Newly elected Gov. Ned Lamont SOM ’80 announced the creation of the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls last Friday as part of his administration’s aim for more inclusive policy-making.

The council is tasked with ensuring that all state policies consider the often-intersecting forms of discrimination that women in Connecticut face and will be housed in the Office of the Governor. The heads of each state agency, the state’s constitutional officers and a representative from all four legislative caucuses of the Connecticut General Assembly will also serve on the council — which will be led by Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz ’83 and Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw, who will serve as chair and vice chair, respectively.

“When women and girls succeed, we all succeed,” said Karen Jarmoc, president and CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, who was a co-chair of the Lamont-Bysiewicz Transition Policy Committee on Women’s Issues. “[It’s] energizing that this new governor and his administration have already acted upon our very first recommendation.”

The council was created on the recommendation of the policy committee on women — one of several working groups that submitted policy memos to Lamont’s administration. The newly elected governor named Jarmoc and state Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport, as co-chairs of the Committee on Women’s Issues. The committee’s 14 other members include former Ward 29 Alder Audrey Tyson, as well as other Connecticut activists and political leaders.

According to Jarmoc, the formation of such a council for women and girls has precedent — Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York established a similar committee in August 2017, soon after U.S.  President Donald Trump effectively disbanded the White House Council on Women and Girls.

The committee’s final memo formulated goals for Lamont’s first 100 days in office in five categories: leadership, the economy, safety, health and education. The committee recommended ensuring that 50 percent of administration appointees are women, eliminating the statute of limitations on felony sex crimes and offering on-site child care at community colleges.

“These challenges are necessarily intersectional and stretch across the markers of race, class, gender identity, sovereignty, urbanicity, and citizenship,” the final memo said. “Our recommendations promote gender equity as an investment that will reap substantial economic benefits by making our state more attractive to businesses, more affordable for families, and more sustainable in the future.”

The policy aims to draw upon the importance of women to the state’s economy. In the announcement of the council, Bysiewicz declared women’s issues “economic issues” and called for family medical leave, a $15 minimum wage and pay equity.

According to census data from 2018, men in the state earn an average of $64,220, while women have an average salary of $50,991. This gap places Connecticut directly in the middle of states in regard to equal pay, according to the American Association of University Women.

A Quinnipiac University Poll conducted in early October 2018 found that, at that time, women favored Lamont over his Republican gubernatorial opponent Bob Stefanowski, by a margin of 53 to 31 percent. The trend held nationwide, as 59 percent of women voted for Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives — compared to 47 percent of men — according to the Pew Research Center.

“It’s true that women’s rights are human rights,” said Lamont in a statement on Jan. 18. “Honoring that reality here in Connecticut is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”

Lamont is not the first governor to take steps toward addressing gender inequality. Former Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a pay equity bill in May 2018 that made it illegal for employers to ask job candidates about their previous salaries, which often results in lower starting salaries for women and people of color.

Fifteen working groups submitted recommendations to Lamont during his transition.

Nathalie Bussemaker | nathalie.bussemaker@yale.edu