(Christine Stuart photo)
Teresa Younger, executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, wasn’t surprised when Gov. M. Jodi Rell unveiled her revised budget figures and again proposed eliminating Younger’s commission
“Surprised, no. Disappointed, yes,” Younger said Tuesday.
“If anything it means we get to prove again that we are not part of the bloat in state government,” Younger said as she wrapped up a public hearing on women’s issues.
Instead of a press conference to celebrate Women’s Day at the state Capitol Tuesday, Younger opted to hold a public hearing to let the public talk about how the recession is impacting women and how critical the commission‘s work is in making sure gender-specific data is collected and disseminated.
Mary Lee Kiernan, of the Fairfield County Community Foundation Fund for Women and Girls, said she recently spoke with a lawmaker who wondered if the state has evolved beyond needing a women‘s commission.
“While this is a certainly laudable aspiration, this is not a reality,” Kiernan said. “The reality is that women continue to be treated differently and impacted differently, and they deserve our continued attention, advocacy, and support.”
In 2007 44 percent of Fairfield County women with children under the age of 5 lived in poverty, Kiernan said.
Helene Robbins, chair for the Community Fund for Women and Girls, said women are responsible for 80 percent of philanthropic giving in the United States, but funding that targets women and girls is less than 10 percent of that funding. She said there are only nine women’s funds in the state of Connecticut.
When the General Assembly created the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women 36 years ago it acknowledged that “equality for women had not yet been achieved,” Robbins said. “It should come as no surprise that we’re still not there yet.”
Stefanie Chambers, a political science professor at Trinity College, said there has been a great deal of emphasis put on male job loss during the current recession and while those numbers maybe true they don’t paint the entire picture.
“Because women often make less than their male partners, it means that women are no better positioned now compared to when their husbands were employed, to become the sole breadwinners for their families,” Chambers said.
So even in 2010 pay equity remains a hurdle for many women in the workforce. Chambers said on average women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
But pay equity is only one of the issues Younger’s commission will tackle this year.
Workforce development, job training, gender and racial disparities in health care, and violence against women are just a few of the issues the commission will seek to address during the 2010 legislative session.