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VCW is adding new resources and new information to this page constantly.
VCW presented this research and analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on Vermont women to the Legislative Women's Caucus at the end of May 2020.
Created as a resource to help employers, workers and all Vermonters address sexual harassment and workplace discrimination, includes:
- Need Help? Start Here.
- Reporting Harassment or Discrimination at Work
- Support for Victims & Survivors of Workplace Discrimination
- How Coworkers Can Help
- Employer Responsibilities
- How to Prevent Harassment: Best Practices
- How to Prevent Workplace Discrimination: Best Practices
- Education & Training
- Directory of Trainers
The Listening Project
What Vermonters are Saying, Listening Project one-page reports, by topic:
- Child Care and Paid Family and Medical Leave
- Economic Security: Income and Employment
- Affordability and Cost of Living: Housing, Food Insecurity and Transportation
- Health Care: Access and Affordability
- Cultural Challenges: Bias, Harassment and Discrimination
- Higher Education, Employment and Training Opportunities
- Work-Life Balance, Schedule Flexibility and Barriers to Accessing Programs and Services
Equal Pay Day 2020
Tuesday March 31, 2020 was Equal Pay Day, symbolizing how far into the year women work to earn what men earned in the previous year.
For 24 years, wearing red on this day has been a tradition: a reminder of women being “in the red” due to the gender wage gap. We thank all who joined us in this quick pivot to a virtual messaging campaign this year: by wearing red on video conference calls on Equal Pay Day, and by sharing tributes thanking those working to keep us safe in this public health crisis, noting that many of these people are women who face significant pay gaps.
On social media, we worked with our partnership initiative Change The Story and our sister organizations in that project, the Vermont Women's Fund, and Vermont Works for Women to spread the word. We worked with our traditional Equal Pay Day partners, League of Women Voters and Business and Professional Women/VT.
Webinar: LEAD THE WAY FOR EQUAL PAY: Tools and Strategies to Change the Story on Pay Equity
New and current Equal Pay Compact signers were cordially invited to this special event the morning of Thursday, March 19th 2020 via video conference. Watch it here!
LEGISLATION OF INTEREST TO WOMEN, 2020
One of our functions is to provide information about how proposed legislation may impact Vermont women and girls. In the current session, we contributed to the discussions on:
Coronavirus relief funds: Minority and Women Owned Businesses Grants
Permitting candidate expenditures for child care costs, H.619
Research and analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on Vermont women to the Legislative Women's Caucus in May 2020.
Gender Balance on UVM Board of Trustees, S.248
State House Artwork and Portrait Project Committee, S.285
CHANGE THE STORY REPORT, UPDATED
Women, Work, and Wages in Vermont - explores factors contributing to women’s lower earnings, examines occupational segregation; impact of bias, sexual harassment and intimate partner violence; looks at student loan debt and the "pink tax"; makes recommendations. Full Report (50 pages) | Summary (4 pages)
VCW Releases Updated Info Sheet on the Taxation of Menstrual Supplies
In Vermont, a bill in the 2019-2020 legislative session (H.29) would add tampons, sanitary napkins, and similar menstrual supplies to the list of items excluded from sales tax. In 2019, middle school students gathered more than 2300 signatures on a petition calling for the elimination of the sales tax on menstrual supplies. In November 2019, lawmakers wrote a letter to Vermont’s acting Tax Commissioner, asking whether menstrual supplies could fall under existing exemptions. The Tax Department responded, recommending legislative action as the easiest path to exempt these products from sales tax. Read VCW's info sheet for more information.
VERMONT’S AG RELEASES NEW VIDEO: PREVENTING SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE
Provides an overview of Vermont’s current workplace sexual harassment laws and summarizes employers’ obligations under the law.
In late June Attorney General T.J. Donovan released a video aimed at assisting Vermont employers in understanding workplace sexual harassment laws. The video, entitled Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, provides businesses with an overview of Vermont’s current workplace sexual harassment laws and summarizes employers’ obligations under the law.
Produced with assistance from WCAX TV, the video contains a roundtable discussion moderated by Tabitha Pohl-Moore, President of the Rutland Area Branch of the NAACP, and features Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women, as well as Shirley Jefferson, Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Diversity at Vermont Law School. The video defines workplace sexual harassment, explains Vermont employers’ obligations to appropriately respond to claims of sexual harassment, and provides links to resources such as the Vermont Department of Labor’s model sexual harassment policy.
This was a joint project between the Attorney General’s Small Business Initiative and Civil Rights Unit. Comments or questions about Vermont’s sexual harassment laws should be directed to the Vermont Office of the Attorney General, Civil Rights Unit, firstname.lastname@example.org, (888) 745-9195 (toll free in Vermont), or (802) 828-3657. For additional resources for small businesses in Vermont, please contact the Vermont Office of the Attorney General Small Business Initiative at (800) 649-2424 or visit www.uvm.edu/consumer/businesses.
NEW CHAIR OF VCW: LISA SENECAL
Lisa Senecal of Stowe was elected unanimously to serve as Chair of Vermont Commission on Women in June.
Ms. Senecal is a founding partner in The Maren Group, a consultancy that works with businesses, investors, and campaigns to identify and remedy business and cultural practices that increase risk of sexual harassment and other forms of gender discrimination. An experienced entrepreneur with a background in media relations and marketing, her successful ventures include an award-winning children's entertainment company and a New Media consultancy. She has consulted and provided media relations and new media strategy for dozens of companies and organizations; gubernatorial and US Senatorial campaigns; and statewide policy initiatives.
She developed her voice as a women's advocate as a civilian student at Norwich University, from which she graduated cum laude. As one of a handful of women in each class, she developed perspectives invaluable both personally and professionally. Commissioner Senecal writes and speaks with an emphasis on issues of equity, equality, opportunity, and safety for women. Her perspectives and writing appear in a range of media, from NPR's Morning Edition and PBS News Hour, to The Daily Beast, the New York Daily News, and USA Today; she also writes a monthly column for her local newspaper, The Stowe Reporter. In addition to serving as Chair of VCW, she is on the Board of Trustees for the Stowe Education Fund and The Clarina Howard Nichols Center.
Commissioner Senecal is the ridiculously-proud mother of two teenaged sons who have grown into young men who speak up and speak out. In addition to serving on the VCW, she serves on the Board of Trustees for the Stowe Education Fund and The Clarina Howard Nichols Center.
(UN)EQUAL PAY DAY 2019
Advocates gathered at the State House on Equal Pay Day, (Tuesday, April 2nd) to draw public attention to the gender wage gap in our state. Upon opening of the day’s legislative session in the House, a resolution designating it Equal Pay Day in Vermont was put forth by lead sponsor Brattleboro Representative Mollie Burke and other policymakers, observed by advocates dressed in red, symbolizing women being “in the red” due to the gender wage gap. Read the House concurrent resolution here.
Later in the day, Governor Scott, at an Equal Pay Day legislative lunch event sponsored by the Commission's Education and Research Foundation, signed a proclamation recognizing April 2, 2019 as Equal Pay Day in Vermont, highlighting the gender pay gap between men and women’s earnings and the importance of promoting women’s equality in the workforce. “Closing the wage gap will undoubtedly have many positive outcomes for Vermont. It could reduce Vermont’s poverty rate, generate millions in our state’s economy and help attract more working families to Vermont,” said Governor Scott. “More importantly, it would help put us one step closer to providing equality for all because that’s the right thing to do.” View the proclamation here. Watch WPTZ News 5 coverage of the lunch here.
VCW's Cary Brown with our partner initiative Change The Story's Tiffany Bluemle wrote this post-Equal Pay Day VTDigger editorial. It takes a closer look at a Bloomberg News piece ranking VT best state for gender equality based on five categories, including pay ratio by gender, female labor force participation, college degree attainment, health care coverage and women in poverty.
LEGISLATION OF INTEREST TO WOMEN, 2019
One of our functions is to provide information about how proposed legislation may impact Vermont women and girls. In the 2019 session, we contributed to the discussions on:
Spousal Support and Maintenance, H.512
Spousal Support and Maintenance, testimony of VCW's Hannah Lane H.512
Increasing the Minimum Wage, (from April) S.23
Spousal Support and Maintenance Reform, public input submitted to Senate Judiciary committee, here
Right to Personal Reproductive Liberty, PR.5
Elections Corrections, S.107
Paid Family and Medical Leave, H.107
Equal Pay, S.82
Spousal Support and Maintenance Reform, S.99
Preserving the Right to Abortion, H.57
Increasing the Minimum Wage, (from January) S.23
Sexual Harassment, Act 183
LISTENING SESSION AT WOMEN'S CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
On February 25th members of VCW and the Legislative Women's Caucus will visit Chittenden County Correctional Facility for a listening session with incarcerated women. This is one of many such sessions VCW has participated in over the years. Along with a tour, these conversations helps us understand both conditions at the facility, and the frequently complex factors that lead to incarceration for inmates.
BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS EVENT
VCW Commissioner Lisa Senecal (pictured above) introduced Governor Scott at the Breakfast of Champions event hosted by Vermont Women’s Fund, our partner and the main funder of Change The Story VT, our shared initiative. This sell out-event drew 450 participants to learn from internationally recognized activist and educator Ted Bunch, of A CALL TO MEN on issues of manhood, male socialization and its intersection with violence, and preventing violence against all women and girls. Among the giveaways, a postcard with 7 Things You Can Do on one side (pictured above) and commitment statement on the other. The cards were mailed back to participants after the event to remind them of commitments and to request they make their statements public on social media. See a sample, to the right:
"VERMONT WOMEN: THE PAY GAP, REPRESENTATION, AND ADVANCEMENT" FEATURING VCW'S CARY BROWN
Vermont Department of Libraries sponsors this lunch hour speaker series, focused on events or trends in Vermont that affect state employees. Tuesday, February 19th from 12-1pm at the Pavilion Auditorium in Montpelier. More here.
VCW SUBMITS COMMENTS ON TITLE IX PROPOSED RULE CHANGES
VCW submitted comments as part of the public comments process on recent proposed changes by the U.S. Department of Education concerning schools' responses to campus sexual harassment and assault. Those proposed rule changes amend regulations under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs or activities receiving federal funding. Read our comments here.
REQUESTS FOR PROPOSALS FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT PUBLIC EDUCATION & OUTREACH PROGRAM ISSUED
In 2018, the Vermont General Assembly passed Act 183, directing the Vermont Commission on Women, in consultation with the Vermont Attorney General and the Vermont Human Rights Commission, to develop a public education and outreach program designed to make Vermont employees, employers, and members of the public aware of:
- Methods for reporting employment and work-related discrimination and sexual harassment;
Where to find information regarding:
- laws related to work-related discrimination and sexual harassment
- best practices for preventing employment and work-related discrimination and sexual harassment
- Methods for preventing and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace
This work has been divided into two projects now open for proposals through the state government public bid process:
Sexual Harassment and Work-Related Discrimination Resource Collection and Development
- Sexual Harassment and Work-Related Discrimination Public Education and Outreach Campaign
Learn more about this project at https://women.vermont.gov/Sexual_Harassment.
NEWPI: NEW ENGLAND WOMEN'S POLICY CONFERENCE, ENSURING ECONOMIC EQUALITY FOR WOMEN + FAMILIES
VCW is part of the planning committee for the New England Women’s Policy Conference which took place Friday, November 16th 2018, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, on the UMass Boston campus. This energetic day-long regional conference, featuring keynote speaker Tarana Burke, founder of the #metoo movement, and including ample opportunity for cross-sector dialogue, learning, and collaboration attracts 450+ leaders of ALL ages – women and men – from diverse communities and organizations in the six New England states with the shared goal of creating sustainable economic and social change for women and their families.
Workshop tracks included the following themes: Policy Solutions for Low-Wage Workers; Sexual Harassment in the Workplace; Achieving Equal Pay - State Legislative Lessons and Wins. VCW’s own Cary Brown and Lisa Senecal are featured workshop panelists, along with Vermonters Representative Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, Melissa Battah, and Kesha Ram. NEW this year: a special workshop track for politically ambitious young women leaders, facilitated by non-partisan IGNITE! High school and college age women in this track will receive both policy and political training, encouraging the next generation of women leaders. Tickets for this special track are $25- students registering will place VCW in sponsor information.
STATEWIDE LISTENING PROJECT SURVEY
The Vermont Commission on Women would like to know about the most important issues facing women in Vermont. We are doing this survey to learn about what is working well, and what is not working well. Anything you share with us will help us understand how we can best help women in Vermont. Your answers to this survey are completely anonymous and confidential. Nobody will know what answers you gave, so you can feel free to tell us whatever you want. The survey closed on October 31, 2018. View the survey as document here.
LISTENING PROJECT EVENTS
In St. Albans:
Participants shared thoughts about what needs aren’t being met for Vermont women, what most affects their abilities to provide for themselves or their families, and what can be done to help at this Public Meeting to discuss Economic Challenges in Franklin County at City Hall in St. Albans on Thursday, September 27th. A panel of local experts kicked it off, briefly addressing conditions for women and girls in Franklin County, followed by plenty of time for audience interaction. Results from our statewide Listening Project survey launched in the spring indicate top areas of concern to Franklin County women and their families include: health care, child care, paid family and medical leave, education, and mental health. Learn more here.
Brattleboro area residents were invited to share their story at the Vermont Commission on Women’s Listening Project event hosted by area Commissioners at Brooks Memorial Library on Wednesday, September 26th from 6:00 -7:30 pm. This public discussion centered on economic challenges in Windham county. Participants shed thoughts about what needs aren’t being met for Vermont women, what most affects their abilities to provide for themselves or their families, and what can be done to help. Learn more here.
Area Commissioners hosted a facilitated discussion with community leaders in the Newport area.
VIDEOS: PREGNANCY-RELATED WORKPLACE ACCOMODATIONS
Learn more about workplace protections for Vermont’s pregnant workers. What are reasonable accommodations? What do you need to know as an employer or HR (human resources) manager to comply with Vermont law?
Learn more about working while you’re pregnant in Vermont. Here’s what you need to know about asking for what you need stay healthy on the job.
LEGISLATION OF INTEREST TO WOMEN, 2018
One of our functions is to provide information about how proposed legislation may impact Vermont women and girls. In the 2018 session, we contributed to the discussions on:
Equal Pay | Salary History, H.294 and S.275
Increasing the Minimum Wage, S.40
Paid Family Leave, H.196
Sexual Harassment, H.707
Systemic Racism Mitigation Oversight and Equity Review Board, S.281
Accommodations for Pregnant Employees, H.136
SALARY NEGOTIATION WORKSHOPS IN RUTLAND, ST. JOHNSBURY & NEWPORT
Choosing not to negotiate is leaving some serious money on the table. Over 50% of women say they are apprehensive about negotiating and only 30% of women consistently negotiate salaries. For many of us, even the thought of negotiating makes us nervous. How much do I ask for? When is the best time to do it? What if I don't feel like I deserve more? This workshop teaches women how to negotiate with confidence. Vermont Commission on Women's Rutland and St. Johnsbury workshops were sponsored by the New England Women’s Policy Initiative, and all were facilitated by the fabulous Lindsey Lathrop, Career Coach at FromWithin Coaching.
VCW'S EDUCATION AND RESEARCH FOUNDATION AWARDS STUDENT WEBSITE THE DEBORAH PICKMAN CLIFFORD AWARD AT VT HISTORY DAY, 2018
Applause and cheers to CVU high school student Kali Adams. Her website, “Jody Williams and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines” won the Deborah Pickman Clifford prize at the Vermont Historical Society’s Vermont History Day. The site explores Vermont’s 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, her early years, how she developed as an activist, and her legacy, particularly inspirational for young women! Ms. Adams, a two-time winner of this prize, placed second in her contest category and qualified for National History Day in June. For many years, VCW Commissioner Ruth Finn has judged this day-long contest, and has awarded the Deborah Pickman Clifford prize to 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. Deborah Pickman Clifford was a historian and author specializing in women’s history, who left our citizens an important legacy, including a collection of biographies, "More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Vermont Women," published in 2009. VCW’s Education and Research Foundation funds this cash prize.
EQUAL PAY DAY 2018: TUESDAY, APRIL 10TH @ THE VERMONT STATE HOUSE
Equal Pay Day’s date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year due to the gender wage gap.
The Vermont Commission on Women (VCW), the League of Women Voters of Vermont, and Business and Professional Women (BPW) VT oordinate this annual gathering of advocates at the State House on Equal Pay Day, (this year Tuesday, April 10th) to draw public attention to the gender wage gap in our state. Upon opening of the day’s legislative session, a resolution designating it Equal Pay Day in Vermont was put forth by lead sponsor Representative Mollie Burke and other policymakers, and observed by advocates dressed in red, symbolizing women being “in the red” due to the gender wage gap. Link to this Equal Pay Day resolution, HCR 323, here. HUGE thanks to all who stood with us: AAUW of Vermont; LGBTQIA Alliance of Vermont; our representatives from the offices of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Patrick Leahy, and Peter Welch; VT Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence; Women Business Owners Network: Voices for Vermont's Children; Rights and Democracy; Change The Story VT; Vermont Works for Women; and The Vermont Women's Fund.
Governor Scott signed an Equal Pay Day proclamation in his ceremonial office with speakers addressing various aspects of the wage gap in Vermont. Dr. Wanda Heading-Grant, UVM's Vice President for Human Resources, Diversity and Multicultural Affairs gave an address weaving the personal, the political, and the facts about the wage gap and women of color. Alice Kitchel spoke about the work of her organization, Business and Professional Women (BPW) VT, to engage, mentor and teach women to lead in both business and in thier personal lives. Cary Brown, VCW's Executive Director spoke about what the wage gap is and what it looks like in Vermont.
Change The Story VT (CTS) along with Vermont Business and Professional Women invite policy makers and guests to enjoy coffee in the cafeteria after lunch, to mark Equal Pay Day and share information about how the gender wage gap impacts Vermonters. CTS partner Vermont Works for Women will provide their delicious Peanut Butter Bars by suggested wage gap-related donation.
We’re excited to be joined in the State House by advocates participating in the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence’s annual Legislative Day!
MAY DAY! MAY DAY! Screwnomics Book Launch
7:00 PM, Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Bear Pond Books, 77 Main Street, Montpelier VT
This FREE book launch celebration and discussion on the state of women's economics features Screwnomics author Rickey Gard Diamond and VCW's Executive Director Cary Brown. Screwnomics issues a wake-up call for today's women to join what has been a nearly exclusively male conversation for the past 2,500 years. It explains the sexual history of economics, and the unspoken but widely applied economic theory that females, including our mother earth, should always work for less, or better, for free. Illustrated by Peaco Todd, Kirkus Reviews says about Screwnomics, "A smart, comprehensive economics guide with a feminist twist...her experience as a novelist, journalist, and professor are all brought to bear to demystify difficult concepts...informative and fun." All welcome! More info here.
Brown Bag Lunch: Women & the Economy
Friday, March 23 | 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
The River Garden, 157 Main Street | Brattleboro
Vermont Commission on Women's Emilie Kornheiser leads this Brattleboro area discussion on opportunities for the community, economy, and families, moving towards equal rights for all. All community memberswere invited to share their perspective on the place, needs, and strengths of women. Part of the fabulous Strolling of the Heifers noontime Brown Bag Lunch series.
Sexual harassment and abuse charges against powerful personalities has created a kind of public reckoning. Our shared voices in the media and the #MeToo movement are driving change, yet pushing back against the behavior patterns of sexual harassment, so common in workplaces across the country, is not easy. Social mores and norms are deeply embedded in all of us. When is it safe to speak up? What happens if we do say something? Who do we turn to if we decide to speak up? How might the passage of new laws in Vermont change the climate? Join GBWF for a panel discussion, featuring VCW's Lisa Senecal, looking at sexual harassment in the workplace. Learn about workplace options: human resources, employee assistance programs—how these parts of our workplace can help and what the limitations might be. We’ll have an overview of the current bill in the Vermont legislature, what it is trying to do and what it might mean. We’ll talk about strategies to take care of yourself when you experience harassment at work, how we can start to be more proactive and how we might respond if we are harassed. Come and listen to the experiences of others; there will be time after the panel for discussion.
Vermont Commission on Women and Let’s Grow Kids released this co-authored white paper on International Women's Day, 3/18/18. The paper examines the intersection of child care, our economy, and gender equity.
People struggle to determine what the best or most helpful course of action would be if they witness sexual harassment in the workplace. If you find yourself in a bystander situation, here are some ways you can help.
In January 2017, a bill (H. 136) was introduced in the Vermont Legislature that would ensure healthy pregnant workers in Vermont receive reasonable workplace accommodations such as having access to water, access to a stool or a chair, longer or more frequent restroom breaks, or avoiding heavy lifting. The bill was signed into law May 4th!
Read the new law here.
Read VCW's testimony on H.136 here.
Read VCW’s press release, New Protections for Pregnant Workers here.
Read VCW's policy brief for more information about these protections.
We've completed an update of The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont. Since 1977, this handbook 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. This latest update started with 2 Vermont Law School (VLS) students, Arden and Maeve, who researched new federal and state laws to include. The students then contacted experts in the field, who assist them with research and writing in order to update this publication with laws recently passed. Professor Cheryl Hanna had directed VLS students in a complete update of this publication in 2011. The commission has named this project the Cheryl Hanna Legal Rights of Women Internship after her in tribute. Very special thanks to VCW Commissioner and attorney Gretchen Bailey who reviewed all 200+ pages!
SPOUSAL SUPPORT AND MAINTENANCE TASKFORCE
At the end of the 2017 legislative session, VCW was placed on an 8-member Spousal Support and Maintenance Task Force created for the purpose of reviewing and making legislative recommendations to Vermont’s alimony laws. As well as research and information, VCW collected and presented the stories of Vermont women on this issue at a taskforce public hearing in November.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND ASSAULT IN THE WORKPLACE
VCW Commissioner Lisa Senecal joined Judy Woodruff on PBS NewsHour along with Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women's Law Center, Melissa Silverstein of Women & Hollywood, and Leigh Gilmore of Wellesley College to discuss sexual harassment, assault, and the #MeToo campaign. Commissioner Senecal continues to write and speak out as a national thought leader on this issue in USA Today, National Public Radio, the Daily Beast and other media outlets. She collaborated with Rep. Copeland-Hanzas on VPR's Vermont Edition show on February 15th, VPR Vt Edition: Sexual Harassment Bill Aims To Protect Victims' Rights.
SEN. LEAHY’S WEOC 2017: WOMEN’S ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY CONFERENCE
VCW serves on the planning committee of Senator Leahy’s free and fabulous conference every year. 500 registered for the September 2017 event and our initiative, Change The Story served as the theme and focus of lively workshops and discussions on how to improve women’s economic status. VCW’s Cary Brown lead the afternoon session with data and information from Change The Story, VCW Commissioner Colin Ryan shared his dual powers of storytelling and galvanizing action in that same PM session. Pictured (L to R) Change The Story's Jessica Nordhaus, Marcelle Leahy, Sen. Leahy, Vermont Women's Fund Director Meg Smith, Change The Story's Tiffany Blumele, VCW Director Cary Brown.
RESOURCE DIRECTORY UPDATE
Our interns worked on updates to our online resource guide over the year, overhauling and improving organization, look, and feel of this statewide resource directory VCW staff and the public.
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL
The challenges young women face prompted the United Nations in 2012 to create International Day of the Girl - a youth-led movement for gender justice. South Burlington High School senior Kiran Waqar, a youth activist and Muslim Girls Making Change member, coordinated a Vermont event to honor International Day of the Girl. The presentation featured Selamawit Adugna Bekele of Ethiopia, an international activist and expert, speaking on the education crisis worldwide. Ms. Bekele and Ms. Waqar are both members of Results, an international nonprofit that works to end hunger, injustice, and poverty. Speakers included VCW Commissioners Gretchen Bailey and Marybeth Redmond.
STATE HEALTH ASSESSMENT AND IMPROVEMENT PLAN ADVISORY COMMITTEE
VCW was among a multitude of wide-ranging organizations taking part in this effort to set health improvement priorities for the Vermont Department of Health.
JUNE VCW COMMISSIONER RETREAT
We headed to lovely Hildene in June, for a retreat hosted by VCW Commissioner/Hildene Vice President and Creative Director Laine Dunham. Facilitator Julie Mackaman lead us through reflection and planning exercises. Read minutes from this or our other meetings here.
NORWICH UNIVERSITY LEADERSHIP SUMMIT
VCW’s Executive Director Cary Brown engaged in a day of conversation and consideration with group of Norwich University graduate students from varying programs. The students suggested strategies for improving organization and public awareness of the Commission and our work.
BRATTLEBORO VERMONT EQUAL PAY COMPACT NETWORKING & EXCHANGE EVENT
We gathered in mid-May to listen and learn from Compact signers and other Brattleboro area employers about why they are engaged in our project to close the gender wage gap in Vermont. VCW Commissioner Kerry Secrest of Brattleboro was the driving force behind this event, and a huge proponent of the Compact. Learn more about it here.
Pictured (L to R) VCW Commissioner Kerry Secrest, VCW Director Cary Brown, US Department of Labor Women's Bureau Regional Director Jackie Cooke
VERMONT HISTORY DAY CONTEST – DEBORAH PICKMAN CLIFFORD WOMEN’S HISTORY PRIZE
VCW 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.
LEGISLATION OF INTEREST TO WOMEN, 2017
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. Here are VCW testified or provided information on these bills in the 2017 session:
H.136 (Act 21) - AN ACT RELATING TO ACCOMMODATIONS FOR PREGNANT EMPLOYEES. Link to testimony here.
H.64 | H.93 - AN ACT RELATING TO INCREASING THE MINIMUM WAGE. Link to testimony here.
Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs and House General | Labor and Employment Committee Workgroup. Link to Change The Story Women in Leadership report here and Women’s Economic Advancement presentation here.
H.422 - AN ACT RELATING TO REMOVAL OF FIREARMS FROM A PERSON ARRESTED OR CITED FOR DOMESTIC ASSAULT. Link to testimony here.
S.112 (Act 60) AN ACT RELATING TO CREATING THE SPOUSAL SUPPORT AND MAINTENANCE TASK FORCE. Link to testimony here.
FY2018 STATE BUDGET. Link to VCW testimony in House Appropriations Committee here.
EQUAL PAY DAY 2017
Tuesday, April 4th was Equal Pay Day. Throughout the nation, women’s organizations observe Equal Pay Day each April, symbolizing how far into the new year the average American woman would have to work to earn what the average American man did in the previous year due to the gender wage gap.
Events at the State House included an Equal Pay Day “Women and Leadership” Press Conference at 12:00 in the Cedar Creek Room.
Advocates for equal pay at this press conference addressed the gender wage gap and unveiled Change The Story's new “Vermont Women and Leadership” report. Change The Story is an initiative of the Vermont Commission on Women (VCW), the Vermont Women’s Fund, and Vermont Works for Women designed to fast-track women’s economic status in our state. The report reveals new data about participation of women in various leadership roles in Vermont, including federal, state and municipal government, Abenaki Nations, academia, law enforcement, and the corporate and non-profit sectors. By some measures, Vermont is a national pacesetter in its share of women in key leadership positions. By others, women’s leadership status lags behind other states. Overall, Vermont women have yet to achieve equal representation as leaders in any but a few political, civic or professional realms.
The press conference featured: Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, State Treasurer Beth Pearce, Vermont Tech President Pat Moulton, Melody Brook of the Abenaki Women's Council and VT Commission on Native American Affairs, Joe Fusco of UVM's Grossman School of Business and VP at Casella Waste Systems, Jen Kimmich Co-founder/Owner of The Alchemist, and VCW Executive Director, Cary Brown. Members of Women’s Caucus of the Legislature, the League of Women Voters of VT, VT Federation of Business and Professional Women joined the group of approximately 100 present. Advocates wore the traditional red to symbolize women being “in the red” due to the gender wage gap on this day. Read the report here. Read more about this event in the press release here. Watch a video of the Equal Pay Day Press Conference here.
Other Equal Pay Day events included:
Equal Pay Day resolution. View 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.
Equal Pay Day statement from Sen. Sanders, here.
2017 WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH EVENT: WOMEN AND 1970'S COUNTERCULTURE,
The 1970s saw incredible advancements in public engagement with, and recognition of, women’s rights. This flowering of second-wave feminism had a far-reaching impact on American society. What was it like for women who participated in the counterculture during that time? What challenges did they face, and what opportunities did they find? How was women’s experience in Vermont unique, and what did it share with the rest of the country? How does it relate to the current generation of young women? In our annual partnership with the Vermont Historical Society (VHS) to honor Women's History Month (March), we presented this free evening roundtable discussion, "Women of the Counterculture Movement in 1970s Vermont" at the Vermont History Center in Barre. Rescheduled (due to winter storm) to Wednesday, March 22nd at 6:00. This event was moderated by Amanda Gustin, Vermont Historical Society's Public Program Coordinator, and featured Euan Bear, Bridget Downey-Meyer, Louise Andrews, Melinda Moulton and Verandah Porche, reflecting on what brought them into this movement, what their experience was like, and what lasting impact it’s had on their own lives and on Vermont society. A truly engaging and provocative discussion!
Event Speaker Bios:
Euan Bear - was born in New Hampshire, moved to Vermont in 1977 to work with the lesbian collective Redbird, and has been here ever since. Over the last 40 years, she has been part of the editorial committee of CommonWomon, Vermont’s first women’s newspaper; wrote and edited for the Vermont Vanguard Press, and for Out in the Mountains, Vermont’s lgbt newspaper; and editor and author for the Safer Society Program and Press, among other jobs (factory worker, dishwasher, food service cook, housecleaner…). She has been a stalwart activist for women’s and lesbians’ rights, most recently at the January March and Rally in Montpelier. Listen to Euan's story here, via Digital Vermont, a project of the Vermont Historical Society.
Bridget Downey-Meyer – was a member of the Mount Philo Inn from 1969 to 1973, a collective in Charlotte, VT. Her experience includes working with draft resisters to cross into Canada, the establishment of the People's Free Clinic, and alternative schooling with an emphasis on experiential learning for children. Listen to Bridget's story here, via Digital Vermont, a project of the Vermont Historical Society.
Louise Andrews – was a member of Earthworks, a commune in Franklin, VT and worked on their alternative newspaper. She participated in women’s conferences and consciousness-raising during this time, and grew as a feminist. She learned about working with animals and growing, producing and eating healthy food while at Earthworks, as well as participating in Unity Players, a political street theatre group. Listen to Louise's story here, via Digital Vermont, a project of the Vermont Historical Society.
Melinda Moulton – while working at Harvard with Dr. James Watson, co-discoverer of the DNA helix and father of the Human Genome Project, Melinda joined in the antiwar and civil rights protests of the time. She met her future husband and eventually moved into a tent in Huntington, Vermont in 1972, and lived with her infant and partner with no running water, no phone, no TV until they built their own stone house, inspired by Helen and Scott Nearing. She collected 36 truckloads of stone with a baby on her back. Fast forward to the early 80s: She provided the leadership to produce a 25-year incremental redevelopment project for Burlington’s waterfront and pioneered new concepts in environmental and socially conscious redevelopment. Listen to Melinda's story here on VPR's No Make Up podcast.
Verandah Porche - with a group of friends from Boston in 1968 she founded a commune in Guilford Vermont called Total Loss Farm, a haven for artists and writers, where she still lives. The farm evolved into a nonprofit, the Monteverdi Artists Collaborative, which hosts residencies, readings, exhibition, and seasonal community events. She’s published three books of poetry, The Body's Symmetry, Glancing Off, and Sudden Eden, and works as a poet in residence, performer, and a writing partner. She was among the founders of the Brattleboro Women's Crisis Center and served on the board for 15 years. Listen to Veranda's VPR commentary here, addressing the national social media firestorm resulting ifrom her question to veteran journalist Gay Talese.
Read historian Cyndy Bittinger's Women of the Counterculture in 1970s Vermont piece from Vermont Woman's April/May 2017 Issue.
Vermont Public Radio’s Women's History Month 2017 Commentary Series: Counterculture Women In Vermont
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
*panelists at our event. Special note: Melinda serves as a VCW Commissioner. Read more about past women's history month celebrations and themes here. More 2017 Counterculture event details on our Facebook event page here.
CONFISCATION OF DANGEROUS OR DEADLY WEAPONS BILL
VCW testified on House bill H. 422, a bill proposing to provide removal of deadly weapons from the scene of an incident of domestic violence. Read our testimony here.
PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE INSURANCE BILL
VCW's Cary Brown spoke at the introduction of H.196, bill proposing to create a Family Leave Insurance Program within the Department of Labor that will provide employees with 12 weeks of paid family leave and that will be funded by contributions from employers and employees. Cary's comments included findings from VCW's feasibility study: “Women in Vermont are already lagging behind men in their earnings, part of the reason why this is true is because there’s a disproportionate expectation that women will be the ones who’ll take time off from work, take time out of the workforce in order to care for babies, children, aging parents, other family members. Just in general, women are taking on more of those responsibilities. Paid family and medical leave insurance is one way to help offset that disproportionality. This was why VCW sought and received a grant from US DOL to conduct a feasibility study. We came up with some interesting findings: new moms with access to paid family leave work more hours, and return to work…They are 39 % less likely to rely on public assistance. That would translate to up to $271,000 savings to Vermonters. Additionally, in Vermont we’d see a $277,000 savings in costs due to infants being born healthy…and if we had a program, between 2 and 3.4 million dollars Vermont families would save, due to reduced child care costs. We could see an estimated 1800 Vermonters elevated above the poverty threshold, who would otherwise be below.”
Watch an Orca Media video of the press conference here.
View VCW's feasibility study presentation, submitted to committee considering H.196, the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs, here. Read the full study report, also submitted the Committee, here.
In the U.S., 47 states have a sales tax, and most of those apply the tax to the sale of feminine hygiene products. Some states apply a luxury tax to these products. Taxation of feminine hygiene products has garnered international attention in recent years, and Connecticut, New York, Illinois, and Canada passed legislation to exclude feminine hygiene products from tax in 2016. In 2017, a number of states are considering bills that would do the same. In Vermont, a bill (H.43) has been introduced that would add feminine hygiene products to the list of items excluded from sales tax. Read VCW's fact sheet for more information.
VCW was asked to testify on H.63 and H.93, bills address raising the minimum wage. VCW's Executive Director Cary Brown provided information about how this legislation might impact women. Read her testimony here. A few data highlights from the testimony:
• In Vermont, women working full-time are 1.3 times as likely as men to earn less than $10.10 an hour
• Women in Vermont are over twice as likely as men to work in part-time jobs which are more likely to pay minimum wage.
• A higher minimum wage is linked to smaller pay gaps between men and women.
In our February 8th meeting, VCW voted to become a member of the Vermont Raise the Wage Coalition.
COMMISSION ON WOMEN CELEBRATES 100TH SIGNER TO VERMONT EQUAL PAY COMPACT
The Vermont Commission on Women’s Equal Pay Compact, a voluntary online pledge enabling Vermont-based employers to learn more about and to indicate a commitment to closing the gender wage gap, just celebrated an important milestone: the 100th employer to sign on.
“This project launched on Equal Pay Day 2015 to inform employers about practical steps they can take to eliminate the wage gap in their business and across Vermont.” says Cary Brown, Vermont Commission on Women’s Executive Director. “Legislation alone can’t fix this: employers are the key. We provide consultation and a list of strategies employers can draw on, anything from quick and easy fixes, like enlisting diverse evaluators in the hiring process, to more complex ones, like creating flex time, job sharing, and telecommuting programs. The idea is to inspire positive change in employer practices.”
Seth Leonard, the Mayor of the City of Winooski, explains why they signed on to the Equal Pay Compact. "A commitment to equal pay policies makes us more competitive, allowing us to recruit and retain qualified people to government work. This is a process that requires a long-term commitment to both creating and maintaining a just compensation system. We are pleased to join in the Compact and work toward our goal of recognizing and rewarding all of our employees."
Kelly Walsh, advisor and recruiter to the project, continues. “Vermont is chock full of socially responsible employers working hard to do all the right things for their employees, and this is a great way to spotlight and acknowledge those businesses. For employers who want to attract and retain female employees, being listed on the Vermont Equal Pay Compact’s site is a public expression of support.”
The Equal Pay Compact is one way in which the Vermont Commission on Women works as a partner in Change The Story Vermont, along with Vermont Works for Women and the Vermont Women’s Fund. Change The Story is an initiative to align policy, program, and philanthropy to significantly improve women’s economic status in our state. For more information and to sign up for the Compact, link here.
LEGISLATIVE LUNCH 2017
Our 8th biennial legislative lunch took place at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017. This event is sponsored by donations to the Vermont Commission on Women Education and Research Foundation.
This year’s event featured an address by newly-elected Vermont Governor Phil Scott. Governor Scott thanked VCW, “…for the great work they’re doing to educate us on the status of women in our state and push for changes in how we think and act in our own daily lives.” He spoke about the need to close the gender wage gap, “I’m proud that here in Vermont gender inequality and the wage gap is not as extreme as it is throughout the rest of the country, but inequality, and any gap at all, is unacceptable. This is an issue of fairness that must be addressed by leaders at all levels in business and in government.” Governor Scott went on to focus on supports for our state’s working women, “Supporting women in the workforce is about more than equal pay. Policymakers and businesses in general should also identify other ways to make it easier for women to join the workforce: flexible work schedules, telecommuting, and more accessible affordable quality child care. And I understand this last point (child care) is a major barrier, sometimes affecting decisions about leadership roles and work schedules, while ultimately results in lower pay.”
VCW’s Chair, Marcia Merrill welcomed attendees, introducing the Commission to new policy makers and elected officials, and reminding those who were re-elected of our resources and focus. Marcia stated, “While women’s participation in the economy is strong, there are improvements yet-to-be made and barriers yet-to-be removed to facilitate full and equal access to economic security in our state. We are very much looking forward to collaborating with you in this effort.”
VCW Executive Director Cary Brown highlighted a “sneak preview” of data on Vermont women in leadership from research currently being conducted through Change The Story VT, a multi-year initiative by the Commission, the Vermont Women’s Fund, and Vermont Works for Women. The “sneak preview” heralds Vermont as a national leader in gender parity among state legislatures, with the highest percentage of women legislators, as well as women in many leadership positions. Read the sneak preview here. The document includes the unfortunate fact that just one woman currently holds statewide elective office, and that Vermont is one of only two states that have never sent a woman to serve in the U.S. Congress.
Commissioner and pediatric nurse, Danielle Martel, closed the event by leading an interactive dialog about the women’s issues policymakers hearing about from constituents. The subjects participants brought up included equal pay for comparable work, salary negotiation, cultural repression of girls, women running for boards and commissions, improving revenues in VT by decreasing the wage gap, the need for state agencies and departments to collect gender disaggregated data, adequate and reliable retirement income, aging demographics increasing the numbers of women as unpaid caregivers, and the gender wage gap.
COMMITTEES & COALITIONS 2016
VCW staff served on the following:
Change the Story Steering Committee
Change the Story Marketing Committee
Criminal Justice Involved Women Advisory Group
Governor’s Council on Pathways from Poverty
Governor’s Workforce Equity & Diversity Council
Intercollegiate Council on Sexual Violence Prevention
New England Women’s Policy Initiative
Paid Family Leave Coalition (statewide family and medical leave insurance program)
Vermont Council on Domestic Violence
Vermont Department of Corrections Recidivism Reduction Grant Steering Committee
Vermont Early Childhood Alliance
Vermont Justice Coalition
Vermont Women’s Alliance
Women’s Economic Opportunity Conference planning committee
NEW ENGLAND WOMEN'S POLICY CONFERENCE 2016
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:
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
REPORT: WOMEN'S BUSINESS OWNERSHIP AND THE VERMONT ECONOMY, FROM CHANGE THE STORY
Change The Story VT (CTS) revealed findings on the status of women-owned businesses in Vermont in a keynote address to Women Business Owners Network fall conference participants October 19th. CTS Director Tiffany Bluemle, with Pat Heffernan and Laura Lind‐Blum of Research Partners, and Vermont Commission on Women’s Cary Brown unveiled Women's Business Ownership and the Vermont Economy. This report details both exciting opportunities and great success that owning a business holds for women, as well as barriers and challenges faced, with focus on latent potential. Like CTS’s other reports, this one closes with questions, rather than recommendations in order to generate statewide conversations and deepen understanding. Link here to read the report.
VERMONT FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE INSURANCE (FAMLI) COALITION LAUNCHES
The Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FaMLI) Coalition launched their campaign to establish a statewide family and medical leave insurance program October 19th at the Family Center of Washington County in Montpelier. This program would allow Vermonters to have access to paid, job-protected leave. This leave would cover time to bond with or care for a newborn, recover from a serious long-term illness or injury, or care for a family member with a serious long-term illness or injury.
Speakers at the launch included:
Cary Brown, Vermont Commission on Women
Former Governor Madeleine Kunin
Sascha Mayer, Owner of Mamava
Claire Kendall, Co-Executive Director of the Family Center
Tara Hodgkins, Mother and Caregiver
Read more about the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FaMLI) Coalition here.
View a photo slideshow of the Coalition's launch on the Facebook page of the Family Center of Washington County or read press covereage of the launch here.
BURLINGTON WOMEN’S FORUM LUNCH TIME PANEL - WOMEN IN POLITICS: AT THE PODIUM & BEHIND THE SCENES
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.
WOMEN IN CORRECTIONS
We sponsored the Re-Imagining Justice Conference, December 1, at Vermont Law School, along with Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform and Vermont Law School's criminal law society. This was a community conversation about criminal justice in Vermont—what it looks like, its challenges and successes, and about reforms and alternatives to mass incarceration. VCW's Cary Brown moderated a panel discussion. We take part in a project called “For the Sake of the Children” which is looking at ways to reduce the number of women who are incarcerated, and are a memeber of the Vermont Justice Coalition.
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.
Always fabulous and always free, this day of inspiration for women of all ages and stages took place on Saturday, June 4th 2016 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.
VERMONT WOMAN ARTICLE: CHANGING THE ECONOMIC STORY FOR VERMONT WOMEN
Photo Credit: Susan Ritz
Read Susan Ritz's piece Changing the Economic Story for Vermont Women in the April/May edition of Vermont Woman.
CONGRATULATIONS TO KALI ADAMS
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.
EQUAL PAY DAY 2016, TUESDAY, APRIL 12TH
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
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
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.
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!
2016 WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH EVENT: WOMEN OF THE LONG TRAIL
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:
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
NEW LAW: PAID SICK DAYS
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.
LEGISLATION OF INTEREST TO WOMEN, 2016
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.620 - AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH INSURANCE AND MEDICAID COVERAGE FOR CONTRACEPTIVES. Link to VCW testimony in House Committee on Health Care 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.
WOMEN, POVERTY & JUSTICE: ADDRESSING HOMELESSNESS AND PROMOTING FINANCIAL SECURITY FOR WOMEN IN VERMONT
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.
PODCAST: CHANGE THE STORY ON OPEN MIKE
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!
WATCH WCAX'S TV'S THE :30: SALARY NEGOTIATION
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.
CHANGE THE STORY'S NEW REPORT: 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, 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 www.changethestoryvt.org.
VCW WELCOMES HANNAH ELLE MYERS OF NORWICH AS EXECUTIVE STAFF ASSISTANT
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.
VERMONT COMMISSION ON WOMEN AWARDED $173,794 FEDERAL DOL GRANT TO STUDY FEASIBILITY OF A STATEWIDE PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE PROGRAM
(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.
VCW LAUNCHES 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.
VERMONT WOMEN’S ECONOMIC SECURITY SUMMIT
Presented by: The Vermont Commission on Women & the Vermont Women’s Legislative Caucus
Thursday October 8, 2015
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
FORUMS EXPLORING PAID FAMILY & MEDICAL LEAVE
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.
CELEBRATING WOMEN'S EQUALITY DAY 2015
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.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.
YEAR 1: VERMONT 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?
"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
VERMONT LAW SCHOOL STUDENTS PARTICIPATE IN CHERYL HANNA LEGAL RIGHTS OF WOMEN INTERNSHIP
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.
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.
STATEWIDE EVENT CALENDAR
GOVERNOR'S COUNCIL ON PATHWAYS FROM POVERTY
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, INTRODUCING THE VT EQUAL PAY COMPACT
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.
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.
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 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.
“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:
VT WOMEN IN LAW ENFORCEMENT
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.
POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR WOMEN'S ECONOMIC SECURITY, A Call to Action
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)
DO WE STILL NEED WOMEN'S HISTORY? WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH EVENT 2015
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.
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
The First Woman by Cary Brown (VCW's executive director)
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.
VCW COMMISSIONER RUTH FINN CONTEST JUDGE AT VT HISTORY DAY
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.
HEALTH IMPACT ASSESSMENT (HIA) OF PAID SICK LEAVE IN VERMONT
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.
VCW COMMISSIONER ATTENDS UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN
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.
SERVING POOR VERMONTERS: STRATEGIES AND THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
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.
GETTING TO YES: NEGOTIATION SKILLS TO ADVANCE YOUR JOB, CAREER AND LIFE
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.
LEGISLATIVE LUNCH 2015
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.
VCW AT RUTLAND HIGH SCHOOL
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.
NEW ENGLAND WOMEN'S POLICY CONFERENCE 2014
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 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.
SHINING A LIGHT ON POVERTY
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.
PREVENTING VIOLENCE ON VERMONT'S COLLEGE CAMPUSES
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.
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
Fletcher Allen Health Care
SUCCESSFUL REENTRY FOR WOMEN IN CORRECTIONS, PANEL DISCUSSION IN ST. ALBANS
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
INCARCERATED WOMEN'S INITIATIVE, THEN AND NOW: VERMONT SUMMIT ON WOMEN IN CORRECTIONS
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.
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.
TAKING YOUR PLACE AT THE TABLE IN SPRINGFIELD
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.
VERMONT SUMMIT ON WORKING FAMILIES
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.
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 Summit
WOMEN, POVERTY & JUSTICE
Hunger, Housing and Financial Security for Women
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.
STATE HOUSE RECEPTION CELEBRATING VCW'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY, April 2014
Link here for video, pictures and more links to this event, April 8, 2014.
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.
NEW LAW: EQUAL PAY
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
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.
IN THE NEWS: VCW ON = PAY 2014
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
In the Burlington Free Press
In the Rutland Herald
EQUAL PAY ACT COURT CASE DECISION
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 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
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
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)
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
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)
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
BENNINGTON COUNTY LISTENING FORUM FOR YOUTH
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)
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.
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: 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.
Mickey Myers of the Bryan Memorial Gallery in Jeffersonville provided an introduction
Mara Williams of the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center moderated the panel
Alisa Dworsky, installation artist
Carol MacDonald, printmaker
Katharine Montstream, painter
Artists panel: (left to right) Alisa Dworsky, Katharine Montstream, Carol MacDonald; moderator Mara Williams; Amanda Gustin of the Vermont Historical Society at podium
Special thanks to Vermont College of Fine Arts and co-sponsor, Clute Wealth Management.
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 Counting Bow Ties by Linda Radtke
Listen to Clara Sipprell by Cyndy Bittinger
Listen to Martha And Hilda Belcher by Mickey Myers
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 .
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 TASKFORCE
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)
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!
JOIN our Vermont Information Exchange for Women (VIEW) network, a community calendar for women.
Read VCW's agency brochure
Don’t know where to go for help? Try our resource directory, from aging and elder issues to legal support to transportation – over 200 pages of Vermont-based organizations.