, VCW hopes to raise awareness about pay equity, and the ways racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism intersect, creating much larger wage gaps for women of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and women living with disabilities. Another goal of the project is to listen to women about their experiences with pay inequity, how it impacts them, and what they think could help.

Watch this video podcast on YouTube, listen on SoundCloud.

March 8, 2021

Lt. Governor Molly Gray hosted an International Women’s Day “Seat at the Table” conversation on The Economic Well-Being of Vermont Women with Xusana Davis, the Executive Director of Racial Equity for the State of Vermont, Jessica Nordhaus, the Director of Change the Story VT, Meg Smith, the Director of the Vermont Women's Fund and VCW's Executive Director Cary Brown.  Panelists presented existing data and discussed policy changes and initiatives adressing the short-term and long-term economic needs of Vermont women as our state responds and recovers from COVID-19.  Watch this conversation on YouTube.


Subscribe to Vermont Commission on Women Blog Feed