Leadership and Public Life

VCW believes women of all ages must have access to the benefits and privileges of community leadership and participation in civic life.

VCW monitors legislation and public policies, provides research and information, and collaborates on measures that support the following outcomes:
- Women are equally represented in Vermont’s legislature and elected office.
- Women are active participants, voters, and influential leaders in their communities and in the state.
- Policymakers understand the impact of laws and policy on women and girls.
- Women and men are equally represented in appointed office and in the private sector.

View VCW's Public Policy Statements HERE.


Leadership Report from CTS initiativeThe fourth in a series of reports published by our initiative, Change The Story, this examines participation of women in various leadership roles in Vermont, including federal, state and municipal government, Abenaki Nations, academia, law enforcement, and the corporate and non-profit sectors.  Click here for the full report and additional resources.











Prize Winners pixVCW Commissioner Ruth Finn of Barre judges this statewide Vermont Historical Soceity contest for youth every spring and awards this prize, through VCW’s Education and Research Foundation, honoring the work of Vermont historian Deborah Pickman Clifford.  This special prize recognizes the most outstanding entry related to Vermont women who have contributed to our state, or to the role that women have played in Vermont’s history.  2017’s winners hailed from Vergennes.








Click here to View the Facebook Event Page Tuesday, April 4th was Equal Pay Day. Throughout the nation, women’s organizations observe Equal Pay Day each April, symbolizing how far into the new year the average American woman would have to work to earn what the average American man did in the previous year due to the gender wage gap. Events at the State House included an Equal Pay Day “Women and Leadership” Press Conference at 12:00 in the Cedar Creek Room. Advocates for equal pay at this press conference addressed the gender wage gap and unveiled Change The Story's new “Vermont Women and Leadership” report.  Change The Story is an initiative of the Vermont Commission on Women (VCW), the Vermont Women’s Fund, and Vermont Works for Women designed to fast-track women’s economic status in our state.  The report reveals new data about participation of women in various leadership roles in Vermont, including federal, state and municipal government, Abenaki Nations, academia, law enforcement, and the corporate and non-profit sectors.  By some measures, Vermont is a national pacesetter in its share of women in key leadership positions.   By others, women’s leadership status lags behind other states.  Overall, Vermont women have yet to achieve equal representation as leaders in any but a few political, civic or professional realms. 

EPD 2017 SpeakersThe press conference featured: Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, State Treasurer Beth Pearce, Vermont Tech President Pat Moulton, Melody Brook of the Abenaki Women's Council and VT Commission on Native American Affairs, Joe Fusco of UVM's Grossman School of Business and VP at Casella Waste Systems, Jen Kimmich Co-founder/Owner of The Alchemist, and VCW Executive Director, Cary Brown.  Members of Women’s Caucus of the Legislature, the League of Women Voters of VT, VT Federation of Business and Professional Women joined the group of approximately 100 present. Advocates wore the traditional red to symbolize women being “in the red” due to the gender wage gap on this day.  Read the report here.  Read more about this event in the press release here. Watch a video of the Equal Pay Day Press Conference here. Additional Equal Pay Day events included:
Equal Pay Day Resolution.  Link to: House Concurrent Resolution 97, a resolution recognizing Equal Pay Day
Equal Pay Day Proclamation Signing | 11:30 AM | Governor’s ceremonial office.  Read the proclamation here.
Equal Pay Day Facebook Event Page link here.
Sen. Sanders' Equal Pay Day statement, here.

Watch our Facebook stream video from this event below:



WOMEN AND 1970'S COUNTERCULTURE, 2017 Women's History Month Event

History Month event image - now at 6 pm in Barre's VHS History CenterThe 1970s saw incredible advancements in public engagement with, and recognition of, women’s rights. This flowering of second-wave feminism had a far-reaching impact on American society. What was it like for women who participated in the counterculture during that time? What challenges did they face, and what opportunities did they find? How was women’s experience in Vermont unique, and what did it share with the rest of the country?  How does it relate to the current generation of young women?  In our annual partnership with the Vermont Historical Society (VHS) to honor Women's History Month (March),  we presented this free evening roundtable discussion, "Women of the Counterculture Movement in 1970s Vermont" at the Vermont History Center in Barre.  Rescheduled (due to winter storm) to Wednesday, March 22nd at 6:00.  This event was moderated by Amanda Gustin, Vermont Historical Society's Public Program Coordinator, and featured Euan Bear, Bridget Downey-Meyer, Louise Andrews, Melinda Moulton and Verandah Porche, reflecting on what brought them into this movement, what their experience was like, and what lasting impact it’s had on their own lives and on Vermont society.  A truly engaging and provocative discussion!

Link here to watch the event recorded on VT Historical Soceity's Facebook Stream

Watch the video of this event, thanks to Central Vermont Community Television:

Read historian Cyndy Bittinger's Women of the Counterculture in 1970s Vermont piece from Vermont Woman's April/May 2017 Issue.

VPR's Women's History Month 2017 Commentary Series
Along with the Vermont Historical Society, we're also honored to work with Vermont Public Radio offering this annual corresponding-themed commentary series:

Cindy Bittinger: Counterculture Women In Vermont
Liz Blum: Counterculture Women In Vermont
Melinda Moulton: Counterculture Women In Vermont
Veranda Porche: Counterculture Women In Vermont *

*panelists at our event. Special note: Melinda serves as a VCW Commissioner.   Read more about past women's history month celebrations and themes here.  More 2017 Counterculture event details on our Facebook event page here.




Sneak Preview Previewed at our lunch!

Our 8th biennial legislative lunch took place at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017.  This event is sponsored by donations to the Vermont Commission on Women Education and Research Foundation.

This year’s event featured an address by newly-elected Vermont Governor Phil Scott.  Governor Scott thanked VCW, “…for the great work they’re doing to educate us on the status of women in our state and push for changes in how we think and act in our own daily lives.”  He spoke about the need to close the gender wage gap, “I’m proud that here in Vermont gender inequality and the wage gap is not as extreme as it is throughout the rest of the country, but inequality, and any gap at all, is unacceptable. This is an issue of fairness that must be addressed by leaders at all levels in business and in government.”  Governor Scott went on to focus on supports for our state’s working women, “Supporting women in the workforce is about more than equal pay.  Policymakers and businesses in general should also identify other ways to make it easier for women to join the workforce: flexible work schedules, telecommuting, and more accessible affordable quality child care.  And I understand this last point (child care) is a major barrier, sometimes affecting decisions about leadership roles and work schedules, while ultimately results in lower pay.”

VCW’s Chair, Marcia Merrill welcomed attendees, introducing the Commission to new policy makers and elected officials, and reminding those who were re-elected of our resources and focus. Marcia stated, “While women’s participation in the economy is strong, there are improvements yet-to-be made and barriers yet-to-be removed to facilitate full and equal access to economic security in our state.  We are very much looking forward to collaborating with you in this effort.”

VCW Executive Director Cary Brown highlighted a “sneak preview” of data on Vermont women in leadership from research currently being conducted through Change The Story VT, a multi-year initiative by the Commission, the Vermont Women’s Fund, and Vermont Works for Women.  The “sneak preview” heralds Vermont as a national leader in gender parity among state legislatures, with the highest percentage of women legislators, as well as women in many leadership positions.  Read the sneak preview here.   The document includes the unfortunate fact that just one woman currently holds statewide elective office, and that Vermont is one of only two states that have never sent a woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. 

Commissioner and pediatric nurse, Danielle Martel, closed the event by leading an interactive dialog about the women’s issues policymakers hearing about from constituents.  The subjects participants brought up included equal pay for comparable work, salary negotiation, cultural repression of girls, women running for boards and commissions, improving revenues in VT by decreasing the wage gap, the need for state agencies and departments to collect gender disaggregated data, adequate and reliable retirement income, aging demographics increasing the numbers of women as unpaid caregivers, and the gender wage gap.




Nearly 400 women from across New England attended this biennial gathering to discuss policy solutions that address inequality and help to close the wealth gap. Participants learned about state and regional strategies to advance policies that can increase economic security for all women and their families, with a particular focus on low-wage workers and other vulnerable groups, as per the conference theme: “Expanding Opportunity and Building Equality for Women and Girls of Color.” 

Participants were treated to a keynote by historian, professor and former Chair of the U.S Commission on Civil Rights, Dr. Mary Frances Berry.  Featured speakers included Alison Quirk, the Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources and Citizenship Officer of State Street Corp., and a surprise personal appearance by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Afternoon breakout sessions focused on research, policy and legislative approaches to five different issue areas identified by the Call to Action document created at the last conference:
Pay Equity
Workforce Development
Paid Family and Medical Leave
the Early Care and Education Workforce
the Elder Care Workforce

Recovery for All?  A Snapshot of Women’s Economic Status in New England:  Released at the Conference, this report compares and contrasts earnings data and explores policy solutions in VT and neighboring states.

The New England Women’s Policy Conference was hosted by the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston, in conjunction with Planning Committee members:
Vermont Commission on Women
Connecticut Commission on Women, Children and Seniors
Maine’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women
Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women
New Hampshire Women’s Foundation
Rhode Island Commission on the Status of Women
Women’s Fund of Rhode Island
Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts



October 14th was the date for a multi-partisan panel discussion about some of the different ways women decide to step into leadership. Panelists Addressed the Question, "What does it take to prepare, sustain and succeed on the campaign trail and in office?" Moderated by Cary Brown, Executive Director, Vermont Commission on Women.



Vermont Commission on Women, the League of Women Voters of Vermont, and Vermont Federation of Business and Professional Women  hosted a Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Women's Issues Forum moderated by Anne Galloway of VTDigger.org. Candidates attending were: Bill Lee, Liberty Union Party; Sue Minter, Democratic Party; and Phil Scott, Republican Party. Forum held at the Vermont State House, Montpelier, VT on Thursday, September 22, 2016. Link to forum press coverage here.  Watch the full event video above, from Vermont In Person. Link to the Forum's Facebook Event Page for more information. VIew the slideshow we developed for the event with candidate questions here.

Forum image



Always fabulous and always free, this day of inspiration for women of all ages and stages took place on Saturday, June 4th at Vermont Tech in Randolph. Keynote speaker this year was United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  Read her remarks here.  Sen. Leahy's remarks featured our Change The Story initiative (see video below) - read them here.  VCW's Cary Brown co-presented the workshop: Your Legal Rights in the Workplace with Julio Thompson of the Vermont Attorney General's Civil Rights Division, and Karen L. Richards of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, pictured below.

Julio, Cary and Karen



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.


cover of Change the Story Report

Change the Story Issues: Women Work and Wages in Vermont

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 www.changethestoryvt.org.



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 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.



Presented by: The Vermont Commission on Women & the Vermont Women’s Legislative Caucus

Economic Summit Word Cloud

Special thanks to all 158 of you who attended this FREE event at the Vermont State House in Montpelier
Thursday October 8, 2015, from 8:30-3:30

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 Rtiz)

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 Rtiz)


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 Rtiz)


Imacts of Incarceration

The Summit's Afternoon Breakout Session, "Impacts of Incarceration" Featuring (L to R) Suzi Wizowaty - Executive Directorof 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 Rtiz)


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


New Advisory Council Member Organizations

We've recently welcomed new Advisory Council members, bringing us to a total of 25 groups serving women and girls in Vermont. We all benefit from understanding each other's work.  The Commission offers two meetings a year dedicated to sharing and listening among these groups.  Learn more here.


unfinished agenda event logo
The recent New England Women’s Policy Conference, spearheaded by the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston was held November 7th.    It 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.  Stay tuned for 2016's event, and save the date for November 18th!

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 - women leaders from the New England states.   Read materials and watch for a video capturing highlights of the day here.  Read "Call to Action: A Policy Framework for Women’s Economic Security" providing a unifying framework for policy change across the region in five key areas and catalyzes further action. Read this document here. (PDF, 1839 KB)


Taking Your Place at the Table, Springfield

VCW joined with Community College of Vermont in June 2014 for aTaking Your Place at the Table leadership roundtable discussion about women in higher education.


An Insider’s Guide to Getting Appointed to Vermont State Boards and Commissions

Getting Appointed handbook cover

This 16-page booklet takes the reader through step-by-step preparation for the boards and commissions applications process. Getting Appointed (PDF file, 1,037 KB)   Vermont boards and commissions have multiple appointing authorities, many include the Governor. Link here for vacancy information and an application: Governor's Boards & Commissions Office.
If you are a woman who is interested in adding your name to a database of potential candidates for appointment to state boards and commissions, please email us.


2015 Women's History Month Resolution

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


VCW Commissioner at History Day

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 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.


Women's History Month 2015 Event: Do We Still Need Women's History

Mar 11 event pix
Women's history panel: (left to right) Holly Allen, Lyn Blackwell, Felicia Kornbluh and Cary Brown at podium

poster Mar 11 event

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 for 2015

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.


Explore Past 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 and the Historical Society's Vermont Women's History Project to present a series of stories about Vermont women.

VT Women 2014

VT Women 2013

VT Women 2012

VT Women 2011

VT Women 2010

VT Women 2009

VT Women 2008

VT Women 2007


Arts flyer

Women's History Month - 2014 Event: Women in 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. 

For 2014, talented commentators spoke about women who achieved significant success in the arts on our annual commentary series with Vermont Public Radio. 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 and listen to the series: VT Women 2014.


Journalism event card

Women's History Month - 2013 Event: Women in Journalism

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

Women's History Month - 2012 Event: Women in the Legal Profession

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

Women's History Month - 2011 Event: Women in the Military

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.


April 2015: Equal Pay Day/Vermont Equal Pay Compact/Social Media Campaign @ UVM

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 left
“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.” - Cary Brown, VCW’s Executive Director (pictured at podium)

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 (pictured at podium)

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


Verrmont Law School Students Participate in Cheryl Hanna Legal Rights of Women Internship

 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.


Marcia Merrill of Jericho Re-elected Chair of Vermont Commission on Women

Marcia Merrill, VCW Chair

The sixteen appointed members of the state agency, the Vermont Commission on Women, have re-elected Marcia Merrill of Jericho to serve a 4th term as Chair. Ms. Merrill has served in this leadership role since 2006.

Established in 1964, the Vermont Commission on Women (VCW) is a non-partisan state government commission advancing rights and opportunities for women and girls. Sixteen volunteer commissioners and representatives from twenty-five organizations concerned with women’s issues guide the VCW’s public education, coalition building, and advocacy efforts. VCW offers many services to the public, including a toll-free information and referral service at 800-881-1561 and many publications, including the handbook The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont, and has just launched the Vermont Equal Pay Compact, a voluntary pledge that employers sign to indicate their commitment to closing the gender wage gap in their workplace.

Reflecting on the Commission’s work, Ms. Merrill stated, “Our state leads the nation in many measurements of women’s equality and we are also one of the oldest continuously operating women’s commissions. VCW has a fifty year track record of effectiveness, and we remain the only state agency dedicated solely to improving the status of women and girls. The Commission’s success lies in both our partnerships and in our ability to get things done. We are the voice, the eyes and the ears of women in public policy on such issues as equal pay, incarcerated women, and balancing work and family life. I’m honored to contribute to this powerful group of women.”

Ms. Merrill is a Certified Public Accountant, and is responsible for the audit and accounting practices of Montgomery & Merrill, P.C., her woman-owned public accounting firm in Burlington. In that role, she works primarily with not-for-profit organizations, small businesses, and start-up businesses, assisting the ownership and boards of directors in the use and interpretation of financial statements, as well as providing audit and other financial statement services. Ms. Merrill has served in board positions for a variety of community and not-for-profit organizations that focus on women's and family issues, including local, state, and national level positions for Vermont Business and Professional Women (BPW). She holds a BA, Summa Cum Laude, from William Smith College and an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology.


VCW Commissioner Attends UN Commission on Status of Women

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.


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)


 Cultivating the Next Wave of Vermont Women Leaders - Lead In and Girls State

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

Cary also served on a panel of Women in Leadership Roles at the 2014 American Legion Auxiliary Green Mountain Girls State gathering this year. For a whole week the young women are actively engaged in “doing” government. The two-party political system is brought to life through setting up and administering city, county and state governments. From campaigning, party rallies, and debating to mock legislative sessions and parliamentary procedures the girls are immersed in experiential learning. The result? Many participants choose a career path involving politics or community service. And all leave with knowledge about their responsibilities as U.S. citizens and memories that will last a lifetime. More info here.


Enough Said icon

Enough Said: Taskforce on Young Women and the Economy

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.


VWHP postcard

The Vermont Women's History Project

The Vermont Historical Society now provides a permanent home for the Vermont Women's History Project Started by the Vermont Commission on Women (VCW) in 2004, the site is a database of individual women searchable by geographical area, time period, area of significance or influence, etc. In addition, the site features historical background information and links to places in Vermont where users can find additional information about the particular woman or topic.


Women in Leadership and Public Life Report

Our Vermont Women in Leadership and Public Life Report features a historical look at women lawmakers in Vermont and also women serving on state Boards and Commissions. 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 - 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 Vermont Women in Leadership and Public Life Report (PDF file).
Previous reports:

2013 Women in Public Life

2011 Women in Public Life Report (PDF file, 274 KB)

2009 Status Report (PDF file, 735 KB)

2008 Status Report (PDF file, 384 KB)

2007 Status Report (PDF file, 417 KB)

2006 Status Report (PDF file, 701 KB)

2005 Status Report (PDF file, 335 KB)


Young Lawyers Division, Vermont Bar Association

VCW's Cary Brown, along with lawyer John L. Franco, Jr., and Professor Cheryl Hanna of Vermont Law School addressed this group of young lawyers at their 2014 Mid-Winter Thaw Conference in January.   They explored details of the provisions of the Equal Pay law and provided important practice tips for employment law practitioners.  More here.


Creating Positive and Effective Programs for Girls

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.


Commissions for Women

VCW is part of the National Association of Commissions for Women (NACW), a network of over 200 commissions for women in states, counties and municipalities all across the nation. Established in 1964 as the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, we are the only women’s commission in Vermont and one of the oldest continuously operating commissions in the United States.


Women in Higher Education

VCW’s Cary Brown was the keynote speaker at Vermont Women in Higher Education’s (VWHE) annual conference in 2014.   VWHE’s  mission is to assist women in the pursuit of careers in higher education. They've recently joined VCW as an Advisor.  Learn more here.


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Change the Story Vermont

Working in coalition with powerful partners Vermont Women’s Fund and Vermont Works for Women, we launched Change the Story Vermont, a multi-year initiative engaging business, government and education to improve women’s economic well-being and ensure Vermont’s economic future. Check it out on the web and Facebook too.


The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont

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. Written in plain language, the handbook, although written for women, covers issues affecting all Vermonters, such as marriage and divorce, adoption, wills and probate, women’s health, employment and education, housing and public accommodations, violence, public assistance and government benefits, insurance as well as others. New features include information on human trafficking, health insurance, same sex marriage, and immigration. The new edition allows users to link directly to the Vermont Commission on Women’s comprehensive resource directory and to federal and state statute websites. The result is reader-friendly content with easy-access reference links.


Got questions about equal pay, legal rights, starting a new business, sexual harassment, planning for maternity leave? Our publications address topics like these and many more!


Read VCW's agency brochure

Interested in Our Work?

Stay up to date on events by reading our e-network messages here or subscribe here to the Vermont Information Exchange for Women (VIEW) e-network, a community calendar of events and announcements.

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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 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.

Looking for help? Try our Resource Directory with over 200 pages of organizations/agencies to assist you.