The first biennial New England Women’s Policy Conference, held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in the fall of 2014, was linked to the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s Presidential Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW). The commission released its report to President Kennedy, the Congress, the Senate, and the nation in October of 1963. That report criticized the inequality women faced in many areas of American society and made a number of key recommendations on how to improve women’s lives. Unfortunately, over 50 years later, the inequality documented in 1963 persists with only modest improvement as we convene our second biennial conference. It remains striking how many recommendations from 1963 refer to issues and public policies that women are still fighting for today, from equal pay for equal work to affordable child care to paid family leave. At the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy (CWPPP) at UMass Boston – the hosts of this conference – we understand the importance of measuring women’s progress over the last five decades and renewing our commitment to making more substantial advances in the decades ahead. We will not wait another 50 years for equality for women and economic justice for all!
The Audience: 450+ leaders – women and men – from diverse communities and organizations in the six New England states, including elected officials, business executives, Women’s Commission members, women’s funds, heads of non-profit organizations, union members, grassroots advocates and others. The leaders who participate will return to their states and work with local stakeholders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors to enact change. This three-sector approach is key to creating substantial change, as no one sector can do it all. The hope is that this conference will facilitate cross-sector dialogue, learning and eventually cross-sector collaboration. Each state Women’s Commission and Women’s Fund on the Planning Committee is mobilizing the allies they work with all year long from their state. We seek broad regional involvement in shaping the conference outcomes.
The Theme: We are continuing the theme “Ensuring Economic Security for All Women and their Families.” Given the impact of the 2008-09 recession, and the widening inequality in wages and wealth, women and their families are increasingly insecure. The conference will provide information on those groups of women in New England who are particularly vulnerable. We will address what can be done to enhance economic security - both through the public policy process and through voluntary employer policy. This year, in partnership with the national Prosperity Together – an initiative spearheaded by 28 women’s funds across the country – we are highlighting the theme of “Expanding Opportunity and Building Equality for Women and Girls of Color.” At a time when racial divisions and race-based inequality is escalating in communities across America, this additional focus seems both necessary and urgent.
Nonpartisan Leadership: In order to create a nonpartisan policy conference, we have invited all federal level elected from the six New England states to join our Honorary Host Committee, and we have regional leaders with diverse perspectives represented on our panels. The party-based divisions in many of our governing bodies at all levels are no secret. We applaud women and men leaders who are willing to “work across the aisles” to achieve economic justice for all Americans.
Goals: The conference will build bridges among women leaders and men leaders, as well as bridges between stakeholders in the public, private and non-profit sectors in New England. The solutions working women and their families need must come not only from public policies enacted legislatively, but also from “win-win” public-private partnerships and voluntary employer policy. They must come from labor union contracts and successful grassroots campaigns. We hope conference participants from all sectors will leave the conference with new information, new partners from their own state and other states, and most of all a new vision of what is possible if we all work together to create sustainable economic and social change.