What Is A Women’s Commission?
A Women’s Commission is a governmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Women’s commissions exist to promote equality and economic and social well being for women and girls.
The global and national vision for promoting equality and well-being for women and girls emerged 74 years ago with the establishment of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in June 1946. Fifteen years later in 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) to examine issues affecting women in the United States. The PCSW focused on the status of women in the areas of education, child care, labor standards, employment, equal pay, benefits, community planning, property rights and women in political office.
Encouraged by the work of this presidential commission, commissions began forming around the country. By 1967, women’s commissions were considered so important that they had been established in all 50 states, including California.
Women’s Commissions in California
The California Commission on the Status of Women was created in 1965 “with a view to developing recommendations which will enable women to make the maximum contribution to society (CA Government Code 8240).” The work of the California state commission continues today in regularly assessing gender equity in health, safety, employment, education, and equal representation in the military, and the media. In recent years, the CA state commission has led the way in addressing the pay gap and implementation of the state’s landmark legislation for equal pay.
In addition to the California State Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, there are 25 women’s commissions in cities and counties throughout California, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Marin and San Joaquin Counties. These Commissions advise local governments and the public on issues affecting women and girls and advocate for gender equity in local policy and implementation.
In recent years, commissions for women and girls throughout California have led efforts and progress on social issues affecting women and girls such as poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, childcare, education, access to STEM education and pay equity. Women’s commissions also are advocating and raising awareness about policy priorities and the availability of accessible data to inform policy decisions.
The Need For A Women’s Commission in Sacramento County
Sacramento County is the eighth largest county in the state of California with a population of approximately 792,000 women and girls (Census Population estimates July 2019). Of the eight largest counties in the state of California, Sacramento is one of two with no commission on the status of women (with San Bernardino).
For the close to 800,000 women and girls in Sacramento County, a women’s commission would serve to ensure that issues affecting their well-being and equity are well understood, documented and factored into policy development and implementation. A commission would enable the County Board of Supervisors and the public to regularly ask and have answers to our fundamental question: How are the women and girls of Sacramento County?
From the stories we have heard over months of listening to women and girls and those who work to support them in Sacramento County we know that despite 55 years of gains for women and girls, troubling issues remain. From listening to women and girls, we know that there are widespread concerns about women falling into poverty, homelessness and economic disparity at alarming rates. We know that a lack of accessible childcare and often transportation, keeps women from thriving in the workplace. We know that older adult women are increasingly more vulnerable in a variety of areas from housing to healthcare and hunger. We know that women live with constant concerns about safety – both domestic and public – and about access to adequate healthcare. And we know that women and girls are grappling with major issues that are just now receiving significant public and media attention, from “Me Too” to widespread racial injustice and inequity.
From the sparse data that is publicly available today, we also know that in Sacramento County pre-COVID-19:
*Nearly one-third of female-headed family households live in poverty, which is $24,000 or less for a household of four.
*Poor and low-income teens make up approximately 40% of the adolescent population, 83% of teen mothers and 85% of those who become an unmarried parent.
*Women still earn much less than men on the dollar, with increased disparity for women of color.
*The Sacramento County Sheriff reports between 1,600 and 2,000 domestic violence calls for assistance every year.
*More than half of the veterans living in Sacramento County are women (51.9%)5many of whom need housing, mental health, employment training and other support services.
*By many accounts many of these issues and more, are exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis in which women are reportedly disproportionately affected in health, domestic violence, jobs and homeschooling of children, to name a few.
After months of listening and research, we understand that what we know about how women and girls are doing today in Sacramento County is far less than what we should and could know, if a governmental commission was dedicated to asking and answering the question with regularity: How are the women and girls of Sacramento County?
A Sacramento County Commission for Women and Girls would be mandated to answer this question on behalf of the public and the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. The Commission would then advise the Board of Supervisors and the public with consistency and accountability, on issues relating to social and economic equity and overall quality of life for women and girls in Sacramento County. It could start with making sure that reliable data about women and girls is consistently gathered, shared and utilized to inform policy and practice decisions.
Mission and Activities of a Sacramento Commission For Women and Girls
A Sacramento County Commission for Women and Girls would uplift public accountability and response for the close to 800,000 women and girls living in Sacramento County. The mission of a Sacramento County Commission for women and girls would be to promote equal opportunities and equitable treatment for Sacramento County’s women and girls, with particular emphasis on the economically disadvantaged.
Some suggested activities include:
1. Educate and advise the public and the Board of Supervisors about issues affecting the well being of women and girls in the county.
2. Advise and assist with program development that benefits the social and economic conditions of women and girls.
3. Develop policy recommendations that affect women and girls in the county.
4. Serve as a central hub for resources and information, including gathering and sharing data and information about the status of women and girls in the county.
5. Support enhanced collaboration and partnerships among leaders and organizations working to serve women and girls in multiple fields throughout the county.
6. Offer referrals for women who need assistance with issues such as sexual harassment, child support, abuse or domestic violence.
7. Organize and sponsor/co-sponsor public hearings, forums and conferences that address issues related to women and girls.
8. Adopt the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
(CEDAW), an international human rights treaty, as a framework for promoting equal access and equity and addressing violence against women and girls.
We invite your participation and support as we continue to research commission models, gather data and information and engage with women’s organizations and initiatives throughout Sacramento County.