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Volume 1, Issue 8

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Kate Bensen,
President and CEO,
The Chicago Network

As we emerge from the presidential election, The Chicago Network has a vital, nonpartisan role to play promoting equal pay and equal opportunity for the advancement of women in the workplace. We will be proactive in developing a set of priorities for the White House that represents the voices of a cross-section of women in Chicago. In the coming months, we will continue to convene, listen, and circulate our priorities locally and nationally.

We began our work on November 17, convening our first in a series of Chicago Cabinet meetings, drawing together 160 women – and men – at the Morningstar auditorium for a panel discussion moderated by Kathy Brock of ABC 7 News, and featuring three members of The Network: Rohini Dey, Founder & Owner, Vermilion Restaurants (NYC & Chicago); Anne Ladky, Executive Director, Women Employed; and Angela Williams, EVP, General Counsel & Chief Administration Officer, YMCA of the USA. We have followed with a survey of those who attended seeking feedback on the key issues of most importance as we move ahead to help influence the conversation in the months ahead. We are mindful of the power of this and every administration to do more than regulate and legislate: its tone and priorities influence the actions of business and business leaders around the country. 

We heard calls for expanded child care, a higher minimum wage, an equal number of women appointments as men in the new administration, continued enforcement of Title IX, and more. Another key message: build a targeted, achievable agenda focused on our No. 1 priority – moving women in the workforce toward parity in opportunity for advancement and equal pay. We can reach this goal by building bipartisan coalitions of women – and men – within government and in our communities that urge the administration to:

  • Set a tone at the top with Political Appointees who are the best and brightest for the position, reflect the diversity of our country and who are nonpartisan in their views.
  •  Create Family Support Policies that provide a pathway for families out of poverty, enable women to move ahead economically, and pave the way for the next generation to succeed – high-quality affordable child care, early childhood programs, tax credits, paid family leave (whether for becoming a parent or caring for parents).
  •  Grow Women-Owned Businesses by providing access to capital, funding for accelerators, and procurement reforms.
  •  Reduce sexual harassment and violence in the workplace, including in the military.

What is next? We are planning our next Chicago Cabinet meeting for first quarter 2017 when the discussion will center on another message that emerged from Nov. 17: the importance of bridge building: bringing together women of all ages, backgrounds and economic circumstances to fully represent all of our concerns and broaden our impact. Join us: We welcome your input – make your voice heard.