The United Nations theme for International Women’s Day this week is âWomen in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 Worldâ. A discussion on the economic well-being of Vermont women looked at data and policy changes experts say to close gender gaps.
Lieutenant Governor of Vermont Molly Gray is serving her first term and is hosting a series of talks with constituents and stakeholders from across the state on focused issues. Her last Seat at the Table discussion focused on the economic well-being of Vermont women and was timed to coincide with International Women’s Day. Gray, a Democrat, says that while the global event recognizes the social, cultural, political and economic achievements of women, it also highlights the need to bridge the gender gaps in Vermont.
âI actually want to take advantage of some of the data that we know,â Gray said. âWe know that in November, 73% of unemployment claims were filed by women in Vermont. This is the highest percentage of claims filed by women in any state in the country. So today. hui, we’re going to dive into the data and the impact on women.
Vermont Commission on Women executive director Cary Brown said COVID-19 exposes and exacerbates entrenched inequalities facing the state legislature.
âThe COVID relief money that comes from the federal government gives Vermont the opportunity to think strategically about how to use this money to benefit working families and working parents in particular,â Brown said. âChild care is the other thing. We know the legislature is working hard on this right now. The help our child care system needs is deep and dramatic. And then family leaves and paid medical bills is another. There are a number of bills in the state legislature right now. “
Change the Story VT has been collecting and reporting data specific to Vermont for the past six years. Executive Director Jessica Nordhaus said they are also using some national data and recent reports of interest focus on the gender pay gap.
âThe International Women’s Policy Research Group just released an analysis of the weekly gender pay gap by race and ethnicity,â Nordhaus said. âAnd what it shows is that the racial and gender pay gaps remain really deep. So we see that LatinX women’s weekly earnings are only 58% of non-Hispanic white men, and black women’s earnings are currently 63%.
Vermont Racial Equity’s first executive director Xusana Davis says policies must include all at-risk communities.
âAll of our work should incorporate fairness in the process, which means we need to hear directly from people and be less prescriptive in telling them that this is what we think is best for you based on our history of always being in power and often leaving yourself invisible, âDavis said. “And instead, do you pivot towards what you need to recover?” And then we do that. Clever. It’s simple and it’s inclusive in a way that people have been empowered to act. And not because we give them power because it’s not something to give them, but it’s just something we can stop denying them.
Vermont Women’s Fund Director Meg Smith hopes the pandemic will be a catalyst for positive policy development.
“We have a new landscape that we are facing and as disheartening as it may be at first glance, it actually gives us a much clearer picture and a more precise landscape and setting to move us forward. “said Smith.
Lieutenant Governor Gray hopes that the pending proposals, both in Vermont and nationally, will help the economic situation of women.
âThere’s a lot of stuff out there,â Gray said. “I think the timing is right in so many ways. We need to act. We need to act now to address the economic well-being of Vermont women and the crises we face.”