It was a tough week for policy that might have benefitted women in the Equality State.
And I wore heels to work on Friday.
Wearing heels at the end of a marathon week, well, it was not exactly a masterstroke on my part. It added an extra degree of difficulty to any lobbying I endeavored to do on Friday afternoon.
But the place is unforgiving, heels or no. There are 89 stairs between the Capitol Extension and the House Gallery. There is a single bench in the lobby. The seats in the House Gallery are tiny and cramped. There are no outlets for charging computers or phones. (Also, just so we're clear, in spite of the hundreds of millions of dollars that were recently spent restoring the building--and how beautiful it is--the Capitol was restored as though it is c. 1950. I probably should have seen that view of "updates" and "modernity" as a harbinger of laws to come. But I digress.)
Back to the shoes. There was a method to my madness.
There are a lot of tall, male Legislators. They have a tendency to use their size as an intimidation tactic. (Some very deliberately and quite effectively.) While I used to see heels entirely as a conspiracy of the patriarchy, I now see them as a tool in fighting back. My 5'10" frame is harder to push around.
So I wore my heels and stood my ground.
Heading into Week 2, here's where things stand:
HB0049 Retirement savings information – workforce services, referred to Labor.
Why it matters for women: Because of the gender wage gap, unpaid caregiving responsibilities, and career interruptions, women age into poverty; men have, on average, 3x the resources saved for retirement as women. And women comprise the majority of Wyoming's citizens over the age of 70.
SF0054 Surplus food programs, referred to Senate Agriculture Cmte 2/18/20.
Why it matters for women: Single moms with preschool age children are the most likely to experience food insecurity. Surplus food programs are a critical tool for women and their families.
And, now, onto eight (8!) failed bills aka the reasons that this was a hard week.
HB0075 Medicaid expansion – authorization, failed introduction in the House 20-39-1
HJ0007 Medicaid coverage – eligible low-income adults, failed introduction in the House 16-40-4
Why it matters for women: We championed Medicaid expansion—along with more than a dozen organizations statewide—because women benefit from this program. Healthcare is a key to economic self-sufficiency and women in Wyoming are more likely to be working in jobs that don’t offer health insurance for wages that preclude them being able to purchase it. New moms fare better in states that have expanded Medicaid, get better postpartum care, have decreased mortality and morbidity, and healthier infants.
*Please call Reps. Sweeney, Brown, Furphy, Henderson, and Zwonitzer to thank them for co-sponsoring. Only have time for one call? Please call Rep. Sweeney and thank him for his leadership and for standing up for women and Wyoming values.
HB0188 Wage transparency, failed introduction in the House 39-18-3
Why it matters for women: Open discussion of salaries among peers and co-workers, experts say, is a powerful tool to fight pay inequity. Secrecy surrounding salaries typically benefits the organization more than the employees. Eliminating negotiations evens the playing field for women. Wage transparency is a necessary policy protection to reduce the gender wage gap.
*Please call Rep. Connolly and thank her for tirelessly championing women’s economic self-sufficiency.
HB104 Public assistance, failed introduction in the House 39-19-2
SF0137 Public assistance – 2, failed introduction in the Senate 13-17
Why it matters for women: For women, especially mid-career women trying to get more education to move into higher-wage jobs, these bills enable them to access important public assistance support that might make the difference in going back to school or learning a new skill.
SF0086 Essential health product dignity act, failed introduction in the Senate 18-11-1
Why it matters for women: This bill would have repealed Wyoming's Pink Tax, a tax on tampons and other period products. A tax that only women pay. It would have repealed the tax on diapers and incontinence supplies as well which, again, benefits women due to the inequity in unpaid caregiving.
HB0123 Pharmacists prescribing birth control, failed introduction in the House 28-32
Why it matters for women: It would have enabled pharmacists to prescribe birth control under certain circumstances thereby lowering the barriers to birth control, and, for women in the most rural parts of our state who have limited access to doctors, improved their access to care.
HB0144 Minimum Wage, did not consider for introduction vote
Why it matters for women: 75% of Wyoming’s minimum wage workers in Wyoming are women. The Department of Workforce Services indicates that raising the minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage would go a long way to closing Wyoming's gender wage gap. Nowhere in Wyoming is state minimum wage ($5.15) or Federal minimum wage ($7.25) a self-sufficiency wage.
The power structure in Cheyenne is comprised of men. Bills that support women, that encourage women, that give power to women--directly and indirectly--simply don't get introduced. They don't get debated. They don't get discussed. Often, they get derided.
The good news is, the week is over and a new one is upon us. We start again tomorrow (sans heels), and this week has a lot of exciting things in store for women. We plan to capitalize on that momentum and instantiate it into policy.
The first step in making change is showing up. Now's your chance!
Monday: Cowgirl Run Fund, Rib & Chop House, 5pm
Tuesday: Wyoming Women's Foundation Self-Sufficiency Study Press Conference, Capitol Rotunda, 8:30am
Tuesday: Leap Into Leadership, Little America, 9am
Tuesday: Wyoming Women's Legislative Caucus Reception, Little America, 6pm
Wednesday: Wyoming Nurses' Association Reception, Little America, 6pm
Thursday: Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, Capitol Extension, 11am
Friday: Wyoming Council for Women, Wyoming Business Council Office, 10:30am