Special Note from Director Michelle Gonzalez
Washington State Women’s Commission
Dear Friends and Supporters:
First, I want to acknowledge this challenging and stressful time due to the pandemic. I know many are struggling with job loss or underemployment, and we are still in the middle of a pandemic that has hurt so many families. In addition, the brutal murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed have also caused another layer of stress, particularly for communities of color. The positive impact is that it is compelling us to reexamine our government’s role in perpetuating entrenched structural problems that have harmed people of color, and it is my hope this will lead to change. I believe the Women’s Commission has an important role to play in keeping people informed and continuing to address and eliminate systemic barriers women and women of color face.
This time has also made me reflect on how I would like to continue to serve. As much as I have enjoyed working as the Director of the Women’s Commission, I will be moving to a new role in state government. I was recently appointed by the Governor to the Pollution Control Hearings Board/ Shorelines Hearings Board. I am looking forward to continuing in state service and using my legal skills and knowledge. As the inaugural Director of the Women’s Commission, I feel honored to have worked with so many talented commissioners. I am also glad to have worked with our legislator advisers who provided invaluable input on legislation and more.
We accomplished so much in two years, including passage of SB 6037, which requires corporate boards to review their diversity efforts if they have less than 25% women on their board and report to their shareholders what they have done to increase the number of women and other underrepresented groups. We focused on this issue for over a year, which was part of our legislative charge. I want to especially thank Senator Lisa Wellman and Senator Jamie Pedersen for their leadership on this bill and moving it through the legislature.
In addition, with the assistance of pro bono attorneys, we developed a model sexual harassment policy for small employers. We also translated this model policy in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Russian to help ensure language access to a diverse workforce. The policy is available on our website and we have shared it with other agencies.
As the legislature deals with a budget shortfall due to the economic downturn and a pandemic, it is my hope that the Women’s Commission will continue to provide a voice for women, particularly women who have not been sufficiently represented in shaping public policy, including immigrant women, women of color, incarcerated women, trans women, and women who are economically disadvantaged. We know there are many women who are simply trying to keep their jobs and keep their families afloat right now. It is important that the Women’s Commission listen and understand how different communities are being affected to better inform our agencies, legislators, and Governor about the particular problems women face such as access to child care, domestic violence and gender-based violence, access to health care, and economic recovery.
I am glad to have been the inaugural director of the Women’s Commission, and I am proud of the work we accomplished in two years. I am grateful to the commissioners, legislators, and our supporters for helping build a commission committed to diversity and equity.