Economic security issues top Michigan women’s concerns, commission chief says 

Commission announces move to LEO on Women’s Equality Day

By: - August 26, 2020 10:28 am

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On the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Equality Day, the Michigan Women’s Commission (MWC) announced it is moving from the Department of Civil Rights to the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) to prioritize economic issues Michigan women face every day.

Michigan Women’s Commission Executive Director Cheryl Bergman, who served as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s former campaign adviser, told the Advance Wednesday that during the early days helming the commission, she and Whitmer talked with women all across the state about their needs. 

Overwhelmingly, they asked for better economic security. 

“What we learned, no matter where we went, from Grand Rapids to Grand Traverse [County] to the city of Detroit, was that women were talking about the same thing. And it was all economic security issues,” Bergman said. “Pay equity was always at the top. And affordable, accessible childcare, paid parental leave, more women at leader in leadership positions across the board. Those were the priorities to women in our state from the conversations that we had earlier this year and late last year.”

In May, the commission formed working groups around these priorities and created the implicit bias committee. 

One of the main priorities of the MWC is centering the most marginalized communities and the most affected populations in every policy decision, Bergman said.

“From day one of my administration, I have made a commitment to building a stronger, more equitable state. And we can’t call Michigan a home for opportunity unless Michigan women are afforded the same opportunities to be successful,” said Whitmer. 

Whitmer said through LEO, the MWC will be able to best address the inequitable economic issues women in the state face.

“When this group of leaders work together, we can help ensure women across Michigan are treated with the same dignity and respect as their male counterparts, no matter their race, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation,” she said. 

Bergman said this move isn’t just about making life better for women. 

“When women thrive, our communities thrive,” she said. “We have to lift women up and give them all the economic tools they need to succeed. And our home state will be better for it.”

LEO Director Jeff Donofrio called adding the MWC to the department is a “significant step forward.”

“Michigan women deserve action, and LEO will support the Commission to accomplish their priorities and achieve gender equity,” Donofrio said. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.